During these challenging and unsettling times, there’s so much we can’t control. However, as human beings we have an incredible capacity to adapt and rise to a challenge, and the one thing that is within our control is how we choose to respond mentally and how we live our lives whilst spending all this extra time indoors.
I have identified two distinct options for how we live during this quarantine (I have personally experimented with both so can vouch for their impact):
A. Sit on the sofa all day, eat crisps, drink too much coffee and feel wired and anxious, spend all day online, fry your brain and watch/listen/read the news 10+ times a day, panic about the future/things you can’t control.
B. Create a daily routine, start cementing new healthy habits, cook nourishing food, move your body, connect with friends/family, volunteer or see how you can help by reaching out to others (even if it’s just a phone call to someone who is feeling miserable at home), brainstorm a contingency plan for your work, give yourself permission to feel joy.
Which have you been choosing? Perhaps you’ve dabbled with both.
Acknowledging difficult feelings
I appreciate that there is a lot of collective anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, and I’m not going to suggest that you try to ‘reframe’ the situation, pretend it’s not happening or drum up some false positivity and walk around grinning like a Cheshire cat. Quite the opposite. This is a huge crisis and it’s important and healthy to acknowledge the feelings that are coming up for you right now.
My Mum always used to say – feel it, embrace it, only then can you let it go.
It’s healthy to recognise and reflect on your feelings – doing so allows you to process them in a constructive way. It also helps the feelings to pass, or diminish in intensity.
There’s a whole jumble of emotions that can pop up in a time like this – sadness, panic, helplessness, hope, gratitude, love – it can be very confusing. Suppressing your feelings only makes it more likely that they will be released in a damaging way, for example, explosive rage at your loved ones or sinking into a depressive slump.
I personally have been journaling and dancing to help me work through any difficult emotions and have found it very useful. You could also consider punching a pillow, shouting, crying, drawing, laughter or TRE (trauma release exercise). Or if it is helpful to do option B for a few days in order to help you process the feelings then go for it. Whatever works.
Once we have acknowledged our feelings it creates space to appreciate the beautiful things that are happening. There are some wonderful displays of human kindness happening which are moving and inspiring. People are singing to each other out of their windows. Communities are coming together to help the elderly, homeless and vulnerable. Half a million people signed up to volunteer for the NHS.
More people are thinking about how to support their health, cooking fresh food, enjoying being in nature, no one is in a rush.
This is the first time in my lifetime I have experienced something that has connected us all on such a deep level – we are all in this together. Never have I felt closer to my fellow humans.
Nature is also getting a reset, you may have seen the pictures of the magical blue waters of the Venice canals, or the satellite pictures showing how emissions have plummetted in various parts of the world.
Can you also use this opportunity to give your health a reset? Can you allow adversity to inspire you to make positive, lasting change in your life?
Exploring positive change
I recently watched a great webinar with Chris Kresser, where he suggested we ask ourselves the following questions:
- What new learning and skills could covid spur me to develop?
- What shifts in mindset and new behaviours could come out of this experience?
- What changes that I haven’t been able to make so far, might I be able to be successful with now because of covid?
This really struck a chord. I can see how much of an opportunity we have, to come out of this experience stronger, more mindful, and more connected to ourselves and others. Could you start reflecting on this today? Perhaps start by writing out some ideas, and in the following days experiment with some new habits.
The power of meditation
Chris also mentioned about meditation and mindfulness and how the times we need these practices the most are often the times we least engage.
Right now we have more resources to be able to commit to a daily practice – the majority of us have more time, and there is a huge wealth of useful options online (many free) to help you experiment with this. Two of my favourites are yoga nidra meditations on YouTube and the Journey Live app where you can book in for free meditation classes.
Meditation is not only useful for your state of mind, but hugely beneficial for your physical health – lowering cortisol strengthens your immune system and makes you more resilient. If the benefits of meditation could be bottled, it would be the most sought after medication on the planet. I believe it’s the single best thing you could do to support your health right now.
Don’t be disheartened if you’ve tried it and felt bored, restless or irritable. The more you practice the easier it gets and the more you will reap the rewards.
Meditation isn’t about clearing your mind of all thought, it’s about being fully present with what is and finding peace and acceptance within the uncertainty. When you experience your first moment of stillness and peace during your meditation practice and how the effects pervade into the rest of your day, you’ll be sold.
The power of laughter
“Laughter is a tranquillizer with no side effects” – Arnold H. Glasgow
I’ve noticed some of the best jokes are coming out of this experience. Laughter is such a tonic. It’s free. It connects people emotionally. It triggers the release of feel-good endorphins, reduces stress hormones and boosts your immune system.
I have made it a daily priority to seek out something to make me laugh. There’s some brilliant comedians on Instagram keeping us all entertained. Mo Gilligan is my particular favourite, having set up something called ‘quarantine games’ where people video call to win prizes and all sorts of silliness happens. The Comedy Store is offering 7 days free of Next Up Comedy, an online streaming service showcasing the best in UK’s stand up. Or perhaps it’s time to watch your favourite funny film, or phone a friend and talk about anything random that makes you laugh.
We can’t control what’s happening, but it’s empowering to know how much choice we do have in how we manage our emotions, actions and the resources we choose to surround ourselves with.
May you find whatever it is that brings you comfort, joy and peace during this time.