We will not pretend this will be easy. This is why it’s particularly important to protect our minds from spiralling into worries and negativity.
March 2020: we find ourselves unexpectedly having to live either distanced or in self-isolation, for everyone’s wellbeing.
This sudden lockdown is still sinking in for most of us: not being able to go out whenever and wherever we like, meet whoever we choose, work next to colleagues, teams and clients as we’re used to.
Add to this the uncertainty of a pandemic that is changing our lives at all levels, and it is understandable that we may be feeling out of sorts. It may feel overwhelming, maybe we still don’t quite believe it, perhaps we’re highly anxious, or we may just be feeling flat, all the while wondering how we’re going to get through this.
We may be parents who suddenly have 3 children to entertain while working from home, or single dwellers recently told to take voluntary leave from work for a few months.
Whichever life we lead, we all have a right to feel whatever arises, while trying to find answers to “what now”…and “what next”…?
I would like to share a few ideas on how to maintain a healthy state of mind while we navigate this uncharted terrain:
13 ways to make this experience easier on our minds.
1. Accept reality
We saw it happen across the borders, we heard it in the news, but we never thought we’d be the ones shut out of the streets and in our homes. Many of us felt this way. There’s no more time for disbelief: we need to face what’s happening head on, and accept this new reality for however long it lasts. The more we resist our circumstance, the more friction we create between our expectations and what is.
Accepting fully is a strong starting point for navigating through our experience with a healthy attitude and a clear mind.
How? Get informed. Listen to the guidance from the experts. Accept and adhere to the ways of life that will keep us safe at this time.
2. Acknowledge your feelings
When it finally sinks in, there will be any range of accompanying emotions. It is wise to take some time out, sit and acknowledge them. Let all the emotions surface, and feel them without condition, without judgement, only with a lot of understanding.
It’s perfectly alright to feel whatever comes up. If we allow the space and time to tune in and acknowledge how we are feeling, we will integrate them.
Otherwise they will lurk beneath the surface, unattended, and once again we will create unnecessary friction in ourselves which will show up in unwanted behaviour.
How? Sit quietly for 5-10 minutes, and scan any feelings there are inside of you…observe them, feel where they may show up in your body, even welcome them. If you find some difficult to face… it’s ok… be gentle… take a few deep breaths and come back to them only if you are ready. If it feels too difficult, only go so far as you can. The aim is to be with all our feelings for a short while, on a regular basis… always checking in… not trying to change them. Just look at them and say, it’s ok to feel this way. A guided meditation will help with this if this feels unfamiliar to you.
3. Stay Centred
Having accepted reality and our feelings at this time, easy or difficult as they may be… it’s time to centre ourselves so we remain grounded and resilient regardless of what the world outside brings. Worry, anxiety, and fear are all understandable emotions in these circumstances. Working through them is largely internal work, because they are internal experiences. If we let them come and go, we are fine. If however they come and stay, we spiral into negativity and panic, which paralyses and throws us off balance.
When we centre ourselves, we create a mental distance from the surrounding storms, we integrate our feelings, and we are left feeling strong, rooted, and calm: able to withstand any external climate.
How? There are grounding meditations that can help us remain centred.
4. Take Action
We are now in a good state of mind to take whatever action is required at the time. Our minds are composed enough to look clearly at what needs doing. Taking it hour by hour, day by day, when our minds are clear, what we need to do appears in front of us easily and in order of priority. We know this will be the new reality for an undetermined amount of time. Are there things I need to put in order, arrangements I need to make, conversations I should have?
At these times it’s important to accept that there will be many things out of our control. We will master the art of working with what is; taking action where we can, and accepting the rest.
How? Stay present, consider the actions required, and do them one at a time to best manage this new reality.
5. Create Routine
We’re going to spend a lot of time at home. Weeks, maybe months. There may be demands of work, or family or you may find yourselves with endless hours at home with no demands. Depending on your personality, creating a routine can help keep our minds stay anchored.
A routine doesn’t have to be an hour by hour schedule – it can be as small a thing as making the bed every morning, or watering the plants daily, or deciding to spend daytimes working and evenings connecting. It can also be good to deviate from this routine from time to time, but having something of a routine helps to ground us into a new way of life, faster. Our minds also feel reassured when there is expected repetition in life.
How? Make as much of a routine as you’re comfortable with, stick to it most of the time. What will it be? A daily workout for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, or storytelling with the family after dinner?
6. Make Space
It may sound strange to talk about making space when we’re all confined indoors for most of the day. This is exactly why it’s so important to create “space” within ourselves, and also for ourselves in relation to others we may be living with.
If we are living alone, we can create a sense of space in our minds, despite the confinement of physical space. This is how we keep our minds fresh, and allow inspiration and creativity in.
How? Meditation is a great way to do this. Some idle time, doing things we like to do without agenda, can also help.
If we are living with others, then we may benefit from creating a balance of space and intimacy. This way we each feel more whole, integrated, when we are with the other.
How? We can agree to have some time for each of us to do what we need to do for ourselves. It’s not always possible, but it’s worth a try.
7. Stay in touch
Loneliness may be a regular visitor during times of self-isolation. That’s ok. This is the time we can make the video calls to friends on the other side of the planet, create a habit of calling our parents daily, set up online dates with people we haven’t seen for a while, or even make new acquaintances online. Why not? After all, one could argue that “social distancing” is a misnomer for what we are doing now – it’s physical distancing we’re practicing, we can stay as socially connected as we choose.
Sharing, supporting and staying connected with others, especially those who are supportive, will have an obviously positive effect on how you feel.
How? Zoom your grandparents daily, ask how they’re doing. Set up a Houseparty video call with all your closest friends.
8. Say Thanks
No matter how undesirable the circumstances feel, there is usually something good we will find in it. Being able to notice the good things and saying thanks as a regular practice, has been shown (by science!) to change the wiring in our brains over time to make us more positive and happy.
What can we be happy about? Isn’t it nice to slow down a little..? No more rush hour traffic..! Getting time to do that hobby you never get round to..?
How? Spend a few minutes every day considering what felt good, something you’re grateful for.
9. Eat well
Taking care of our bodies goes a long way to maintaining a healthy mind. Try to get fresh, nutritious food as regularly as you can.
How? Shopping regularly only for what you need means you can get fresh food often rather than tinned, frozen or dried. Enjoy cooking new things. Try avoiding regular intake of depressants like alcohol, as it will probably not keep us chirpy for long.
Keeping our body moving and in shape will definitely help our mood. All those endorphins and serotonin help keep depression and anxiety at bay, and keep our immune system strong!
How? It’s the perfect time to order some weights or buy that balance ball. Set aside time every day to do yoga or squats or whatever works for you – there are plenty of virtual classes to choose from if you need.
11. Limit Screen Time
It is very easy to while away all our time with news, Netflix, WhatsApp, what not…. Pretty soon we start feeling weary and we don’t quite know why…try giving your eyes a rest, your mind will thank you for it.
How? With great determination. Make a point of turning technology off, and set a schedule for offline activity – be it cooking, drawing or simply chatting with those living with you.
12. Get fresh air
Open the windows and make sure the air always stays fresh and moving, especially now that you’re spending so much time indoors. Perhaps use some oils to create the right kind of mood for you. Citrus smells to lift spirits… spicy smells to warm the space. A little goes a long way.
And when you can, go out for a walk. Get some vitamin D. Nothing substitutes for this.
Last but possibly the most important, is to live in trust during uncertain times. When things feel out of control and we don’t know where it’s all heading, we tend to default into worry and pessimism. This is very natural, but let’s face it: it does make things worse. The last thing we need to add to what’s going on outside, is always worrying about it inside. Not only does worrying not change anything, it wastes our mental energy, and at high levels, harms our immune system.
Trust, as an inner sense, not only helps us feel better, but can also lead to changes outside.
Freelancers live in trust that the next project will appear when required, as long as they continue to do good work. Friends confide in each other in trust, knowing what they share will remain private. If we don’t trust, we close up and stagnate.
The opposite of trust is fear. Living in fear has negative consequences for ourselves and others. Let’s take an example. The UK produces enough loo roll for all its citizens on home soil. If we trust that we will have all the loo roll we need, when we need it, as we’ve always had, we would keep our buying behaviour as normal and there would be no shortage of loo roll. We wouldn’t be stockpiling. Stockpiling shows our lack of trust, it shows our fear, and ironically it leads to lack of loo roll – some are left without and factories struggle to refill shelves as others horde enough loo roll to last months. Our lack of trust becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s our fear that led to empty shelves and factory blocks. If we trust, we will all have enough.
Trust isn’t always easy, especially when we see and experience suffering. Many of us will face suffering, perhaps closer to home than we have done before. So we feel it, and we grieve. Then we can still choose to trust in our resilience, our integrity, our ability to do our best.
We need to let go of our resistance to what we cannot change, and do the best we can for the rest. This is all we can do.
Trust keeps us calm, and it creates space for things to flow. Trust doesn’t have to be blind – we can choose how to trust, who to trust, and when. We can even start with trusting ourselves.
The habit that is likely to help the most to keep our minds healthy and our world sane in the coming weeks and months, is this ability to live in trust.
How? Give time to notice what “trust” feels like for you. Consider it, observe it, be curious – and let the feeling expand. Start noticing how it feels when you act from a place of trust, rather than a place of fear; even when you go grocery shopping.
Adiba, Founder of Inhere meditation studio, is currently in self-isolation in London.
Thought of the day: If you’ve ever thought can you meditate lying down or is sitting better click the link to see our verdict!