Life right now has a depressing sense of Deja vu. Most of the UK is again in lockdown, but this time it’s darker and colder. With social interaction decreasing, the negative effect on mental health is increasing…rapidly!
There’s pressure to maintain productivity and lots of people are working from home; moving from one screen to the other in what feels like a perpetual loop. Despite the monotony, it can be hard to carve out space to relax or even process the multitude of emotions you might be feeling during this time.
Self-Care can be…
- Giving space to feel anything – We are collectively experiencing loss; loss of lifestyle, loss of employment and in some cases, loss of life. Release the pressure to feel positive all of the time. It’s not sustainable and it encourages you to dismiss the feelings you don’t view as acceptable. ‘Positive’ or ‘Negative’, all emotions are valid. Give yourself space to feel and acknowledge them. Journalling is a great processing activity and creates space between you and your thoughts so they don’t feel as overwhelming.
- Not skipping on the basics – Get outside, eat healthily, stay hydrated and exercise. Although embarking on a full-on workout is helpful for taking care of yourself, sometimes all you need is just to change your body position for about 15 to 30 seconds to give yourself a restart. Get outside to get a slight change of scenery and stop those four walls from closing in during lockdown.
- Curating your online space– Follow people and pages that uplift, inspire or educate you. It’s ok to unfollow those that trigger your anxieties or make you feel worse after scrolling. Frequently checking the news makes you focus on the things that are out of your control so, review how often you consume it.
- Creating and maintaining work boundaries– Working from home means that the work/life balance can be skewed leading to burnout. Take regular breaks and try to stick to a defined time to log off, schedule catch-ups with colleagues to maintain some of that ‘office banter’. If your employer offers in-house mental health services, please use them. Especially if your job is stressful.
- Staying connected– Maintain as much connection with family and friends as possible. It could be going for a (socially-distanced) walk together, arranging online meet-ups, quizzes or taking up a challenge together. Reach out when you’re struggling, but also bare in mind that everyone has their own personal battles which means they might not be available at all times. On your good days, reach out to loved ones if they need support.
- Tapping into your creativity– Work out what feels comfortable. Singing, playing an instrument, dancing, drawing or painting can improve your mood and lower stress. After belting out a few ballads, my neighbours probably aren’t happy but I sure am! Drawing and painting, in particular, can help you connect to emotions when you’re struggling to find the words. Expressive arts can give you a sense of escapism and taps into your inner child which we often forget about.
- Decluttering your living space– Who knew folding socks and delicates a la Marie Kondo would be so therapeutic?! There’s something about clearing your physical space that gives you a renewed sense of control over your environment, can make you feel productive and improve your mood.
- Acknowledging the need to rest– There will be days when getting out of bed is the most productive thing you’ll do in the day…and that’s ok. Look at your sleep hygiene and review how your quality of sleep can be improved. There are countless studies that show that sleep is linked to mood, so when your body is asking to press pause, listen to it.
Self-care is a necessary tool for emotional, physical and mental health. It’s not always pretty, light or easy, involving face masks and bubble baths – although they are firm favourites of mine. Sometimes, there will be occasions when the negative coping strategies will win. This could be an extra bottle of wine, a day where you are tethered to your phone scrolling infinitely or more. If this becomes a regular habit, please get in contact with therapy or specialist services.
Part of self-care involves you being kind to yourself, you are human. Self-care sometimes involves a lot more effort and can be uncomfortable, but that is where growth happens and can ultimately give you a space where you feel grounded.