How to stay positive through the Lockdown slump
It’s now been over six months since WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic. After six months of containment measures completely changing the way we live, do you feel like you’ve “hit the wall”? Perhaps you feel like no matter how hard you focus on maintaining a positive outlook and sticking to your routine, you still feel like you’ve run out of steam?
According to Dr Aisha Ahmad, an international security expert who has worked in disaster zones, in any sustained crisis, the six-month mark is difficult. She explained that she always “hits a wall” six months into fieldwork in a disaster zone—and that it is “perfectly natural to become fed up after a prolonged period of systemic disruption and stress.”
Covid-19 may not be a war-torn disaster zone, but it is a global health and economic crisis that has resulted in precisely what Dr Ahmad writes about: a prolonged period of systemic disruption and stress.
As Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, says: we have been using up our “surge capacity” during this first six months.
Surge capacity is the mental and physical systems we draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Once used up, there is usually time for us to renew our reserves. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely. Hence we have not had the time to rebuild our surge capacity and are left feeling drained, exhausted and like we’ve hit a wall.
As we start a second national lockdown here in the UK, it’s now crucial that we take the right steps so we can power through the six-month “crisis wall” and renew our resilience bank account.
Dr Michael Maddaus’ idea of a resilience bank account is gradually building into your life regular practices that promote resilience and provide a fallback when life gets tough. Though it would obviously be nice to have a fat account already, he says it’s never too late to start.
Expanding on this with Dr Ahmad’s recommendations, as well as those from four happiness experts, the crucial areas for staying positive during this natural drop in momentum are:
- connection, and
- creating boundaries.
1. Sleep supports self-care and boosts your immune system
In our post “7 tips for the best morning routine” we wrote about the importance of good sleep hygiene. The powerful urge to stay up to date with the latest news and pandemic-related developments has many of us checking our phones right before attempting to fall asleep. This is now perhaps one of the most common causes for a bad night’s sleep.
As University of Chicago psychologist Dr Lisa Medalie explains, “the blue light from these screens tells the brain to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to trouble falling asleep.” Refraining from using your device or staring at any kind of screen at least two hours before sleep is an important step towards getting a good night’s rest.
Plus, watching the news or scrolling social media last thing at night can get us worked up and stressed. This is the other major cause of sleepless nights.
Choose to pick up a good book or write a gratitude journal instead – you won’t regret it!
2. Maintaining a healthy diet is even more important during a pandemic
Like sleep, maintaining a healthy diet is not only crucial for boosting our immune system, but also plays a fundamental part in boosting our mood and supporting our wellbeing.
As I wrote in my “Eat well to live well” post, I have been blogging about healthy eating and the impact of food choices on our wellbeing for over a decade. Raw Horizons blog offers a wealth of information about diverse aspects of healthy eating, which are now even more important to prioritise during the pandemic.
According to the Association of UK Dietitians, “there are many ways that foods can affect how we feel, just as how we feel has an influence on what foods we choose.” Their list of tips to eat well during Covid-19 offers simple and practical advice on maintaining a balanced diet during these challenging times.
3. Movement is crucial for physical health and positive wellbeing
The importance of maintaining physical activity is something we’ve heard repeatedly throughout the pandemic, and the internet is now flooded with home workout videos and tips for getting moving while under lockdown.
Despite this, the recent Active Lives survey conducted by Sport England found that the lockdown led to almost 12 million adults doing almost no exercise between March and May. Their survey of 190,000 people suggested that 30% of adult Britons were ‘inactive’ during these months.
Our blog features a list of ten things that physical activity actually does for us, including reducing our stress levels, lowering our blood pressure, and boosting our happiness and immune systems.
4. What’s the best way to quiet the mind? Meditation
“There is no better way to quiet the mind than by practicing meditation,” says psychotherapist Renato Perez.
Meditation at home and in the work environment has become a prominent fixture in the discourse about strategies for dealing with lockdown. It comes as no surprise that the meditation apps Headspace and Calm have seen huge adoption in recent months.
“A silver lining in the tailspin of 2020 has been the growing public discourse on realistic ways to integrate wellness practices such as mindful meditation into post-Covid-19 corporate culture—and it could not happen faster,” says meditation and wellness CEO Laura Sage.
The Raw Horizons YouTube channel features guided meditations of varying lengths for a range of purposes, such as gaining clarity and insight, emotional balance, and courage. For those new to meditation, I suggest our Back to Basics video, which could actually be the world’s simplest meditation.
5. Self-compassion is essential
It’s almost certain that during the last six months you’ve told a friend or family member that they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves during this difficult time. Or perhaps you’ve said something like, “don’t beat yourself up about it” or “give yourself a break.” But have you shared these sentiments with yourself?
As educational psychologist Dr Kristen Neff says, “With self-compassion we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” During the pandemic, when our stress and anxiety may be at the most extreme levels we’ve ever experienced, practicing self-compassion is essential.
Dr Claire Maguire’s post on self-kindness explains why self-compassion is important, along with 10 simple steps to start cultivating it.
As Bernadette Russell, author of How To Be Hopeful says, “There is no way to “win” amid all this. It’s about being gentle with yourself, and giving yourself every opportunity to find joy, notice beauty, and stay hopeful.”
6. Covid-19 is driving a new era of self-care
Although public awareness of the importance of self-care has been steadily increasing over the past decade, the pandemic is driving a new era of self-care. In May, Google revealed that self-care was the most-searched query.
The Raw Horizons blog also features a vast range of resources to help you on your self-care journey—and the best part is many of the activities and rituals can be practiced in your own home.
7. Practising gratitude makes dealing with adverse situations easier
During the pandemic, some will feel their gratitude levels have gone up due to a shift in perspective, while others will feel they have less to be grateful for, due to job losses, or losing a family member or friend.
As Dr Olivia Goncalves, a psychology lecturer at the University of Birmingham Dubai explains, “it takes tremendous strength to remain grateful in times of suffering or loss, however it has been shown that maintaining a feeling of gratitude for that which one still has makes dealing with adverse situations easier.”
I’ve written previously about the mental health benefits of gratitude, and some of the most popular ways to cultivate your own gratitude practice. From improving our physical health to improving our relationships, developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the most effective methods for reducing pandemic-related stress and anxiety.
8. Human connection is more important than ever
Every Covid-19 containment measure—lockdowns, social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine—has limited human connection. During times of crisis however, maintaining human connection becomes more important than ever, which means that healthy communication and active listening are two things we all need to practice.
The Mental Health Foundation offers five quick tips for nurturing healthy relationships, while Dr Claire Maguire has written about how listening can benefit relationships and help us to build deeper connections.
9. Now is a good time to re-establish boundaries
What is a boundary and why do we need them? Ultimately a boundary is something to keep you safe and to make relationships work, explains Dr Claire Maguire. As we push through the six-month wall, now is the perfect time to review our boundaries.
Dr Ahmad recommends that you should use this time to “re-establish boundaries around your core needs.” If you find that your core needs are not being met, your capacity to manage your anxiety and stress levels will be reduced.
This is where the work of a wellbeing coach comes in to help.
What do all these areas have in common?
All of the areas above are those that a wellbeing coach will help you prioritise and work on to improve. By skillfully listening, questioning, reflecting, encouraging, challenging, and supporting, a wellbeing coach guides their clients to look to the future by helping them design and execute their own solutions to their problems and challenges.
As we do our best to push through the six-month wall and rebuild our resilience bank account, this help is more important than ever.
As the Chief of the WHO said recently, “We must ensure that everybody on the planet can access the services and care they need to attain the highest possible level of physical and mental wellbeing.
Our renowned, Dr Claire Maguire, is available for private 1:1 coaching by phone, Zoom or Skype. Together you create a plan for achieving your goals which is both workable and enjoyable:
“I coach intuitively which means I can laser into what it is that you most need. You will have time to ask questions and I will always ensure you have the time to be heard.”
With society’s emphasis on the importance of wellbeing and emotional health, the demand for wellbeing coaches is growing quickly. It’s an opportune time to be involved and become a Wellbeing Coach.