It’s a Bank Holiday Monday here in the U.K. and we’re in week four of a lockdown due to COVID-19.
It’s natural at times like this to find ourselves immersed in our thoughts, especially when our every day routine is not what it used to be.
What’s your main train of thought about right now?
We keep hearing that these are ‘unprecedented times’. Parents home-schooling their children whilst still doing their paid job. Tv adverts like we’ve never seen before. Community projects finding innovative ways to reach out to people, like those who don’t have access to social media, computers or even TVs, when we can only leave the house for one of four reasons.
These ‘unprecedented times’ will look different for each of us though, because they will also depend on what life was like before the lockdown.
We might have already been processing feelings of frustration, joy, sadness or grief. Relationships may have broken down, or new ones started. There could have been new jobs on the horizon or a risk of redundancy. Events might have taken a turn for the worse, or started to look a bit brighter.
Each of us is navigating this crisis in our own way, depending on our own circumstances; doing what we can, with what we have, from where we are.
It’s why I said in last week’s mojo if your thoughts are all over the place, you’re not alone. It’s understandable if you’re not being productive, or if you feel like it’s all just a bit messy right now.
Thoughts that take up our time and attention are important when we acknowledge them, and can act as a springboard to help us manage what we can control (and ditch what we can’t).
Problems arise though, when we try to pretend what matters is not that important.
- Push away what we think, and label it as ‘bad’.
- Think – or are told – we’re being ‘silly’.
- Minimise what’s troubling us because we think there’s probably ‘someone worse off’.
- Beat ourselves up.
Our brain interprets our dilemmas as danger, and the vicious cycle begins: we hold our breath – sometimes literally – and dive in to coping mechanisms that just don’t work in the long term
Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do, is to give our thoughts some space for a moment, and breathe. To get our worries out of our head, and on to the table. To breathe as we’re meant to, so that our body can resist the ‘fight or flight’ response, and our brain can make better decisions.
Here’s something you could try:
This week, maybe set the intention to Let Yourself Breathe. If your thoughts are spiralling with ‘what if’ and ‘if only’, give yourself permission to acknowledge what you’re thinking or feeling, but without paying attention to the narrative. So, if your thoughts or emotions are focused on how things should be or what you should be doing, acknowledge the what, but without getting caught up in the why. Notice it. Give it permission to exist for a moment. And then turn your attention to your breath. Sitting comfortably, take a deep breath if you can, hold it for a second and then exhale fully; feel tension leave your body as you breathe out. Try this a couple more times if it helps, then return your breathing to a natural steady rhythm. If that doesn’t work, you could try some affirmations instead. It could be “I give myself permission to pause”. “Just for today, I can be at peace with myself.” or “This will pass.” If more support is helpful, you could reach out to someone who can reassure you that what you feel is valid. And most of all, be gentle on yourself over the next few days and beyond.
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Copyright Delphi Ellis