Life coach Lara Cullen shares her best advice on getting through the next few weeks…
What a week it’s been. In the midst of it all I’ve been wondering how I can positively contribute to the conversation without adding to the noise. I’m not sure I’ve found the answer but hopefully the following paragraphs will help. This is a time that’s testing our human resilience to the extremes, and I’m nervous about it, too. But what we know for sure is that the most resilient people focus on the things that are inside their control (granted, there’s a lot that isn’t right now). So here are 12 things that will help you do that…
1. Look for the sunshine. In amongst all the doom and fear and panic, look for the sunshine and the opportunities. Make a list of all the things you’ve been meaning to do but you’ve been “too busy” for and start ticking them off. Connect with neighbours, call friends, play with your kids or pets, spruce up your CV so you can finally think about your next career move and spring-clean to the extreme (home, finances and life). Take some time to re-evaluate what you’re actually doing with your life and the direction you want it to go when things eventually get back to normal.
2. Plan your days and weeks. Think about what you’re going to do and accomplish within this timeframe, whether personally or for your business. One of the things that’s causing the most fear is this feeling of lack of control and uncertainty. But by making a plan and having a routine you’re giving yourself a sense of control again which helps to drastically calm some of those stress hormones that are flooding our systems.
3. Limit news and social-media checking. Set blocks on your phone, for the love of god! I’ve set a limit of 30 minutes per day on the news app on my phone so I’m still staying updated but am disabled from endlessly scrolling for updates which damage my mental health. If you’re not sure how to do this, ping me a message and I’ll tell you. It’s a game-changer.
4. Get fresh air every day. During daylight hours if possible, get outside if you’re not socially isolating (I’m writing this at a time it’s OK to do so). It will keep you sane, fit, help you sleep and create continued normalcy. If possible, get into nature and get grounded, too.
5. Prioritise exercise. Dig out your workout DVDs from the 90s or subscribe to the many online fitness and yoga channels. Yoga is amazing for wellbeing and you don’t need anything other than a mat and access to YouTube to be able to get started.
6. Pick playlists and podcasts carefully. Choose to listen to podcasts, playlists and music rather than the radio. Radio means constant news, and depending on your preferred station, it’s likely to discuss coronavirus nonstop. Give your brain a break and time to settle.
7. Cook healthy, nourishing meals. Most of us will be confined to our homes and our exercise regimes might take a downward turn. That means what we eat is going to be really important – both for keeping our bodies in shape and physically well, but also for our emotional and mental health. The food we eat plays a huge part in how we feel and think so give yourself a fighting chance and learn to cook healthy, nutritious meals from scratch if you can.
8. Read books, real books. One of the things on my new daily plan is to make sure I read at least two chapters of a real (paper!) book per day. I’m currently reading City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – it’s brilliant, a total switch-off to another time and I highly-recommend it. Claudia Hammond’s excellent book The Art of Rest listed reading as the number one way for us to reset and rest, so do it ASAP.
9. Meditate and practise mindfulness. 10 minutes of mindful meditation a day has been shown to shrink the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for releasing stress hormones) by up to 20%. There are some amazing apps like Headspace and Calm that help people who don’t know how to meditate, learn. Download them!
10. Connect with people. Connections matter so much – we need human connection as much as we need food and water for our survival. At times like this it can be easy to develop a tribe mentality and think only of ourselves and our immediate circle. Use this time to reconnect (even if just virtually right now) with people that matter. Look out for the people in your community that might need your help more than ever now – there are plenty of opportunities and ways to help online. This could be a time when you can greatly positively impact the quality of life for someone, providing a lifeline to the external world. What’s more, volunteering and ‘doing good for others’ has been shown to be one of the most significant factors in promoting wellbeing.
Laura is a Life Coach and Chief People Person at www.thepeopleperson.org