By Indira Das-Gupta
We’re well into lockdown 3 now and any pretence that we are “ok” went out the window weeks ago. Ask anyone how they are feeling and chances are they will roll their eyes and say something along the lines of, “Oh well you know, getting by, could be better could be worse.” This is a polite way of saying, “These bloody restrictions are doing my head in. When the hell are we ever going to get back to normal? I’m not sure I can take much more!” Or maybe that’s just me.
I’ve already written about the toxic positivity culture that makes people feel like they can’t open up about how they are really feeling. But even if you like to think of yourself as a glass half full person, we can all agree that in many ways this lockdown has been the toughest yet. I don’t propose to have all the answers and, like everyone there are days when I struggle more than others. I would never claim that Yoga is a panacea but for me the practice extends far beyond what I do on the mat. Essentially Yoga has taught me to look after myself much more in every area of my life. So over the years I’ve developed a few tips to help me stay grounded when life gets tough. Maybe some of them will help you too.
My 10 self care tips
1. Start your day right. By this I don’t mean chug down three double espressos within five minutes of waking. By all means do have a coffee first thing, but sit down and drink it in peace without looking at your phone and really enjoy it. For me personally starting the day right means doing some Yoga and meditation, some days I do 40 minutes, some days its more like 10. I nearly always start with this morning mantra:
“I wake up this morning with a smile on my face.
I have 24 brand new hours ahead of me.
I vow to make the most of them,
And learn to look at everything with the eyes of compassion.”
2. Try and get outside EVERY DAY even when the weather is grim.
I used to find winter a real slog and the truth is that my heart will always belong to summer but these days I make sure I have exposure to daylight every day if possible and I really believe it’s made a difference. On those grey dull days full of “mizzle” (miserable constant drizzle) the prospect of taking yet another walk around your local park might not seem that enticing I know. But you will feel better for it, honest! The fact is we can’t really go anywhere else and imagine if the parks were out of bounds too, I think we’d all being climbing the walls.
3. Hug someone and/or or speak to someone every day.
I make a point of having hugs with my kids multiple times a day if I can, the more the better. When they get older they will probably resist and I’ll have to get a puppy, but until then they can continue to help me get my oxytocin hit. If you live alone, missing human contact must be one of the hardest things about lockdown, but try to meet friends and family or at least speak to them regularly. We all need human connection.
4. Eat nourishing food that will give you energy but don’t deprive yourself of the things you love either and end up beating yourself up about it. If you are comfort eating and have gained a bit of weight, try moving more (see tip 8) and hide your scales, or better still get rid of them (as suggested in one of my previous blogs) to stop the cycle of self loathing. We really need to cut ourselves some slack, this is not a normal situation so if our eating habits are affected, it’s hardly surprising.
5. Breathe better. If you are a parent I bet you have told your child to take a deep breath and calm down at some point. When we get stressed it affects our breathing, and we start to take shorter more shallow breaths which exacerbates those feelings of stress. That advice you give your kids, it’s good advice for you too. Try this super simple breathing exercise.
Sit down comfortably, close your eyes, breathe in through the nose for a count of 3 and out through the mouth for 4. Repeat 4 times, then increase the length of the in breath to 4 and the out breath to 5. Repeat again 4 times.
6.Meditate - doing a bit of controlled mindful breathing as suggested above counts as meditation in my book and even one minute of it is enough to help you feel calmer. But if you can, try to make meditation a part of your daily routine, start with five minutes a day and see if you can increase it. My Meditation Made Easy course is coming soon if you’d like more tips.
7. Make time for yourself. For those living alone, you probably feel like you already have way too much time to yourself but what are you doing with that time? If you are working long hours, make sure you still have a bit of quality “me time” every day. If you are trying to juggle a job with home schooling then I feel your pain. Much as we love our families we probably don’t feel like we signed up to spend every waking hour with them. It’s not selfish to want 10 minutes to yourself, what you do with the time is up to you but housework definitely doesn’t count. For suggestions see the next tip.
8. Do something that gives you joy. Earlier this week that was going for a snowball fight with my kids, often it’s dancing round my kitchen or having a soak in the bath. Maybe for you it’s something else completely, but whatever makes your heart soar, do more of it.
9. Move and get your heart rate going. If exercise feels like a chore then try to do something that doesn’t feel like exercise or ditch the car and walk to the shops instead.
10. Try and get a good night’s sleep and if you can’t sleep then have a nap during the day. I would struggle to teach in the evenings sometimes if I didn’t have a little cat nap in the afternoon. I only doze for 15 minutes tops but it really helps me to recharge my batteries. There’s a reason why siestas are a part of many cultures.
If you are feeling low, don’t give yourself a hard time about it or feel like you are not entitled to feel that way because other people are worse off. There are always people better or worse off, that doesn’t invalidate our own experiences. We all have off days even during normal times, never mind during a global pandemic, so let yourself feel whatever it is you feel. If you experience a sense of despair that lasts for several days and threatens to overwhelm you, reach out and speak to someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
The bottom line is, these are not normal times and we are all trying to get through them as best we can. Acknowledging this and supporting each other will hopefully make the unbearable bearable.