Since this whole thing started, many of us around the world, even those who haven’t been infected by the virus, have had to self-isolate at home for the past few months. Before that, we’ve all had planned to travel the world, meet-up with loved-ones, attend weddings, parties or grab a coffee with a colleague – simply, enjoy our lives in different ways. Working from home for us, NERDs, was nothing new, although this situation is a bit different. NERD's Executive Producer and avid painter Claire shares her tips to coping with self-isolation and anxiety, which we hope will help you or someone you know turn things around and enjoy the simple things we might sometime take for granted.
Isolation is not new to some of us and for 7 years, an illness that blighted me my entire adult life returned, and since I have been self-isolated out of fear. Fear of temptation, fear of socialising, fear of being judged - fear has been dictating my life and forced me into protecting myself by self-isolating. There’s a difference though between making the conscious decision to self-isolate to protect yourself and still be in control of your life and being told to isolate and complying with someone else’s rules. Changing the way you interact with people, your routines, and your freedom of choice – regardless of personal circumstances. For once, where you’re from, who you are and your social status can’t save you, we’re all in this together and we all have to adapt.
As human beings, we are creatures of habits, however, for some, a routine is a need for control, and wavering even the slightest can have significant effects on body and mind. Routines can be so strict that anything that interferes with it can pose a huge emotional impact. Anxiety kicks in after we’re not able to achieve something we’ve imposed ourselves to do at a certain time, leaving us fearing that if we don’t accomplish this very specific task, we’re failing ourselves.
In the midst of these crippling concerns, there’s hope and ways to get through it. For years I have taught myself ways to accept, understand, and work with my thoughts. I have learned valuable techniques to turn around any negative thoughts into positive actions, which I want to share with you. Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate a life when our freedom continues to be restricted.
Never underestimate the power of nature – the singing birds have saved me countless times over the past few weeks. Simply listening to their sound has been very calming. In focusing on what you hear, you’re able to block out the chatter that would certainly be in your head otherwise. Be all ears for the sounds of spring! Birds singing, pattering rain, buzzing bees, rustling leaves or the wind in the trees – all of these things can help us to stay grounded, but most of all, they clear your mind from negative thoughts and let you be in the moment.
Living in the moment – It might be one of the hardest things to practice, but it is a lifesaver. We are slave to our minds, it is the mind that creates thoughts that govern our mood. And hence, we shall learn to appreciate the mind and navigate it through these times. We like to be hard on ourselves, it seems to be a default setting for many of us. While thinking about the past or worrying about the future, we forget that we should be in the present. This can be controlled by focusing on living the moment, we shall forget the past or the future and enjoy the now. There’s a saying I recite every day – ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why they call it present’. Think about it, it makes sense, right? Reciting this affirmation every day reminds me to focus on what is happening at this very moment. So, if you find your mind wandering to what has been or what may be, just take a moment, and recite this again and again until you feel it, it really works!
And breathe…! – It feels like stating the obvious, but, it isn’t and I swear by it. Breathing through your nose for 4 seconds, holding in for 7. Breathe out with your mouth for 8 seconds and repeat – you should feel lighter and more rested. Because you have to focus to do this, you cannot be doing a million other things at the same time, and that’s the purpose. Stopping and listening to your breathing is so relaxing.
Stay active – You don’t have to be a gym bunny to exercise, the whole point of it is to get your body active to release those endorphins that make you feel good. Whatever works for you and your body. Do at least 20 mins first thing in the morning and it will set you up for the day! And if you are tempted to skip it, just remember how much better you will feel after it. It is the greatest motivator.
Read your thoughts away – Without books, I would not be here today and I truly believe that. reading is my only resource of freedom from the chatter in my head. Even watching TV doesn’t do it, I will end up ‘’watching’’ something and seeing or hearing nothing from it. I have always been an avid reader but I have never felt so passionate about it as I have in the past years. Whether is self-help books, or fiction, you may prefer factual, for true relief you might prefer to stay in the untrue world. what you read is up to you. I lean towards fiction, it allows you to use your imagination, set the scene, build characters, and build real feelings towards them. The best bit is it is not real! Turn off any piece of technology – no phone, no computer, no TV, just you and ... your book.
Be creative – Arts don’t mean you have to be a Warhol or J.K. Rowling. We are all creatives and don’t underestimate the power of writing or painting amongst all art forms. I have been writing all my life, I probably have 10 novels ready to get published, but I don’t write for others to see, I write to release my thoughts. I write to say ‘out loud’ what I am thinking or feeling deep inside me. I write so I can empty my mind of the thoughts that cloud it and to hear myself admit my feelings which leads to acknowledgment and acceptance. We are all creative. I have never understood it when people say ‘I’m not creative but…’. It actually angers me because we are ALL creative. It is subjective. Who is anyone to tell us our words or pictures aren’t good! You are doing it for YOU, no one else. So get some paint, get some paper or a canvas and just got for it. Over the years, in fact, decades, painting has been a form of therapy for me. I never know where it will start, or where it will end, but I know it will feel blooming good during the process!
Listening to the sound of music – Listen to music that lifts your mood, brings back beautiful memories, turn the volume up! You might want to jump around your lounge or air guitar this solo, do whatever makes you smile.
Have a gratitude list – This one is a gem! Recognising beautiful moments and being grateful for them is the simplest yet most uplifting thing you can do for yourself. I am talking about the little things that bring so much joy in your heart, it might burst with happiness. It may be a lovely message from a friend, a phone call from a loved one, or even a kind word from a stranger. Even simpler, seeing a beautiful flower, hearing a beautiful sound. These are everyday occurrences that we often let drift by but if you recognise in the moment how much joy it gives you, even for a few seconds, you have something to be grateful for. I tend to give gratitude throughout the day as I have learned to acknowledge small acts that have large effects but I also always do one in my head at the end of the day. I list every moment that lifted my mood and when you do that you see just how much positivity was in a day that may otherwise have seemed low. Focus on these moments, appreciate them, and be grateful for them. In times of hardship, there is always something to make you smile, as little as it may seem.
And most importantly, be kind to yourself. You are your own worst enemy, but you can be your best friend too!
These tools are just that, tools. You keep them in a box and use them as and when you need and repeat, repeat, repeat. The brain is a muscle, it needs consistent exercise, just like any other, and it needs to be reminded often. Commitment, intention, and repetition. It works!
Enjoy! Because it IS Enjoyable, even when the world around you is full of uncertainty, these tools remind you that you CAN handle it!