With millions now in isolation we are facing health, economic and societal disruptions on a global scale. There is extensive news coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of our future is enough to make anyone’s anxiety and stress levels skyrocket. Mastering how to handle stress will not only help you, it will help those in your household to. Here are a few practical tips to help you cope and better manage your mental wellbeing;
Framework you day
Continue your pre-lockdown routine. Wake at the same time, dress for the day and allocate yourself a set number of working hours, being sure to include short breaks. If you are not the only one in your household who’s working, try to coordinate your call schedules so that you minimise disruptions. Coordinating your schedules so that you can take meals and breaks together can be a nice way to break up the day. Or if you need some space, take breaks apart.
It’s key to make a clear boundary between the working day and relaxation time. Once you have logged-off it’s important that you try and engage in an activity that is completely different, and preferably one that does not involve a screen. Occupy yourself with cooking, taking your allocated bout of exercise, spend time in the garden (if you are lucky enough to have outdoor space), undertake household chores or listen to music.
One of the most important non-work activities, especially during a crisis, is sleep. Try not to work late as you’ll quickly begin to undermine your effectiveness at emotion regulation and decision-making. Aiming for 8 hours is preferable and to improve your sleep efficiency go to bed and wake up at the same time 7 days a week.
If you are feeling anxious, try to limit your news consumption at this time. Although it is It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest information, you can limit yourself to one news session a day, choosing a reputable source such as the World Health Organisation Newsroom or the BBC.
We can’t see our family and friends in person, but we certainly can stay connected. Video calls really do help and it’s nice to see that you are not alone. Sharing your personal experiences often normalises them as often you’ll find that you are not unique in what you are feeling.
Take time to focus on your breath. This powerful yet simple technique allows you to gently disengage your mind. Take long, slow breaths, feeling your chest and belly expand. Hold and count to 5, gently exhale and hold on empty, counting for 5. Repeat for 5 rounds.
Guided imagery is another technique which can help you focus and relax. Make sure you are in a quiet place, minimise distractions and sit in a comfortable position. Closing your eyes, begin to conjure up soothing scenes, places or experiences. This can help you reinforce a positive outlook, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety. Headspace offers a free trial so if you would like more guidance give it a go.
Remember that this period won’t last forever. Now is the time to read, to talk, to slow down, to prioritise sleep, eat nourishing food and to ensure we keep active.