It seems like we have been in this situation for months not weeks, and although it is apparent we are beginning to get a handle on this crisis, it is still a frightening time, an uncertain period when its easy to let fear and worry dominate our every day lives. But let’s stop a moment. Are there any positives that we can identify? Is there anything from this time to be proud of, either something we are personally doing, or in the actions of others?
No one is suggesting that any of these thoughts are going to make everything OK, or that we should forget the tragedy that is unfolding every day for families all across the world. but trying to remain strong, learn from our experiences and staying grounded, is not a betrayal of those that have died. It simply means that we are able to inspire others around us, and to be the positive ones, the ones who are using this time to create innovative changes. The ones who are embracing those changes and accepting that the world may be different when this is over, and not being afraid of that.
Firstly, I saw this posted on Instagram yesterday:
Traffic is gone; Petrol is affordable; Bills are extended; Children are at home with their families; Parents are at home taking care of their children; Fast food has been replaced by home cooking; Hectic schedules replaced by naps and relaxation; The air is cleaner; The World is quiet; People are more conscious about hygiene; Money doesn’t make the world go round anymore; Doctors and nurses are being praised and recognised instead of ‘celebrities’…And now we have the time finally to stop and smell the roses.
In our normal everyday lives, outside of lockdown, we are constantly under pressure and our busy lives see us scurrying around with barely a second to stop and breathe. Now, perhaps we have the time to stop and reflect.
Try some of these exercises to help you feel grounded, calm and positive:
Take off your shoes, stand up straight and concentrate on an awareness of your whole body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Relax your mind, and try and slow your thoughts. Deeply breathe in and slowly exhale. Focus your awareness on the point below your navel, exhaling as slowly and as fully as you can. Feel a sense of being grounded and connected to the earth through your bare feet. Try and breathe from your abdomen not your chest. Wherever you feel anxious, irritated or impatient concentrate on this low breathing. Abdominal deep breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day will reduce anxiety and stress. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
Try and catch a sunrise or sunset. Watching the sun as it rises or sets and feeling gratitude for getting through another day will warm your spirit. Research shows that a sunrise or sunset can give us a better sense of gratitude for the earth. When we are caught up in the natural beauty of the Earth, we rid ourselves of any distractions and experience higher levels of satisfaction and gratitude.
Develop a philosophy of ‘If you can’t control it, try not to worry about it’. Worrying about what might happen is not helpful, however tempting that may be. Your worries are thoughts, not facts and do not change anything. What is important is this day, this hour, this moment. Try the 6 point anti worry plan below.
- Identify what you can control.
- Focus on what influence you have on the subject.
- Clarify what exactly is frightening you.
- Understand that there is a difference between ruminating and problem-solving.
- Devise a plan to manage your worry.
- Develop positive affirmations.
Appreciate your connection with things around you, for example your family, pets, old photographs or the garden. Appreciating your surroundings, even in lockdown, can lift mood and help to maintain a positive attitude. When we begin to appreciate the world around us, we might even start to see and be thankful for things we may never have normally noticed.
Be positive. The success of every day is not determined by what happens to us, who we see, or what we receive, but rather its interpretation in our own minds. An event can be interpreted in a million ways. What is important is how we react to it. You may not have control over what happens, or have the power to change things at the moment, but you do have power over your reaction.
Believe in yourself. You have made it this far haven’t you? Strong self belief can bring you all that you wish for. Recognise your ability to get through difficult times like this. Be optimistic about the future and set goals. Life may be on hold now but it won’t be forever. Expect that wonderful things are coming. Energy attracts like energy. It is not luck; it really is the way things work naturally.
I love this story: There was once a King who sought a phrase, a mantra that could advise and guide him throughout his life. One of his wise men brought him a ring inscribed with the words “This too shall pass.” The King kept it with him at all times. When he was doing well, he read it and it kept his ego in check, when things were difficult, it gave him hope for the future. (From a Persian fable)
Try some “Instant Travelling”. Your body and mind will respond to what you imagine, even if its not real. Visualisation is a wonderful tool and I used it a lot when I was counselling. Your body will relax whether you are on a sunbed by the pool on holiday or whether you are visualising you are on a sunbed by the pool on holiday. Directing your attention to the positive associations your mind makes with any given place, will give you warm memories and relaxed feelings. Breathe in deeply and let that wellbeing wash over you.
Keep a sense of perspective. Remember that we are all in this together, and globally the world has come together in a herculean effort to defeat this virus. The most amazing scientific minds working on this virus know what it is; It took 2 years to identify the virus that caused AIDS in 1981, it took scientists 1 week to identify the virus that caused Covid-19 in January of this year. We already have the test to detect it. In some parts of the world, the situation is already improving and in 80% of cases worldwide, symptoms are mild. Even now, science is working hard to develop a vaccine.
Embrace Change. Understandably our thoughts are wrapped up in not only what is happening in our own lives at the moment, but uncertainties about what changes the pandemic may bring long term to our finances, job, relationships and leisure. Change is inevitable, but it is not all necessarily negative, it can be positive and powerful. One small example: The way that the world of work and business is now conducting meetings by video link. The need to fly and travel all round the world or country to be present in person has, to a large extent. become negated by the pandemic. We have discovered new methods of communicating and working, ways that are going to have a massively positive effect on the health of our planet, hopefully for years to come.
Even at this difficult time, choose happiness. Don’t think of happiness as something external that is to be chased and caught. Think of it as always within you, a potential we have with us every day. Its not selfish or uncaring to want to remain happy during this period, it makes medical sense! Research shows that a positive outlook can boost our immune system, so it’s not something to feel guilty about; it’s a smart strategy just like social distancing or washing your hands!
Try not to focus on what the pandemic has taken away from you and focus on what you still have. Gratitude for everything you have is the quickest route to happiness, it is a vitamin tablet for the mind! Listing to yourself what you still have to be grateful for first thing every morning will put you in a healthy frame of mind, and give you perspective, hope, inspiration, positivity and a trust that things will improve.
Finally, be kind to yourself. In my 11 years as a counsellor, I never saw one client who suffered from being too kind to his/herself. If you are feeling anxious, take a big deep breath and ask yourself what you need at this moment: Do you need a nice long soak in the bath or to go out for a walk? Do you need to take a nap? To sit down and play with your kids/dogs/cats for a while, or get some hugs? If you’re alone, do you need to ring or video chat with a friend or family member?
You can do this. Its a difficult time but things will get better. Look to the future… and take some comfort in these inspirational quotes:
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” Joseph Campbell
“Self-care is how you take your power back.” Lalah Delia
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King