TAKING ONE DAY AT A TIME - This Week's Focus - COVID-19
As the days and weeks pass you may have experienced some good days, while some will have been harder than others. At this challenging time this is to be expected. This week we will look at some tips and resources that might help us get through each day being mindful that we need to practice compassion for ourselves and others and take good care of ourselves.
Our sense of safety and the quality of our relationships are fundamentally linked to our mental state. At this time of incredible challenges, there is a lot of information available on ways to support us get through each day. The volume of available information may in itself feel overwhelming. In considering any suggestions, be mindful there is no one size fits all – it’s not that suggestions that are on offer at this time are not right, but it's about finding out what you like and what works best for you.
One Therapist Deb Dana helpfully suggests writing your own ‘menu’ that might be helpful to include in your day. Only add strategies that support you to move towards a calmer state, drawing on things that have worked in the past.
Connecting with others is one of our greatest resources at this time. Connecting with a family member, friend, colleague or therapist who understands and listens to what you are experiencing will help in reducing stress levels. Practice tuning in to your internal states and try to label your emotions, by naming them we can tame them. When we have had sufficient opportunities for connecting with others, then we can then more effectively use self-regulation strategies.
Self - Regulation Strategies:
Sensory regulation - click here to learn more about: The Soothing Aspects of Touch*, The Tastes That Can Soothe, The Refreshing Power of Smell*, Take Your Mind off It with Sight, Relax With Sound, Putting These Strategies to Work.
When engaging in these strategies, make sure to focus completely on the task at hand. That is, be mindful of your senses and what you are experiencing. Anytime you are distracted, simply bring your attention back to what you are doing.
Come up with your own self-soothing strategies that you can do when you are upset. Try to list as many as you can the more you have at your disposal, the better off you will be in improving your mood when you are experiencing distress.
*For information on essential oils and what they can be used for click here.
Pay attention - When you try something new pay attention to your internal response, and chose strategies that support you to move towards an increased sense of calm.
Move regularly - Build in regular movement breaks throughout your day. Patterned repetitive activities have a calming effect on our nervous system, walking, running, dancing, singing, repetitive meditative breathing, knitting, online yoga tai chi, playing a musical instrument. In addition to permitted exercise outside, consider incorporating regular movement breaks at home, even a 5 minute movement break can help. The COVID and Staying at Home section has lots of ideas for building in movement and physical activity as well as other practical advice for dealing with being at home.
Nature - Immerse yourself in nature: open a window, look at the sky, go a walk if possible. A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health and reducing stress. Even if you only have a few pots or a windowsill trying growing something - your own herbs, fruit or vegetables.
Juggling roles - Many of us are struggling to take on new roles both at work and at home. Continue to try and build a sense of structure to your day, allowing for a degree of flexibility. Balance and flexibility are best to avoid feelings of self-criticism and blaming if it does NOT work out for you. Try not to overschedule children’s daily activities with all that is on offer and build in time for unstructured play particularly for younger children. Try and build in “time out” for yourself as a parent. Playboard Northern Ireland have produced some useful information on why play matters now more than ever. Other useful articles and information can be found on the section COVID-19 and Family Health
Establishing a routine, having structure - Give yourself some structure, and try to do something each day that gives you a sense of accomplishment: Try using a daily planner to help balance your productivity with self-care across each day. An example of a daily planner can be found here.
Making plans for your day or week is fine but be flexible if plans do not take shape or have to change. Compassion and self-care are useful practices to use especially if plans don't work out, in practising self-compassion we may need to lower our expectations from ourselves as well as others.
Be gentle on yourself. Many of our current thoughts, feelings and behaviours are in fact understandable reactions to feeling unsafe. At times of stress we can over rely on unhealthy responses such as use of substances, alcohol, painkillers etc. These are often strategies used to manage emotional pain, to help us cope with feeling unsafe in our bodies or in our environment. Reach out for support if you need to - The Psychology service can be contacted using the numbers below.
Look at some of the suggestions on ways to challenge your thinking and develop your resilience taken from the July 2019 - Monthly Happiness Calendar. The dates may be out of sync but the messages are useful.
Open up - Opening up means making room for difficult feelings and being kind to yourself. Difficult feelings are guaranteed to keep on showing up as this crisis unfolds: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and many more. We can’t stop them from arising; they’re normal reactions. But we can open up and make room for them: acknowledge they are normal, allow them to be there (even though they hurt), and treat ourselves kindly.
Mindfulness - Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation that typically consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. By focusing on each breath in this way it allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. This practice can help you to learn to live in the moment. If you'd like to learn more about mindfulness or try it out, see our section here
Getting through each day in work and at home