As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to grow and ripple into every area of life, we are all having to cope with the stress. From legitimate fears for vulnerable loved ones, to uncertainty about job security and finances. Even popping to the supermarket has become an anxiety-fuelled nightmare. But we are in this for the long haul and with the recent announcement of lockdown and as more people fall ill, it is likely that the changes to our lives will continue to increase. Therefore, we need to find ways to cope.
I am the marketing manager for The Outdoors Group 3 days a week, I help with teambuilding events for the company as well and I am also a Yoga and Mindfulness teacher. Earlier this week I felt completely overwhelmed with the whole situation. I made the decision to move in with my mum, so she wasn’t alone during isolation. Believe me it has its pros (dinner cooked for me!) but it also has cons of not being in my own home. I am also trying to adapt to working from home, home educating my 6-year-old daughter and not being able to teach my yoga classes in the normal way. So much change in such a short space of time left me feeling anxious which I know so many of us are feeling. I found I was constantly on social media which was just increasing my anxiety more. I made a decision. To embrace this new life, to come off Facebook and to make use of the time I always said I never had to do things I’ve always wanted to do. But I also tried to remember my Yoga and Mindfulness training and be conscious of how I was reacting to this situation.
Anxiety is understandable. These are scary times, especially if you’re elderly or have established respiratory or pre-existing health issues. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that worry isn’t a helpful state of being for humanity at large, or for ourselves as individuals.
With that in mind I wanted to share with you my top 5 ways to let go and embrace these changes as best you can!
1. Don’t forget to Breathe
When we feel anxious and stressed, we tend to have very shallow breathing which can just contribute to those feelings even more…a vicious circle! This is a result of our bodies going into fight or flight response which is very prevalent right now. We need to try and take the body back to rest and digest mode and doing simple breathing exercises can help. Deep breathing helps get more oxygen into your bloodstream, opening up your capillaries. It has a physical effect on your body to help you calm down and lower stress.
So deep breathing does make a big difference for adults and kids and could become part of your daily routines during these crazy times. I have provided a few fun breathing exercises you can practice. Make time each day to do some of these simple breathing exercises, either by yourself or with your family.
2. Be in Nature
We know as seasoned forest schoolers we don’t need to tell you benefits of being in nature, but I guess it’s about finding new ways to enjoy the great outdoors sensibly whilst in isolation. For those living in the countryside it’s easier to get out and enjoy nature but a little more restrictive if you are living in towns or cities. You don’t have to roll out a yoga mat to get the benefit of meditation and mindfulness. Walking mindfully and breathing mindfully in nature enables us to connect with the natural world, which naturally calms the mind. If you can’t get out for a walk, listen to the birds outside your window, admire the spring blossom or the clouds moving across the sky. They will bring you back to the here-and-now. You could create an eye spy nature game or if you can get out in the garden why not build a bug hotel, go minibeast hunting or plant seeds and watch them grow.
3. Let go, embrace the change and make new routines
Try and leave behind your old routines. In order to be ok with where we are now, we must let go of what we know and embrace the new. Create a new routine. As human beings we need structure – otherwise life can feel very chaotic.
Make lists of all the things you want to do whilst in isolation. Read the book you’ve been meaning to get around to, complete an online course, use a meditation app, reconnect with your family and enjoy your home. Make it a family activity and put all your suggestions in a hat of activities; games, movie time, baking, tasks, jobs to be done around the house, gardening, walks. Don’t forget to create time to talk to friends and keep socialising outside your household. I’ve been using the zoom platform to create a “virtual pub” with my friends for a glass of wine and good natter. There are so many ways we can embrace this change, try to have fun with it. And most importantly, I will only be checking the news once a day – so I can stay in touch with what’s happening in the world without getting switched into fear and panic mode for the whole day. The Coronavirus outbreak may actually make it easier for us to be mindful, to slow down, and to connect with ourselves and our wellbeing, if only we can recognise the opportunity.
4. Self Care: Don’t take other people’s word for it, experiment and learn what works for you
There are a million articles out there telling us what self-care is and how to practice it but there is no right or wrong way to practice self-care. It’s all about experimenting and learning what works for you and the specific challenge you are up against. In order to experiment you need to have an observing mind and take note of what makes you feel good. You need to make sure you have a support system or at least an understanding of who and what makes you feel supported. When we are taking care of ourselves effectively, we are less likely to project our emotions onto others and emotionally react (instead of authentically respond) to situations. We are more likely to interact with our families, with people in the world, or with colleagues at work with more empathy and composure which in turn makes you happier. In times like these we must remember to be kind to others. We’re stronger united.
I don’t know about you but since I have been forced to slow down, I have become overwhelmingly tired, the anxiety and stress of the situation is also contributing to that, which is also resulting in broken sleep…again another vicious circle! So along with taking the above steps I am also going to focus on my bedtime routine. Because of having to home-school my child, free time in the evening has become even more precious…. hats off to you that full time home-educate!
Get disciplined about preparing for bedtime. Practice some self care as suggested above, don’t watch the news or other horror stories immediately before bed. Choose something light or a comedy instead. Don’t take your phone to bed – the blue light can keep you awake for hours. Have a bath with magnesium or Epsom salts. Go to bed at the same time every night with a good book. And don’t drink too much water or you will have to get up in the night for loo!
As we work through coronavirus together as a global community and on our own as individuals, let’s seize the opportunity that this rare moment presents and practice finding the good in ourselves and each other. If we can emerge from a pandemic not only healthy, but more centred and connected with ourselves, such a harmonious result will be a win for everyone.
Author: Katie Hawley, Marketing Manager at The Outdoors Group and Yoga Teacher
Date: 25th March 2020