I heard a lady on the radio the other day use the example of being on a plane and how the safety talk always urges you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. This is exactly what you should be doing right now. However much is on your plate, you cannot help others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
We find ourselves in strange times, strange, unsettling and sometimes worrying times. There is no handbook to follow, no precedent to look to for reassurance and no timetable. At the time of writing it’s likely that the current situation, with the UK enduring a partial lockdown, is going to continue for a while yet.
The vast majority of us have seen our normal daily lives turned on their heads. Many people are now working from home, or not working at all, while those of us who still have jobs to go to may have seen our roles changed completely. With no childcare or school, many are juggling new roles and responsibilities with the added stress of looking after children all day everyday.
And do you know what? It’s perfectly fine to be worried or feeling stressed about the Coronavirus situation. With all of the vast amount of turmoil and change that has taken place in a relatively short space of time, it’s not surprising that many of us are struggling to adapt. This is especially true as our usual support network of family and friends are now only reachable online or at the end of a telephone.
While I don’t have all of the answers, I do have a few ideas to help make sure that you prioritise your own wellbeing during these times and give yourself the best chance to cope.
It’s a well known saying, but it’s a true one: you really cannot pour from an empty cup.
Lower your Expectations
This is my number one tip for this time. You cannot do everything. Nobody is carrying on as normal, everybody’s life has changed to some degree and we are all spinning a lot of plates. Make a conscious decision to let go of a couple of those plates. For example, does it really matter if you don’t do as much housework as usual? (It’s not like you’re going to have visitors anyway). Be realistic about how much you can do in terms of your own work and in terms of school work. Little and often is better than trying to do everything. If you have a bad day, that’s fine, tomorrow is another day.
When we are stressed or under pressure, one of the first things that can slip is our appetite. The effort required to make food can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel hungry anyway. But it’s so important to eat and drink regularly. If you’re not hungry, try eating smaller meals more often or have plenty of healthy snacks to hand so you can keep your energy up. We have tried to make our evening meal a real focal point where we all stop and spend some time together. This has helped, especially on those days where I otherwise wouldn’t have bothered making a decent meal.
Creative Self Care
The news seems very intrusive at the moment, and it’s difficult to get away from the stark reminders of the situation we’re in. Although our options for hobbies may be limited to those we can do at home, there’s still plenty of opportunities for a little creative self care. It’s a great time to try something you’ve always wanted to do, or get back into something you used to do. Crafts, baking, reading, jigsaws, yoga, colouring, art, gardening, puzzles….whatever floats your boat, give it a go. It’s a great way to switch off and enjoy some relaxing time to yourself.
Now more than ever it’s vital to practise good sleep hygiene. I hate that phrase but it’s a good way to sum up the idea of creating a relaxing sleeping environment and a healthy bedtime routine. Make sure that you stop looking at your phone a good while before you go to bed, so you can relax and switch off from the world. The blue light can also disrupt your sleep. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine, too close to bedtime and try to limit your alcohol intake, as although it can help you to fall asleep, it also disrupts sleep later in the night as your body processes the alcohol. Create a calming routine that works for you, maybe reading before bed or enjoying a bath for example. Remember to make sure your bedroom is as relaxing and comfortable as possible and at the right temperature for you to enjoy a restful night.
A regular exercise routine has a plethora of benefits to your wellbeing. According to the NHS, “Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression.” We are allowed out for exercise, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of this, as it also has the added benefit of getting you out in the fresh air and topping up your vitamin D levels. There are also lots of options for exercising at home if that suits you better. Remember to take advice if you’re new to exercising and not to attempt too much too soon. There are lots of online programmes, I personally love The Body Coach and Yoga with Adriene, both are adaptable to different levels of fitness and are ideal for slotting into busy schedules.
Going for a coffee with your best mate might be out of the question right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out for a chat when you need it. There are many options for communicating online, including Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or Zoom to name a few. Why not try getting together with a group to do an activity like a virtual pub quiz (there are some online or make your own) or an online book club. As humans we need interaction so make this a priority in your day.
Obviously, there is no silver bullet to help us all through, but hopefully these tips can help start you thinking about how you can prioritise your own self care throughout this situation and set up a positive routine for the future.