If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life is full of surprises. Even the most meticulous planner was caught unawares by the pandemic’s effects, proving that Nature is a force we can’t ignore. There will always be things outside of your control, but that doesn’t mean you’re at their mercy.
The last 12 months have brought financial hardship, job loss, bereavement, loneliness, and poor mental or physical health. Even those unaffected by Covid-19 have faced a deluge of bad news and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. When will life return to normal and, when it does, what will “normal” look like?
When big things threaten to overwhelm you, bring it back to basics and focus on the small stuff. There’s a lot to be said for a routine and knowing that you can still have control where it counts, no matter what else happens in the world. A routine lets you exert authority over your day-to-day life and retain focus. Get up at the same time every day, shower and dress. Stick to the same meal times. If you’re working from home, keep to your everyday work hours and pack your laptop away at the end of the working day so it doesn’t eat into your time for relaxation.
Everything feels more difficult when you’re tired and run-down. Take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly. Even better is if you incorporate these things into your daily routine.
Stay in Touch… While Keeping Apart
Human contact is essential. We may not see those we love in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak to them over the phone or talk to them face-to-face on Zoom. Don’t let social media posts and the odd comment on someone’s photo be a substitute for the real thing, even if it’s at a distance.
While human contact with those you love is vital for your emotional wellbeing, it’s crucial to make time for yourself as well, especially if you’re a parent or carer for someone in your household. Take a walk on your own, indulge in a bath with luxurious bath oils, a book and a lock on the door – whatever it takes to carve out time when you can nurture yourself.
Nurture Your Mind
Mindfulness is something of a buzz word this year, but the practice is not without its merit. Just as a daily routine can help control the physical aspects of your life, mindfulness can strengthen your mental health. Mindfulness is a way of meditating, of quietening or ignoring the relentless dialogue in your mind. The practice is simple. A few times a day, take a minute to stop and focus on what’s going on around you in minute detail – the feeling of the wood as you sit on a park bench, the smell of the pine trees as you walk the dog and the warmth and softness of their fur as you rub their ears, the taste of the first cup of tea of the day.
Take 20 seconds to close your eyes and breathe deeply, focusing on the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. Mindfulness is almost like mini-meditation – it’s forcing your attention away from noise, chatter and distractions and bringing it back to the present moment, observing without judgement.
Your mind will naturally hear the words that support its current beliefs. If you’re feeling stressed, worried and anxious, it is the negative input that will resonate and remain, giving weight to those emotions in an unhealthy mental cycle. However, suppose you’re consciously taking care of your mental and physical health, using mindfulness to bring yourself away from spiralling uncertainty and acknowledging that you still have ownership of how you react to events in your life. In that case, your brain will hold on to positive information that will bolster your wellbeing and outlook.
While you can’t control everything that happens in your life, only you get to choose how you react and respond.