‘Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its peace’ Anon
Life as we were living it was unexpectedly changed this year and for the foreseeable future. We are each left pondering what life would have been like for us if the unexpected hadn’t come. A thought that causes us to grieve what would have been, to regret what we didn’t do sooner and leave us wishing we had the foresight to have mentally been better prepared.
Then to complicate matters we have had a lot of our freedoms stripped from us, a liberty that every one of us undoubtedly took for granted until now. Most devastatingly we now face the fear of an invisible enemy who is striking at random and cruelly taking people from our world.
Our thoughts and emotions will be all over the place, our feelings may range from uncertainty, fear, loss, anger, pain, guilt and anguish to moments of happiness, calmness and optimism. No one of us will be absorbing and acknowledging this situation in the same way. To top it off, we will all be dealing with the stresses and strains of normal everyday life on top of the new found emotions that the pandemic has sparked.
We are currently experiencing an explosion of digital activity, it seems the whole world is now online, taking to social media platforms to share stories, compare notes and entertain one another. The internet has never experienced such a hive of activity. The 24-hour news channels have gone into overdrive and are constantly streaming Covid 19 updates every which way they can. We all have our own individual coping mechanisms which we utilise to manage our thoughts and emotions during stressful times. However, with so much going on around us, even with all the coping mechanisms available to us, life can be incredibly overwhelming and it’s sometimes difficult to rationalise our thoughts. When things get too much and you are struggling to find focus try these few helpful tired and tested methods that in some cases have been used for centuries to calm the mind:
Take your shoes off, place feet firmly on the ground, practice deep breathing and anchor yourself in the present moment. Grounding or earthing is a practice that connects your body to the earth and brings physical and emotional balance and strength. Types of grounding include lying on the ground, walking barefoot, being in water or sitting on a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground.
Get yourself into a comfortable position either lying down or sitting against a supportive chair. Take deep breaths by inhaling deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Breath in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds, repeat for a few minutes. Notice a reduction in your heart rate and a calmer body and mind.
We often unplug an electrical device when it’s not working and then plug it back in to find it works again. Take time to unplug yourself. Ideally pick one day where you have an entire digital detox, failing this have an afternoon or evening a few times a week where you switch off completely. Avoid digital exposure one hour before bedtime and give yourself one hour off in the morning before you start your day. Try turning off notifications and avoid having social media and news apps on your phone. Choose one news channel and watch it or check it just once a day.
Take a nap, curl up somewhere comfortable, make sure you’re warm and in a quiet space. Dim the lights or close the curtains and give yourself time to sleep. Try and nap for less than 45 minutes if you need to be alert afterwards or if your body needs and you can spare the time have a nap for 90 minutes and then rest quietly afterwards until you have woken up properly.
Take a walk in nature and take a mindful moment. Be present in the moment, take in the sights, sounds, smells, scents and fully engage in that activity. Free from distraction and judgement and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
Put your thoughts down on paper. We like these top tips on journaling from the Centre for Journaling website. They use this simple acronym. WRITE!
W – What do you want to write about?
R – Review or reflect on it.
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings.
T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes.
E – Exit smart by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two.
These are just a few simple ways to manage overwhelm and calm your thoughts and emotions. Add the ones that work for you to your list of coping mechanisms and tap into them when you need to.
One reassuring point to note is that we are all in this together and whilst we experience the situation in our own unique ways we can all draw on support from one another as we all have a common understanding. Sharing our feelings can help enormously and therefore don’t suffer in silence, talk to friends, colleagues and professionals if you need to. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.
Helena Field, Founder of Action Wellbeing