The last few weeks have been very surreal. Covid-19 has put the world in lockdown. Most of us will never have experienced anything like this. However, one thing that we can be certain of, during this uncertain time, is that this will change the world we live in, permanently, and I remain optimistic that it will be for the better.
From my personal perspective, many of my projects were placed on hold as companies and clients reflected on the effects that Covid-19 was having on their businesses and themselves. The logical part of my brain suggested I carry on as normal (we are hard wired with a normalcy bias), as I was anxious to reach my monthly financial target. However, the tug of my intuition was greater, so I made the decision to put work aside and focus on setting a new foundation for myself and for my family and to “prepare” for this challenging time ahead. It certainly felt like we were heading towards a marathon and not just a sprint.
My prep began with a review of my daily practices; over time many of these have become habits, and I am aware how easy it is to break a habit, than to form one. These practices are the foundations of my self-care routine, which is fundamental to supporting my family. Many of my clients will have heard me say 'put the oxygen masks on yourself first', which not only enables us to thrive but those in our care too. These practices include meditating, running outdoors and yoga. These all help me with clarity whilst strengthening my physical, mental and spiritual well-being. They also help me to feel grounded, balanced and calm. Other practices are automatic writing, journalling and keeping a gratitude journal.
The challenge now was to find a way of integrating these practices into our new routine now that the children would be homeschooled as both my husband and I would be working from home. At this point I was grateful for my meditation practice (as well as some frantic journalling!) as the thought of homeschooling definitely made me feel anxious!
A routine is a must, this helps prime our brains for success. External factors such as the coronavirus, social distancing and social isolation are not within our control, therefore it helps to focus on the things that are within our control. Routine also benefits children as it provides them with a structure for their day. Children are used to having a school routine, so they will expect one at home. A routine gives them a sense of security, helps them to feel safe and understand what is expected of them.
However, there needs to be an element of flexibility and fluidity in any routine or structure we put into place and don’t be afraid to change it. It’s important to practice self-compassion when we catch ourselves judging or giving ourselves a hard time over not completing a task or sticking to the routine. Practicing Loving-kindness (Metta) meditation helps to develop deeper self-compassion.
Awareness is key here. Being aware of the negative, unhelpful self-talk, also on how long we spend on social media or watching/reading the news and how we respond or react to the external circumstances. These are all within our control. Whilst the coronavirus is not, we have the ability to bring our awareness to our reactions or responses and choose the quality of our experience.
Although our entire world has been shaken through its very core, we can choose to resist (not advisable!) or to accept what is happening and choose to learn and grow from this experience. Acceptance is not passive, or a 'meh' response or one of indifference. It is a conscious choice that we have to accept, without resistance, a situation or emotion that arises in the present moment. It doesn't mean we have to like it or agree with it either. Just observe from a space of awareness and allow whatever it is to unfold without resistance or getting in the way, notice how life flows in a state of acceptance rather than resistance.
Manageable Practices To Help You:
The below have certainly been helping me to get through this challenging time. If you're a parent like me, these can also be adapted to involve children. Mine have loved getting involved and I feel these practices have helped them feel grounded, safe and has reduced any anxiety they may have had and has certainly deepened our connection.
I am sure many know the benefits; the positive impact it has on our mental health and that it reduces stress and anxiety, increases focus and attention but not forgetting, improves our immune system, which is so important right now.
When meditating with children, starting with shorter practices of 5 minutes that can be gradually increased. There are plenty of videos on YouTube or you can create your own like I've done. My 5 year old spends most of his meditation rolling around on the yoga mat but he enjoys, metaphorically, floating over his favourite woods holding onto his yellow balloon!
2. Intention Setting:
Even when self isolating we can choose how we will 'show up' each day whether we are WFH, homeschooling or both. This practice is just as important now for families who are living in close proximity with others as it can be a testing time! It's another great one to involve the kids with although I wasn't sure at first if they would get it. However, I smiled when I read my 9 year old daughter's intention on our 1st day of homeschooling...“To start the week off in the best way I possibly can during this challenging time”.
A daily gratitude practice strengthens our mental health, increases self-esteem, improves sleep amongst other things. I write my list in my journal before bedtime. However if you’re just starting out, you might find it more manageable to start with 3 things and work your way up. Don’t get stuck on the time of the day, it can be anytime just choose what works for you. My kids love this one and I find it's a good one to do over dinner as a family.
4. Choose well:
By this I mean choose how much time you spend watching/reading the news, how much time you spend on social media and put a limit on it. I was shocked at how much my screen time has increased over the last couple of weeks. Allocate certain times of the day, keeping the information factual. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy, which only adds to the anxiety, putting more stress on the body, releasing cortisol, thus weakening our immune system. We need to be fit and healthy mentally and physically during this time. Bringing our awareness to focus on the positives, the brain is hardwired towards a negativity bias. Therefore choosing positive stories, thoughts and a gratitude practice can help us to fight this bias.
5. Put the oxygen mask on yourself:
With many of us juggling work and homeschooling, we will be finding it tough, so please make sure you carve out time for you and integrate self-care into your routine. Whether it’s going for a run, doing YouTube exercise videos, Yoga, or going for a walk, reading, journalling or going for a nap. ‘You’ time for your sanity and mental health is non-negotiable.
6. Small acts of kindness:
Call your parents, vulnerable neighbours, or joining a local group to support the elderly and vulnerable in your community. Give someone the gift of listening, offer to get essential items or a food delivery (if you can!). Small act of kindness go such a long way.
7. Spend time in nature:
If you can, and within the social distancing guidelines! The benefits are endless and proven both for our mental health and physical health. If you’ve got access to a garden, get out with the kids and make a bug hotel, make mud pies or go for a barefoot walk in the mud! Seriously! Grounding or Earthing, as it's known, has so many benefits and once again, is said to improve our immune system.
There are no set times of the days to do these practices, add them to your routine but be fluid and don't give yourself a hard time if you miss one. Sometimes it's just best to stay in PJ's, eat popcorn and watch movies!
As individuals, communities, countries and as a species we are going to come out of this changed, stronger, more connected with a much greater understanding of ourselves, each other and our planet.
I shall leave you to ponder on this...
How do I make this obstacle the greatest thing that has ever happened to me?
Get journalling. It's not like we haven't got the time!