This lock down has been beyond challenging for even the most positive of us, myself included. Just because I am a therapist and coach doesn’t mean I’m immune to anxiety or despair. I am experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that the current situation induces, with some days being better than others. However, I wanted to share the 3 things that have been working to help me regain my sense of stability so that you can use these too.
Step 1. HOW YOU THINK
Waking up has been especially difficult. I have found myself stirring into consciousness asking myself despairingly, “How long is this going to go on for?” From there, it can be easy to spiral into projecting hopelessness, but the thing I do to stop the downward spiral is to get out my journal and start focusing my thoughts on what I have to be grateful for. And sometimes they’re super simple things like:
— In this moment, I’m thankful for the roof over my head
— In this moment, I’m thankful there’s food in my fridge
— In this moment, I’m thankful I’m safe and well
— I’m thankful for the people in my life that support me
— I’m thankful for the internet keeping me connected to those I care about
The great news about gratitude is that it’s actually scientifically proven to rewire your neural pathways from negative to positive! It is a literal re-programming of your brain, your emotions, and your energy. By feeding yourself nourishing thoughts, it becomes easier for your brain to default into that way of thinking. Like bathing, you’ll notice the benefits when practiced daily.
Step 2. WHAT YOU EAT
While it may be tempting to reach for the pizza, the booze, the pasta, and cake right now, your brain will thank you if you don’t — and so will your waistline, while we’re at it. If there’s one thing you can do to support your brain health, and subsequently your mental wellbeing, include good fats as part of your diet. Oily fish or plant-based good fats like avocado or coconut oil are supportive of neurological health, and have actually been used by holistic psychiatrists and neuro-psychiatrists in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
It’s also a phenomenal way to balance your blood sugar, by switching your fuel source to fat, as opposed to carbohydrates. I know this isn’t want anyone wants to hear right now but alcohol constitutes as a carbohydrate. It’s also an immuno-suppressant, and a depressant. It creates blood sugar spikes and, if you didn’t know this already, blood sugar directly impacts mood. If you don’t believe me, then just think of the last time you were Hangry (hungry and angry).
Let’s keep it simple: Ditch the bottle of wine, the sugary, starchy foods, and include more healthy fats, from both plant and animal sources.
Step 3. HOW YOU MOVE
At the start of the pandemic, I was freaked out because I live in a block of flats, which means that the communal spaces are high traffic places, lots of door handles and lift buttons to touch (eek!). The neurotic in me was in overdrive, so psyching myself up to leave the building to exercise was a battle. We’re not meant to gather or go out apart from one hour a day of exercise. However, I struggle to exercise unless I’m part of a class. I’d be so unmotivated to get dressed and face the world.
The good news is that now the days are longer, and spring is here, the fresh air and sunlight mean that exercising outside has multiple benefits. Sunlight and fresh air are reputed to be disinfectant, as evidenced during the Spanish Flu. The patients who were taken outside daily had higher rates of recovery than those who were kept inside. That knowledge has settled my anxiety about venturing out to exercise. So now, even if it’s just a walk, the change of scenery is hugely transformative, and I, of course continue to practice physical distancing, and good hygiene.
For those of you who live with family, friends or a partner, you can buddy up, and commit to a time to do this together. You’re more likely to stick to it this way. If you choose to stay in, there are a number of online classes that you can participate in, and again, ensuring someone signs up with you is a great way to keep you accountable, not to mention, the community element provides a healthy boost for your psyche.
If I had to summarise the benefits, it would look like this:
— Blood flow to the brain (oxygen)
— Change of scenery
— Community (even if it’s online)
We’re learning more and more about what can protect our health and immunity, and I will continue to share what I learn with you, so that you have access to the facts! As we stare uncertainty right in the face, the one thing that is certain is this: This too shall pass. We may not know exactly when, but in the mean time, hold on to the hope that better days are coming.
If you have found this helpful, I’d love to hear from you, or if you have a practice that lifts your mood and would like to share, please do so by dropping me an email or a post in the online community.
We are all in this together!