Times of Change
We are now living in uncertain times, changes occuring on a daily basis and the long term outcome unknown, but change and uncertainty have always been impossible to avoid, change is one of the things that is always constant, this is how most of us experience life, so how do we start to navigate through this time of anxiety, stress, and worry, that we have for ourselves, our famlies, friends and colleagues. Acceptance is a start, to truly accept that we can't plan our way out of what we don't know, and it's ok to have the feelings that you have, give yourself permission to experience the uncertainty of this situation.
Our brain has a natural negativity bias, this means when we are faced with uncertainty, we are most likely to think about all of the things that could or might go wrong, rather than focusing on all of the good things that could possibly happen, Its also natural to feel fear about the future and this fear only adds fuel to our negativity bias. To counter our tendency to focus on the negative, we can write down things that we are grateful for within these uncertain times, try to write maybe three things per day, it can be absolutely anything that comes to mind. Research has shown that when we think about something that we are grateful for, our body releases serotonin this helps to give us a mood boost and dopamine which plays a vital role in the brain's pleasure and rewards system. Intentionally being kind to others helps, getting out of our own heads, our own worries and stress. Caring for other's, texting a friend, asking a neighbour if they are ok, smiling at someone is always a kind thing to do, even in times of correct social distancing, these small postive acts of kindness make us happier as our brain releases oxytocin.
Having daily tasks "rituals" things that we do by repitition each day provide us with a sense of control, giving us order during the chaos, it's an efficient way of us relieving the anxiety and stress, we may have to change some of our old rituals for new or different ones during this time of isolation, try involving family members to come up with some new ideas, home exercising as a family, husband and wife indoor date night at the weekend, using technology to keep in virtual contact with loved ones, a to do list, reading the books you've always wished you had time to, Our world is full of constant change our rituals old or new help us to keep consistency and balance.
Having some times during the day away from the constant 24/7 barrage of media coverage, perhaps choose a specific time to tune in and stick to the trusted sources of information, government and NHS websites, this is especially true if you are prone to feeling anxious and your thoughts spiral into overdrive, don't believe everything you think, thoughts are not statements or fact, pause and breathe.
The use of mindfulness practices can be really helpful, to navigate through the uncertainty that change brings into our lives, using the breath meditation, bodyscan, mindful movement, loving kindness practice, becoming aware of how you are, your thoughts and feelings, experience your body sensations, being curious and gentle without trying to fix or change anything that is present, being non judgemental about anything that arises. It will be possible to be exactly as you are in the present moment with practice, this takes sometime and some dedication to achieve, but every new skill takes a little time to learn.
An easy way to start is to use your breath an everyday thing you do all the time to stay alive, the practice of being in the moment with your breathing trains your brain to focus solely on being in the moment and quiets distracting thoughts, if you feel overwhelmed at anytime during your day, take a couple of minutes or however long you need, to focus on your breath away from any distractions you might have, sitting or standing, eyes open or closed, whatever feels ok for you, feel and be aware of all of the physical sensations that you have, the way your body moves whilst you are breathing, also be aware of the emotions that are present in this time allowing them to be as they are, your mind will wander and be distracted and that's ok, just bring your awareness back to your breath each time this happens, this maybe ten times or hundered times, its the process of returning your focus to your breath that is the goal here. This may seem like a simple thing to do, but you'll be supprised at how calm you feel afterwards.
Everyone please stay safe and healthy in mind and body, look out and care for each other, never be afraid to seek out help from reliable and trusted organisations if you need to.