As we approach three months in lockdown, many of us have been unable to access our usual self-care toolkit. Parents in particular have had less time than ever; many juggling work with childcare, navigating their child’s emotions whilst trying to make sense of their own.
It’s fair to say that for most of us, since the COVID-19 crisis emerged, life has been a roller-coaster of emotional ups and downs.
I’ve shared some practices that I have found useful, which have helped me to navigate this exhausting range of emotions:
Start the day with a mindful ritual
My days generally start much earlier, with both my Husband and I juggling working from home with caring for our two young children.
I have a ritual of drinking a mindful cup of tea each morning, if the weather is good I will take it out into the garden. Otherwise, I find a comfy spot where I’m least likely to be disturbed. I drink it slowly, enjoying the hot sweet taste and the warmth of the cup in my hands, allowing myself to be in that moment without being distracted.
I look forward to this simple ritual each day, it allows me to really wake up and take a small pocket of time for myself before the day is spent attending to the needs of my children and meeting deadlines for work.
Fit in small pockets of movement where you can
If I find I have ten minutes free, I like to do a short workout first thing. There are plenty of free short online workouts online, I highly recommend Lucy Wyndham-Read for short, effective workouts for all fitness levels. Also Dana Landgren on Instagram is great, she provides short pregnancy and postnatal friendly workouts.
If you don’t manage this every day, don’t get down on yourself! Fit ten squats in whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or try to do ten push-ups whilst playing with the kids, it all adds up. As Dana says, “one round is better than none.”
Get outside in nature
Which leads me nicely onto the next self-care activity; get yourself out in nature, where our nervous systems can reset. It’s free and fairly accessible for most of us to find small pockets of green space to enjoy. Children love being outdoors too; if we are having a bad day – we almost always feel better when we get outside.
Whether you take out bikes, balls or simply walk – there is lots to keep you occupied. If you can, it’s really therapeutic to get out for an evening walk/ jog/ run on your own, when the children are in bed/ your partner can take over. I usually take my headphones and listen to a good, nourishing podcast episode or catch up with a friend or family member on the phone. Or you could make it mindful and just breathe, walk, take in your surroundings and let go of the day.
I’m a big fan of journaling to process my emotions. There are plenty of free journaling prompts that can be found online/ on Pinterest, but in essence I treat my practice like a bit of a diary.
I write down anything significant that is on my mind – the good and the bad. Seeing it on paper can help you to unpack your thoughts and work through them, it’s like free therapy! It’s also really useful to look back on your writing and spot patterns in emotions/ behaviors as well as remembering things you may otherwise have forgotten.
This is a fairly new concept to me. It’s something I’ve heard mentioned many times but it didn’t really resonate until recently. Most of us have a harsh inner critic, one which can rule the show and cause us to believe we are not worthy/ aren’t doing enough/ are too fat; insert your own version.
The concept of self-compassion is to treat yourself as you would a good friend or loved one. Use those kind words to reassure yourself, give yourself a hug, allow yourself to rest/ cry/ binge watch Netflix; whatever you feel you need in that moment.
It’s about forgiving yourself for being imperfect and for feeling a range of emotions. Visit Kristin Neff’s website for self-compassion based meditations, exercises and information.
Make time for the things that make you feel good
Whatever your favourite self-care tools are; a long, hot bath/ meditation/ yoga/ reading/ writing/ using your favourite essential oils; make time to indulge in them on a regular basis. Make sure it is something that is accessible to you, especially during the constraints of lockdown. It will give you something to look forward to and help you to fill up your own cup, so that you can give more of yourself to others.
Limit social media, news and stop comparing
This is an ongoing challenge for me and I’m constantly checking in with myself to make sure I’m not spending too much time on social media, it can be extremely addictive. Limit news exposure and just stay updated with vital news from trusted sources, or ask someone you trust to keep you updated if they are less sensitive to news exposure.
Social media is a highlight reel and you will always find people who have immaculate homes/ are facilitating amazing learning and play activities for their children/ are training for a marathon during lockdown and showcasing their toned abs.
We never know the full picture or the reality of their lives behind the scenes. In our vulnerable moments when we are feeling less than our best, it’s easy to compare ourselves to an unrealistic image of perfection and feel like we are not good enough. You absolutely are, keep your focus on your own world and be mindful about what you consume.
Take care of the basics
Go back to basics and make sure that you are eating well, getting a little exercise each day and getting enough sleep. If our bodies are healthy our minds will have more chance of being healthy too. If you need extra emotional support, reach out to a trusted person or seek professional support; either through your GP or privately. Private therapy can be expensive but many therapists and social enterprises are offering reduced rates or even free consultations during the COVID crisis.
Acknowledge that we are living in extraordinary times
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I never would have contemplated that both my Husband and I could work from home whilst looking after a toddler and a five-year old, without any support. Throw trying to formally home-school our oldest child into the mix, I would have said that it would be impossible.
Roll on three months and that’s exactly what we have been doing. Like many, I’ve been through the full range of emotions and I still have ups and downs. But we have dropped the home-schooling and have accepted we can’t fit in a host of Pinterest worthy activities on a daily basis, on top of the day-to-day running of the house and keeping everybody fed.
Although this period is difficult, filled with anxiety and uncertainty; we can’t deny that there will be positives to emerge from this experience.
We have been shown that a slower and simpler life really is possible, that the best things in life are free; that being with our loved ones is priceless. We have learned how resilient we can be when faced with adversity, how being in control of our lives and our future is an illusion. That food and other produce are finite resources.
We have been shown the true strength and beauty of the human character. In times of need, our healthcare workers step up; brave and selfless. Our communities look out for one another, checking in on vulnerable neighbours and sharing supplies.
Life will never be the same as it was before; we are more connected to each other as we share our fight against the same deadly virus. Our differences feel much more trivial, as we reflect on what is really important and how fragile life is.
As long as we are taking care of our own needs and ensuring that our children feel safe and loved; we will eventually come out of this difficult period on the other side.