Practical Mental Wellness Strategies

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How to cope during tough times

2020 was an extremely difficult year for everyone, and the pandemic continues to impact our mental health and wellness in different ways. While we’re all in the same boat, everyone has their own unique feelings and experiences during this rocky time, and it can be tricky to know how to manage that within yourself. So, we wanted to share practical coping strategies and tools that you can use to help manage during lockdown (and beyond) and properly take care of you.

Will Centurion is a life coach and counsellor who also runs mental health workshops for workplaces and businesses. He has worked closely with Aintree Group during lockdown in 2020 to help provide the team with strategies and solutions to help them cope with working and living through lockdown.

The Unifying Struggle – Feeling Disconnected

The COVID-19 pandemic is an usual situation because it is both an individual and a shared experience. Everyone is having their own unique feelings, and going through their own challenges, however it’s also something we’re all going through together, all at the same time – on a local, national and global scale.

“There is some comfort in knowing you’re not going through it alone, it doesn’t lessen the impact, but it means there are a lot of people searching for relief.”

In Will’s experience, the most common challenge for people is experiencing “disconnection”.

And it’s not just disconnection from obvious things like not being able to see family, friends or colleagues. 

People are also feeling disconnection to community, or to structure, to motivation, to confidence, to some sense of safety or security, a sense of belonging or a sense of hope.

“People are feeling further and further away from the things that are important to them. Feeling disconnected to future is a big one.”

What are the practical solutions you can use to find “relief”?

This time is forcing people to focus on where they do have some kind of control. Will calls it “thinking more locally”. 

One way you can gain some sense of control and fulfilment in such a chaotic time is by “getting your own house in order”. And by that we don’t mean spring cleaning, or home renovations, or organising your closet or pantry within an inch of its life. We mean taking care of you, as your “house”.

And there are many simple ways you can do this on a daily basis, starting as soon as you wake up.

1. Create a morning routine that nourishes you 

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 It’s the little things that can make a big difference. Will’s first piece of advice is to simply make your bed in the morning.

“That gives you some sense of structure, a sense of order or management about the day you’re about to have. So, start there!”

Then you can move onto a daily morning practice or routine that gives you nourishment and sets you up for success in the rest of your day before you move on to work, or emails, or social media, or your family . The routine could include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journalling
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Watch a YouTube video that inspires you
  • Get some fresh air – either step outside, or onto your balcony

“Little things like that fill your tank, they give you a sense of empowerment. They allow you to put the oxygen mask on you first before opening yourself up to the world.”

In our experience working with business owners, we know that “putting yourself first” is rarely on your radar. The business always pushes it’s way to by first priority at every opportunity, whether it’s constantly checking or responding emails while on a holiday, or lying awake til the early hours of the morning thinking about everything you need to tackle the next day.

Practing real self-care first thing in the morning is a very literal way to put yourself first. It’s simple, but important. 

2. Create the right mindset when working from home

Working from home can be exhausting. We’ve all heard that we should take regular breaks and step outside when you can – the crucial thing is to actually do it. You can also try changing the environment up a bit to keep things fresh.

A bit tip is to change your clothes to signify to yourself that you’re moving into your “work zone” (as tempting as it may be to spend all day in your cosiest pyjama pants). Look at it as though you are stepping into a character – your clothes should match that character. 

All these little things help you shift your energy and your mindset.

“Particularly at a time of so much chaos and vulnerability, it’s the little actions that matter the most.”

Movement also creates energy. Sitting at your desk or on your for hours and hours isn’t going to give you any energy. Then at the end of the day we wonder why we feel less motivated and lethargic, or why we procrastinate.

And also, don’t make it all about work! Blurring the lines between your home space and your work space can make it seem like you’re always “at work”, but it’s crucial to make sure you’re taking personal time too (and not just to eat and sleep, although these things are important).

“Find ways to sustain your creativity, nourish your mind and be playful and curious (whatever that means for you). All these primal, human things are really important – now more than ever!”

Find whatever authentically nourishes your own mind, and find a way to practice that in a way that is sustainable. Sustainability is very important. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself and burn out, or feel disappointed or unmotivated because you don’t reach the high standards you set for yourself. And on that note…

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Yes, the pandemic is happening to everyone, but not everyone is going to process it in the same way. Be true to your own feelings and your own experiences. 

On face value it might seem like some people are taking lockdown in their stride and putting all their time at home to “good use” by losing weight, or DIY-ing their home, taking up new hobbies, or kicking goals in any number of areas.

Firstly, what you see on social media isn’t always true and accurate. And secondly, that might not be your process and experience, and that’s completely okay!

“Just be kind to yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking ‘Look at what they’re doing, that person is flourishing right now, why aren’t I?’ We don’t all have to bounce back and be resilient, it’s not everybody’s process.”

Respect whatever your process is, and live day by day authentically with a sense of self-compassion. We’re each going through this experience through our own timeline, pace and approach. 

4. Ride the wave, don’t try and fight it

This pandemic is such a big, overwhelming event in all of our lives. It’s important to find some kind of acceptance and peace with that fact and not try and fight against it with all your energy. Because it will always win.

So instead, you learn to ride the wave. It won’t necessarily come naturally to you, not everyone takes easily to “going with the flow”, but you adapt, and you allow yourself some flexibility in how you approach your life. Don’t get fixated on certain outcomes when they are out of your control. 

And, be gentle with yourself! You’re allowed to feel whatever you feel, you’re allowed to have ups and downs, good days and bad days.

“It’s okay to say today was not so great. It’s okay to not be okay. Knowing that tomorrow is a new day and brings a new opportunity”.

And if you’ve had a few good days in a row, and you’re feeling motivated and like you’re on a roll, but then it feels like the rug is pulled from under you and you fall down again – don’t add to it by beating yourself up about it. It is so important to know that’s not a sign of failure or defeat. 

“It’s just a reminder that we all have the compacity to feel vulnerable, we all have weaknesses. We just need to continuously check in on ourselves and do the best that we can to dust ourselves off and keep going.

5. Use this time as an opportunity to pause and evaluate

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 “Pre-COVID” life (as it has been dubbed) was extremely hectic. For a lot of people it was a life where they didn’t take enough time out for themselves. We were too busy to evaluate feelings or goals or what we truly wanted. Genuine reflection and genuine self-care were things that you were going to do, “when I have time”.

Well, you may have some time on your hands at the moment. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We do have an opportunity to press pause and process. We live in a very busy world where it’s all about productivity and it’s nice to take some ownership of this time and use it for ourselves.”

If you feel like you’ve neglected yourself in some ways up until this point, and now is when you finally have time, it might be beneficial to take advantage of this unexpected big pause to look at how you feel, and what you want. Look at this time with a growth mindset. 

“You’re allowed to give back to you, in fact, now more than ever it’s encouraged.”

Hopefully you’re able to take on board some of these practical solutions to help you cope with your lockdown journey.

If you’re interested in Will’s counselling or life coaching services, you can check out his website.  

We also have COVID-19 resources available, including information about the government stimulus packages, grants and financial aid, which you can access here.