Never in a million years did I imagine that I’d be writing from a place of self-isolation. Here in France, it’s full lockdown mode and I’m doing everything to stay calm in the midst of the chaos that coronavirus has brought to us.
Everything is closed except grocery shops and pharmacies, and you need a permit to go do your food shopping.
Even the stables are closed but fortunately, my horse is in good hands with my trainer who’s promised to ride him as per his usual routine. Bond’s vet also shut for everything except life and death emergencies so I learned from my cousin who’s a veterinary assistant in Finland how to take his stitches out. To say I was sweating is an understatement but the main thing is they are all safely out.
In times like these, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Anxiety can kick in from nowhere and fear of what might happen can take over. Even I experience all of those every now and then.
That’s why this week I put together a list of 13 tips to help you stay calm in the midst of chaos.
1. Stick to a morning and evening ritual.
It will help you to start the day on a positive note and help you wind down in the evening for a better night of sleep. It will also give you a sense of control in a time where a lot is out of our control.
2. Exercise daily.
Moving your body keeps your mind sane and health supple. For me, as I can’t ride in the mornings anymore, I’m going for a jog in the fresh air. If they ban jogging, I will do an exercise routine at home.
3. Take good care of yourself.
Eat as nutritiously as you can, drink plenty of fluids and do a lot of self-pampering. We’re already short on veg and fruit in the shops here so I’m getting as creative as I can with cooking, eating vitamin supplements daily, and doing one self-pampering act daily. Today that is a rehydrating face mask.
4. Have projects.
They’ll give you focus and distract you from the never-ending flow of negative news. I’m doing one house or garden project a day. Today, I’m painting our lounge door frames. Yesterday I raked the mowed grass. Tomorrow I’m cleaning windows.
5. Drop the pressure.
Now is not the time to force yourself to write that book, start that business or become uber-productive. The world is going mad and it’s normal to feel all kinds of things about it. That’s why now is the time to allow yourself to feel and do what you can. If that is very little, that is ok. If that is a lot, that is fine too. Trust your intuition and creativity and let them tell you what and how much you can do right now. For me, that’s writing my weekly blog. Journaling. Doodling. Occasionally working on my book, but only when inspiration hits. As I said, no pressure.
6. Practice gratitude.
This can be difficult to do when the world seems against you. But that’s what makes it even more important. You can choose to focus on everything that is going wrong – but you’ll only end up more miserable. If you choose to focus on what you do have to say thanks for, you will feel a lot better. This isn’t about turning a blind eye to what is going on or ignoring reality, but simply reminding yourself that you still have things to be grateful for. In fact, I’d encourage you to start your end or end your day with gratitude every day. Anything counts. It can be as simple as a hot cup of coffee giving you comfort or a moment of sunshine coming in through the window.
7. Focus on what you can do (not what you can’t).
A lot of us are going into lockdown mode and being asked to self-isolate to protect both others and ourselves. Listen to this advice. And then get creative. No, you might not be able to go to the restaurant, your gym, or even see your friends. But, you can make a home-cooked meal and eat it with candles and relaxing music. You can exercise at home or perhaps still in your neighbourhood with a walk or jog. You can call your friends or even do a group video call using Skype or Zoom.
8. Reach out to your loved ones – virtually.
Just because we can’t see each other face-to-face right now doesn’t mean we should detach ourselves from each other and not talk to anyone. In fact, it’s the opposite. We need each other more than ever. Reach out to your loved ones and check-in on them. Tell them how much they mean to you. Share ideas and tips on what to do in the house. Reminisce about past shared experiences. Stay connected.
9. Limit your time reading the news.
It’s easy to get sucked into reading the news constantly right now. Every day there are new, scary statistics to read and horror stories about the hospitals struggling to cope. It’s good to stay up to date with what’s happening but perhaps focus on your local, regional or national news so you know what you can or can not do. Still, try to check it a maximum of twice a day and for a limited amount of time. You can also actively seek out uplifting news, like Positive News.
10. Limit your time on social media.
The same goes for social media. Just because you’re locked in at home doesn’t mean you should be glued to your smartphone screen. Definitely use it to stay positive, inspired and to keep connecting with likeminded. But don’t let it suck you into a never-ending spiral of scrolling that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and down. I have the same approach here as with the news, limiting how many times a day I check it and for how long. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I reduce that time.
11. Practice mindfulness.
Now is the time to practice inner calm and contentment. If you’re new to this, it might feel like the hardest thing to start. If you’re a seasonal practitioner, you already know it works. So wherever you are on the scale, practice any type of mindfulness that works for you. Meditate in silence. Do a 5-minute self-compassion guided meditation. Practice mindfulness through moving your body, like through yoga or running. Be mindful whilst dancing to your favourite song(s). Simply sit still. Stare at a flower. Anything goes as long as it’s helping you focus and calm the mind and soul.
12. Notice the beauty around you.
Even though there are a lot of ugly things happening in the world right now, it doesn’t mean that there is no more beauty. Try to lean into noticing the beauty around you. Observe the seasons changing. The flowers blooming. The trees changing shape. The painting on your wall. The decorations in your home. Your favourite piece of clothing. Your favourite book. The beauty is all there – you just have to remind yourself to notice it.
If in doubt, just breathe. Take long deep breaths from the bottom of your diaphragm. Use Dr Andrew Weil’s calming breathing technique, inhaling for four counts, holding for seven and exhaling for eight.
Wherever you are, I hope you are well. Stay safe, stay at home and take good care of yourself. Together, we will get through this.