You can deal with far more than you think
If someone had said to you last year, that there was going to be a global pandemic and that you were going to be told by the Government that you had to self isolate in your home with only those you live with. That schools and non-essential work places would close. That around the world hundreds of thousands of people would die. What would you have done?
My guess is that you would have freaked out and gone straight into panic mode. Is that fairly accurate?
But yet here we are generally getting on with our day to day lives in our own bubbles. I’m by no means at all playing down the stress, worry and anxiety that I know people are feeling at the moment and the amazing, courageous work being done by all our frontline workers, but the possible Hollywood, apocalyptic picture you may have had in your mind if you were told this was going to happen, I’m guessing, would look very different to the reality we’re seeing now.
This just shows us how much we’re capable of dealing with - which is so much more than we think. So what else have you told yourself you’re not capable of? How can you use this learning to craft a healthier, happier you in the ‘new normal’ and what could that open up for you?
You now know you can do so much more than you previously thought, so now’s the time to start planning ‘You version 2.0’. The exact same amazing human you’ve always been but with an upgrade to actually believe in yourself!
So, where do you start? You start by prioritising you and when you do, you’ll be amazed at what opens up for you.
Just like with a building, we need a good foundation to build on. You can’t take on the world if you don’t look after yourself and so below I’ve suggested some things to think about in the five main pillars that make up our health and wellbeing…
This is often overlooked when considering our health but sleep is our foundation. Without a good night’s sleep, everything else will be an uphill struggle. How do you feel after a bad’s night sleep? Do you feel motivated to make healthy food choices, get some movement and feel positive? Not so much! It’s also the time when our body heals and repairs itself. Notice how you feel and how productive you are after a good nights sleep and a not so great one. Create good sleep habits by:
Going to bed at the same time every night.
Have a wind down hour before you go to bed and spend some time reading, have a bath or listen to music.
Stop screen time at least an hour before bed.
Reduce caffeine ideally from midday.
The food we eat is meant to provide our bodies with the nutrients and energy to keep us thriving, but as we’re so busy, more often than not we end up buying highly processed food on the go. This option has been taken away during this time out and so I’m guessing we’ve possibly been eating slightly better than before. As those take out services become available again, ask yourself how you feel when you eat less or unprocessed food. Notice your energy levels as soon as you’ve eaten and a couple of hours later. Then when you do eat highly processed food again, note how you feel then. The initial dopamine hit soon wears off and leaves us on a blood sugar rollercoaster, that’s not so much fun.
Every single person is different and so no one diet suits everyone. Don’t worry about a complicated diet plan, just simply eat a variety of whole foods and note how you feel afterwards. Then you know what foods give you energy and which don't, use that knowledge to eat things that work for you and make you feel good.
Just move! It doesn’t have to be hours at the gym (we can’t do that at the moment anyway), simply a walk outside is great and has the added benefit of getting you out into nature. There are also so many free workouts on YouTube to make use of. Yoga, low impact, high impact, there’s something for everyone.
There’s no point trying to make yourself do something you don’t like, it won’t last. So ask yourself what do you enjoy doing and then do it. Again, make sure you ask yourself how you feel after you’ve done it as you're more likely to want to do it again if you feel good.
Struggling with stress and anxiety is very common and becoming more so during this pandemic. It’s so important to take care of our mental health as well as our physical health. And like building physical muscles, we can build up our brain to be more resilient to deal with stressful times in our lives.
Mindfulness or simply concentrating on your breathing for a few minutes throughout the day is a great place to start. Your mind will wander, that’s normal and it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. When you notice your mind has wandered, slowly bring your attention back to your breath.
If you feel you’re out of control, write down a list of what you can control and what you can’t. Let go of what you can’t and focus on what you can.
Journaling can help get your thoughts out of your head and make them more manageable. This is also a great one to improve productivity.
Humans are social creatures, we all have a need to be loved and to belong and when those needs are not met, we don't function as we are meant to. That could also explain why many of us are struggling at the moment with having so many fewer face to face connections than we normally would.
We can still have connection in lockdown too though. When you’re out on your next walk, take the time to smile at everyone you pass and see how it makes you feel especially when they smile back at you.
In our ‘old normal’, many of us had replaced our face to face connections with virtual ones. We’d seen what friends are doing on FaceBook and so this almost felt like we’re caught up with them.
Nothing can replace an in person connection so when we get that opportunity again question the value of connection that you are getting from your social media platforms and make the effort to catch up with friends in person.
Don’t aim for perfection, aim for improvement and most importantly be aware of how you feel when you try new things. Most of us are stuck in bad habit loops as we think they’re rewarding but when we take the time to notice how we actually feel, we find out they’re not as rewarding as we thought. Simply being aware of the lack of reward and updating this value in our brain makes a huge difference to us being able to make changes to our behaviours.
Remember for any behaviour change or habit creation:
Set a tiny goal so you can’t fail
Celebrate success everyday
Update the reward value of current habits
Replace judgement of yourself for curiosity
If you want to read more about habits, have a read of my previous blog post.
Prioritising you isn’t selfish, it’s actually one of the least selfish things you can do. By making yourself a priority you have more to give others and your friends and family will love the happier, healthier you even more. And when you feel better you live more and things start to open up for you.
What will You Version 2.0 achieve post Covid-19? I’m excited to see!
Published 28 April 2020