Why it's OK to be honest about how we are really feeling
This week everyone I have been in touch with has admitted to finding things pretty tough at the moment. So why is it when someone asks us how we are, the standard stock response is still usually, “fine”, even when that’s patently not the case?
Perhaps we feel we can only open up to those close to us, maybe we don’t want to burden anyone or bring them down too. Perhaps we just feel we should’t grumble, because you know, there’s lots of people worse off, as if there's some sort of arbitrary criteria that you have to meet in order to be "allowed" to feel sad. Maybe it’s just our English stiff upper lip and tendency to urge each other to, “Keep calm and carry on.” Whatever the reasons, this forced positivity is toxic. It doesn’t allow us to feel what we really feel, so we suppress it, which may well work for a while, but sooner or later those feelings will catch up with us in a big way.
Have you found yourself flying off the handle whilst trying to home school your kids (I mean who hasn’t?) or finding yourself almost disproportionately annoyed that your partner forgot to flush after themselves, didn’t replace the loo roll or left their washing up next to the sink? Maybe you have burst into tears over something relatively minor. If so, give yourself a break and please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Honestly who could really be expected to be feeling their best right now? I’m not going to reel off a lot of depressing statistics or summarise recent world events, we all know the situation. It’s become the ultimate cliche but these really are unprecedented and weird times so there’s no blue print of how to deal with it all. What magnifies it all is the immense uncertainty. When we know what to expect we feel secure, so not knowing what the blazes is going to unfold from one week to the next is bound to make us feel out of sorts.
So as my Indian friends would ask, what to do? I don’t pretend to have the answers here. I’m only human too and so I also have good days, bad days and really bad days like everyone else. But I do have a few coping mechanisms that have helped me that I would like to share:
Meditate I can not emphasise enough how much this has helped me. The results are not going to be instantaneous, yes you will probably find it tough at first, but please try and persevere. The aim is not to force yourself not to think or feel, but just to give your mind a break from all the worrying by trying to stay present. The best way to do this is to just focus on your breathing, one breath at a time. Start with 2 minutes, build it up to 5, then maybe even 10. (I share loads of tips on how to make meditation part of your routine in my Meditation Made Easy course.)
Try and get outside every day if you can OK,I’ll admit that yesterday when it rained pretty much non stop and felt like it was night time all day, I granted myself a reprieve and stayed indoors. But usually even if it’s a bit grey and cold I try to get out for at least 10 minutes a day. This is coming from someone who is a self confessed sun worshipper. But I’ve discovered that being exposed to daylight every day, no matter how overcast it is actually helps me to keep the winter blues at bay. It also helps regulate our natural circadian rhythms.
Try and get enough sleep I know it’s hard right now with our brains on over drive all the time, but try and get into a regular bed time routine. Going to sleep and getting up at roughly the same times every day makes a big difference, yes even at the weekend! If you can’t get to sleep, meditate instead. If you get a terrible night’s sleep, try and have a short nap in the day, many cultures swear by them.
Eat well The temptation is to “reward”ourselves with junk food and wine. In fact enjoying some of the foods we love can indeed lift our spirits but if you have Just Eat on speed dial and your recycling bin is full of empty wine or beer bottles, it’s time for a rethink. You want to nourish yourself with food and drink that won’t just make you feel better for 5 minutes but will give you the nutrients you need to feel your best in the long term. That doesn’t mean eating has to be joyless, just more mindful.
Try and do at least one thing you really enjoy every day For me that could be a kitchen disco with the kids listening to uplifting tunes, or having a nice soak in the bath.
Connect with other people - for those of you who live alone, I really feel for you, it’s tough, but try to go for a walk with a friend, or call someone for a chat if you feel like you are driving yourself crazy with your own thoughts. If you are lucky enough to live with people you care about then hug them, every single day!
I used to find the winter hard and I still feel at least 10 times better in the summer but doing all of the above has helped me massively, even in this the bleakest of winters. Sure I still have my down moments, but when I can feel myself getting that way I usually try to do one of the above. Or sometimes I just let myself feel whatever it is I’m feeling because you know, it’s ok to not be fine every single minute of every single day - wow that would be exhausting! It would be like trading places with an over excitable puppy, and even puppies need rest.
So next time you are talking to someone, maybe start with, “So how are you really feeling?” Don’t just let them brush you off with “fine”, when you know they’re not. Let’s support each other and allow ourselves to just feel whatever we feel.