Getting along with life post lockdown | Sunday Observer

Getting along with life post lockdown

3 October, 2021

We’re facing another ‘new normal’ as countries begin to lift lockdown and ease Covid-19 restrictions. Although the easing of restrictions is positive and a sign that the situation is improving, you may be surprised to find yourself feeling more stressed at this time. Many people have grown used to or found comfort in their lockdown routine during the pandemic. Therefore, having to adjust to another phase of uncertainty, rather than returning to how life was before the pandemic, may feel strange or unsettling. It’s important to remember that feeling overwhelmed or stressed is a natural response to these strange times. Although we may not be able to control external events, we can control how we respond to them. This is where the importance of self-care comes into play. Self-care plays an essential role in how we respond to the uncertain or stressful times in our lives.

What is self-care?

Self-care includes caring for your health and spending time on the activities you enjoy. It’s often presented to us as a luxury or a treat, when in fact it is a crucial part of feeling and staying well. During challenging times, it may seem as though we don’t have enough time to practice self-care and it can slide down in our priorities list. But even five minutes of focusing on our breathing or stretching can help us. These small moments of self-care build up to produce a more resilient version of ourselves over time and they help to strengthen our coping mechanisms.

Self-compassion and how we speak to ourselves is another important aspect of self-care. You may tell yourself that it’s selfish to take time for yourself if you have dependants or are on the frontline, but you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Everyone has different needs and will find different self-care activities that work for them. Spend some time thinking about the things you need to do to look afteryourself, as well as what you can realistically do in the current circumstances.

Remember, self-care is not a once-off thing that happens when we’re feeling overwhelmed, it needs to become a part of your everyday life. Let’s take a closer look at these different aspects of self-care.

Mind your body

Three of the main aspects of a healthy lifestyle are exercise, diet and sleep. It may feel strange focusing on yourself and engaging in normal activities, such as exercising, when you are living through a crisis situation and adjusting to new guidelines and restrictions. However, it’s more important than ever to maintain your strength and physical health at a time like this, because stress puts a significant strain on your body and mind.

Be mindful of unhelpful coping strategies that can find their way into your routine during times of stress, such as overeating or consuming more alcohol than normal.

While these can provide some short-term csomfort, they can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health and potentially lead to bigger issues down the line.

Exercise is a good area of your health to focus on in challenging times. Creating an exercise routine adds a positive element to your day – the endorphins generated by exercise make you feel good. It can also have a knock-on effect on other areas of your health, e.g. it improves the quality of your sleep and makes it easier to eat healthily. If you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself to get moving why not video call a friend and work out together or try a new class online?

Finding flow in everyday life

A constructive way to restore yourself when dealing with a challenging situation is to -spend time doing things you really enjoy. These could be hobbies, exercise, your work or other personal or creative pursuits. Remember, it’s ok to not do these things perfectly!

Being mindful of your screen time on phones, laptops, and TVs is also important during stressful times. Constantly looking for Covid-19 updates or mindlessly scrolling can cause stress and upset. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s ideas and values online. It’s important to avoid comparing your life to someone else’s highlight reel, especially during uncertain and stressful times.

Find simple activities you enjoy that fit your routine and values. Sometimes, when you become engrossed in an activity or task that you are passionate about, you can lose all sense of time. This is called flow. Flow happens when you become totally absorbed in what you are doing and experience intense concentration. It can be very soothing when dealing with stress, as it gives you a time-out from the strong or overwhelming emotions you might be feeling.

Self-compassion and compassionate self-talk

Stress, disappointment, and setbacks are part of life and cannot be avoided entirely.What you do have control over, however, is how you treat yourself when these negative experiences occur. It’s easy to treat yourself poorly when things aren’t going well, but it’s important to catch these thoughts or behaviour and treat yourself with self-compassion.

Self-compassion is about how you talk to yourself when things aren’t going well. Being actively compassionate towards yourself involves being aware of your needs and knowing when things are getting too much.

It is not about excusing yourself from mistakes. We tend to criticise ourselves and often treat ourselves much more harshly than we would another person when things go wrong and this negative self-talk is extremely common.

Being able to recognise this negative voice gives you the freedom to change it. When something goes wrong, rather than assigning personal blame, “What is the matter with me?”, “Why do I always get things wrong?”, reframe it as a mishap.