A pandemic is never a situation that any of us ever expect to find ourselves in, relegated most commonly to science fiction books and films. However, 2020 is the year that a virus caused and continues to create havoc. In the middle of it all our social connections are fractured, we miss our families and friends, and have to deal with big life moments without the support that we might have once relied upon. Is it any wonder that serious concern is being shown towards the mental health not just of our nation but around the globe, as we continue to try to hold ourselves up and get on with a life that is far removed from normality.
With the winter months rolling in across the Northern Hemisphere, I thought it might be helpful to revisit my tips for self-care, updated to take into account that many ideas I have shared before are not currently possible. So, what can you do to look after yourself in the midst of a global pandemic?
If at all possible, go and sit in your garden for an hour, or on your front doorstep. If you’re allowed to, venture to the local park and sit on a bench or take your own folding chair. Listen – to the wind, the birds, even just the noise of humanity. However much we are shut away from each other, it is comforting to know that people are still taking walks with their dogs, driving to appointments or the shops, or playing games with their children.
I am a big believer of jumping into a good book to let my mind wander. If you really want some escapism try reading or rereading a classic. Think Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Even poets such as Wordsworth, Keats or Byron can eject you from the news of today’s world.
Do you ever find yourself somewhat aimlessly scrolling through your mobile phone, checking and rechecking the news and social media? Take a break from your screen, have a ‘phone in the drawer’ day and focus your attention elsewhere. This is especially important at night time when our brains need to switch off and relax away from the glare of a screen, so that we can get a good night’s sleep. Either make use of the bedtime function on your phone, or consider setting a regular alarm at 9 pm which will act as a reminder to turn it off until breakfast time the following day.
Having a good clear out can help to order and even ease the mind. Our environment can have a direct impact on our mood, with some studies showing that people who live in a cluttered home have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Rather than starting with an entire room or area, which might feel a little overwhelming, why not start with a corner, a drawer, under a bed or go through your wardrobe. Despite the various levels of lockdown, many charity shops are still accepting donations, although it is worth checking directly with those in your local area. Take a look at your local refuse site too, which may also take preloved items to fix up or sell on.
Cook breakfast or brunch.
All too often life whizzes by in a series of ticks against a to-do list. Really pause and do something for yourself that you might not normally make space for in your daily schedule. Having a cooked breakfast or brunch is a great example of this. Toast a bagel, fry some mushrooms, heat up a croissant. Whatever makes for an enjoyable morning meal that can be eaten without a hurry.
Vary where you spend your time indoors. We may laugh about having tickets to an “exclusive” residents’ garden party or an “invite only” kitchen disco, but varying where you spend your time can help to shift things around for you. Always on a video conference in the corner of the living room? Why not switch to the kitchen? Tend to read books in bed? Why not run yourself a bath or read on the sofa instead?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by technology, and as much as video calls are great, sometimes they can be off-putting too. Why not make a phone call instead, write a letter or an email to someone, or even play a game online with a trusted family member or friend (I love playing Scrabble style games with my sisters for example!).
Getting exercise is known to raise endorphins which trigger feelings of wellbeing in your body. It doesn’t have to be gut crunching, sweaty work outs though. If you’re after something more calming, take a look at online sessions of Yoga and Pilates or even Tai Chi which you can move through at your own pace in the comfort of your own home.
Always wanted to learn to knit, speak another language, paint with watercolours or upcycle some furniture? Now is a great time to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. There are plenty of ways to do this, from all in one kits that you can buy from small, independent businesses, to online courses that you can sign up for. Pinterest is buzzing with brilliant ideas and is a great place to look for resources as well.
Showering others with kindness, gratitude and goodwill can make us feel better about ourselves but also, possibly even more importantly, it helps us to feel connected to others. It is so important to remember that even in the challenging times of a global pandemic, we are still able to appreciate those around us and share some love.
I do hope that the above tips might be useful! What works for you that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below.