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Craig Parker (3)
31 March 2020

Keeping well in uncertain times

We are so used to knowing things and being able to plan and arrange meetings, leisure time, holidays along time in advance. We have our diaries packed full of celebration dinners, the work’s quiz, supporting the local sports team every Saturday.

And now…there is an unknown amount of time stretching ahead where we don’t know if our loved ones and indeed ourselves will stay well. These are uncertain times which can bring a level of worry to most people. The systems which underpin our reality can look extremely fragile in these moments and it’s perfectly natural to be concerned or worried.

Over the next few months, as your work and home life start to blur, lots of challenges will present themselves which will have an effect on you both, mentally and physically, whether you’re aware of them or not. So it’s important to make time during the day just for you. It might only be a few minutes here and there, but it’s better than doing nothing. Doing nothing will catch up with you eventually.

Here’s some practical steps you can take to help you stay calm, relaxed and focused:

  • Keep to the same routine first thing in the morning, just as you would normally before going to work in the office. Even put on your shoes if you want to.
  • If it’s possible try and work in a separate room. If it’s not possible, use headphones to try and block out noise when you need to concentrate. Put your favourite uplifting tunes on!
  • Attend to your sleep – anxiety can be managed much more effectively if you are feeling robust. Consider your night time routines. Eg. No technology in the bedroom, screen restrictions, no caffeine drinks after 6pm.
  • Explore websites such as the NHS Mental health and wellbeing site.
  • Listen to helpful podcasts such as The Happiness Lab with Dr Laurie Santos.
  • Having information about the coronavirus is important but anxiety can begin to spin when there is information overload and we can’t process in a calm way what is being presented. Self-limit the news intake. Try and limit your news intake to one session per day whether it’s online or a TV programme. News is now a product and everyone’s after your attention. Think of your attention as currency, there’s only so much you can give away.
  • With the weather getting warmer and drier – get into nature. A short invigorating walk can help clear your head especially if your job requires you to be sitting at your desk for long periods and due to remote working you are in front of screens more. Attend to your neglected garden, terrace, window box, herb patch. We all need to take our responsibilities seriously but if you can get out into nature or exercise in relative isolation then do it.
  • Turn off all social media after a certain time. WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages can be helpful but for those whose anxiety increases with group anxiety then pull out. Politely leave the group.
  • It’s tricky to get the balance right between feeling supported and in touch and overloaded. Decide (when you are not tired) who are the people you value and trust in communication – i.e. NOT the people who will drain you. You may want to limit these.
  • Mindfulness apps can give you tools for meditation and relaxation. Eg. Headspace, Calm, Aura, Stop breathe think, Insight timer.
  • If you are used to going to a gym for vigorous exercise classes – look out for DVDs to keep that going in your own home. For example Shaun T Fitness.
    If gentle exercise is more on the agenda check out beginners pilates and gentle exercise videos.
  • Aim for ‘5-a-day’ – 5 self care activities. This can be anything as small as a relaxing bath, a chapter of your favourite book, a short stroll, baking something delicious etc...
  • Talking. Talk to your valued friends and family. Support each other. Try and remain positive as all things will pass. We just don’t know when. Introverts, put down your books and check in on your extrovert friends. They’re probably not taking this as well as you are.
  • If your anxiety feels like it is becoming unmanageable make a call to your doctor and/or speak to a Counsellor. All good practitioners are now prepared to work via phone/FaceTime/WhatsApp around this difficult time. The British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists hold a list of accredited practitioners in your area.
  • With all the news centring on looking out for vulnerable people in our society – make sure your neighbours are ok. Call them/drop a note through their letterbox. Or even set up a street whats app group to stay in touch.
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