Life is full of ups and downs. It is a part of the human experience.
However, no one could have anticipated the events that would unfold over the last twelve months.
As we continue to process upsetting news, we are also spending an abnormal amount of time indoors juggling work commitments, childcare, home schooling and financial pressures. Unsurprisingly, many of us may be struggling with stress, grief, anxiety, and fatigue from protracted living in the shadow of a global pandemic.
‘Lockdown lethargy’ is the inevitable psychological fallout of the coronavirus crisis, and the life-changing havoc it has caused. It is the reason so many of us are feeling unmotivated, exhausted, lacking in energy and irritable with those around us.
While some people are affected more than others, the good news is that it is possible for all of us to ‘learn’ and cultivate a collection of skills to move through adversity. This is called resilience.
Long term, our ability to bounce back after a transition or hardship determines our approach to life. And by building our personal ‘power’ and resilience, it is possible to grow and learn from the tests we face. We can then truly begin to transform and thrive, and in time, strive for our goals.
This will only happen if we nurture our resilience by shifting and making changes to elements of our lives that we can control. I realise this is easier said than done when so many aspects of our current existence are dictated by outside influences.
However, we can have agency over more we than we think.
Here is my go-to list of strategies to reduce stress, lift your mood, increase your focus, and begin to boost your resilience:
1. GIVE YOUR DAY MEANING
No matter what is going on in your life, you still need to take care of your physical and mental health with food, rest, love, exercise, and fun. Do not pressure yourself into having to accomplish big things, keep it simple and achievable. This might be something low-key such as going for a walk in a green space, finishing a novel, or calling a close friend for a catch up. What you do each day provides meaning for you and keeps motivation high.
2. MOVE MORE
Plenty of scientific evidence points to the benefits of exercise on our mental health, and this is thanks to the feel-good endorphins that are released when we workout. Sfafe movement releases muscle tension, enhances our sleep quality, increases confidence, and boosts our immune system. A brisk walk, an online cardio class or a gentle stretch session, choose an activity that is safe for you and you enjoy. This will help you to stick to the new routine.
3. APPRECIATE PAST DIFFICULTIES
Rather than forgetting about previous challenges or trauma, try applying what you learned from those struggles to navigate current or future situations. Reflecting on what you have been through enables you to remember how you handled tough experiences. What worked for you during lockdown last year? Focusing your energies on the lessons and skills you have learned helps to build your resilience. You will also have the fortitude and motivation to forge on with a testing present.
4. KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
You will always be stronger and more capable when you connect with the people who care for you. Research has found that spending time with loved ones also releases oxytocin, the ‘happy’ hormone that helps us to relax and boosts our resilience, so it is important that we keep them close – despite a physical distance. Be proactive about staying in touch on the phone or video-chat regularly and be open and honest about how you are feeling. Do not bottle up your emotions. Help each other to share genuine concerns and you will feel supported and connected, rather than isolated.
5. TREAT YOURSELF WITH COMPASSION
With the intensity of a full-on working week, we can feel intense pressure to achieve everything at the expense of looking after ourselves. This is particularly true when we are based at home and there are so many responsibilities vying for our attention. The solution is to think of yourself as a friend and apply the same empathy. Self-compassion means allowing ourselves the kindness to tackle our setbacks, without judgment or self-criticism. We should strive to silence our inner negative voice to give ourselves opportunities to rest and recharge (see below).
6. PRIORITISE SELF-CARE
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 and building resilience. A relaxing bath; 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.
7. LOOK FORWARD WITH OPTIMISM
Research published by Science Daily shows that having hopeful plans gives us the drive and tenacity to navigate a tricky present. 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 anxious, 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 booking in a virtual group catch up with close friends. We all need rewards waiting for us at the end of a stressful day or experience.
Kate, Phil, Helen and Jude x
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