There may be ‘No Place Like Home’, but events of recent months have really tested our love affair with our household environment.
Humans are a social species, and the abnormal amount of time we have spent indoors juggling work commitments, childcare and the admin of everyday life can take their toll. And with many of us home-based for the foreseeable future, it is entirely understandable that we may be struggling with anxiety and ‘lockdown lethargy’.
Thankfully, there are techniques that can help reduce stress, lift your mood, and increase your focus. Here is my go-to list of strategies for when the pressure is getting the better of you – now and in the future:
1. MOVE YOUR BODY
Plenty of scientific evidence points to the benefits of exercise on our mental health. This is thanks to the feel-good endorphins that are released when we workout. Moving more can enhance our sleep quality, increase confidence, and boost our immune system, so now is a perfect time to include fitness in our daily routines.
From online cardio classes to a gentle stretch session, make sure you choose an activity that is safe for you and you enjoy, so you will stick to it. The movement will help release tension in your muscles, and your mind, and it will enhance your mood if you are feeling low.
2. NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Our family and friends are there to support us in times of need, so it is important that we keep them close – despite a physical distance. Research has found that spending time with friends releases oxytocin, the ‘happy’ hormone that helps us to relax.
Be proactive about staying in touch on the phone or video-chat regularly and be open and honest about how you are feeling. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Help each other to share genuine concerns and you will feel connected, rather than isolated.
3. PRIORITISE SELF CARE
By maintaining our physical and mental health, we build resilience to handle stressful circumstances. But with the intensity of a full-on working week, we can overlook the importance of looking after ourselves. This is particularly true when we are based at home and there are other responsibilities vying for our attention.
From being conscious of good nutrition, to making space in a packed diary for ‘Me Time’, investing in our wellbeing pays dividends in relieving stress. A walk in the park; a few chapters of a book; a meditative breathing exercise; sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most beneficial. And as your tension levels decrease, you can approach other parts of your day feeling calm and balanced.
4. EAT THE FROG FIRST!
An ever-growing To Do list is a guaranteed stress inducer, yet the key to success is understanding there are never enough hours to tick off everything. Instead, concentrate on the more important tasks and make sure they are completed.
This is easier said than done when we are at home and surrounded by so many distractions. But by procrastinating, you risk the pressure of scrambling to complete assignments before the deadline, and anxiety levels can hit the roof!
Have you ever heard of the saying by Mark Twain – “Eat the frog first?” It is a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day first thing, rather than deferring it to the last minute – or avoiding it completely. Get it done and not only will you feel lighter, and less dread about what’s still to do, you will be more productive with the rest of your schedule.
5. LOOK FORWARD WITH OPTIMISM
While it is important to feel present in the here and now, research published by Science Daily shows that having hopeful plans for the future gives us the drive and tenacity to navigate trickier times. This is particularly relevant now, when we have become used to uncertainty and empty social calendars.
A healthy sense of ‘anticipation’ for what is in store not only builds a positive mindset, it can even help you to live longer! It is also very possible to learn to be optimistic, and the benefits are huge.
If you are feeling stressed about your present situation, take a breath and reflect on all the good things ahead. It can be something simple like watching a movie after you have finished work, or bigger plans such as a holiday. We all need rewards waiting for us at the end of a stressful day or experience.
By Kate Gare
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