How do we thrive instead of just survive during the pandemic?
Life has changed for us on a global scale and we are experiencing a collective loss of the world we once knew. We are all unique and experiencing the grief in different ways. We may be feeling the loss of physical touch or connection, playing sport, change in routine, gatherings with family and friends, workplace changes, job loss, loss of someone we know due to the virus, and most of all; our freedom.
Children are experiencing it too and may be showing it in their behaviour as they too miss connection with their family and friends, their sports, activities and school.
Our workplaces have changed whether it is dramatically, slightly or somewhere in between.
As if our working day didn’t already include enough moving pieces to manage, a lot of the population are now working and living under one roof 24 hours a day. You may be living with family, friends or housemates; emotions will be fluctuating and at times we may feel like we are on an emotional rollercoaster, but keep in mind that difficult emotions don’t often last and will pass.
Many of us are home learning our children while working. Our kids are having virtual morning school sessions, we are on zoom meetings, we all have work/school deadlines that need to be met. We are trying to get as much work done while kids nap or in their recess time and many of us are attempting to wedge the rest of the workday into the early mornings and post-bedtime.
We are all juggling our role as best we can on a day to day basis. Some days are great and others may be very challenging. It is important to know we are all in this together and that even though we are physically distancing we need to remain connected socially to those that love and support us; our family, friends and colleagues. We will help each other through this time. We will forge stronger bonds with some friends and work colleagues and we may also notice the leaders or managers in your workplace that thrive during this and other’s that struggle with offering compassion, empathy and kindness.
In these unusual times keep things simple. To maintain good mental and emotional health, here are some ideas to help you sail through the coming months and allow yourself to ‘Thrive’ and not just ‘Survive’.
1. Complete one satisfying activity and one pleasurable activity each day. Anything more is considered a bonus.
2. Focus on the things we can control, rather than those out of our control. This may include our mindset each day, finding the fun in our day, switching off the news, having a break from social media if we are finding it too negative, being kind and showing gratitude towards others and ourselves.
3. Get good quality sleep. Sleep is essentially our life support system; our swiss army knife of good health. It is not only vital for our physical recuperation; it is essential for our emotional and mental health restoration. Following good sleep hygiene is high on my priority list for better brain cognition, emotional stability and physical endurance.
4. Go outside and soak in the Vitamin D we receive from the sun. Not only is Vitamin D essential for our bone health but for proper brain development and functioning. Low levels of vitamin D can be associated with depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sunlight is the best form of Vitamin D. Your body also needs it to absorb calcium so it’s a double bonus; by walking or exercising outdoors, you get your dose of Vitamin D but you are also strengthening your bone density which helps prevent osteoporosis, muscle spasms and aches.
5. Do something that nourishes and nurtures your mind, body and soul. We are bounded for many hours a day within our four falls with our family or friends and it’s important we have some time out from each other. Whether it is talking a warm magnesium bath, reading a book, going for a walk, colouring or painting, dancing to an uplifting song, writing a story, swimming in the ocean, calling a friend for a chat, gardening or knitting. These mindful activities will help enormously with your mental health and keep you sane over the months ahead.
6. Drink water regularly. It is important to stay hydrated. Water helps with our motivation, clarity, productivity and our mood, along with all the awesome things water does for our body.
7. Check in with our emotions and tune into how you are feeling regularly. The best way to do this is take time to breathe. Do some regular deep breathing exercises to instantly calm our nervous system, boost brain function, reduce blood pressure and feel more relaxed and focussed instantly. There are lots of different techniques which include Box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, 4-7-8 technique, abdominal breathing, yogic breathing (pranayama) or just taking a moment to focus on our breathe. There are also great ones for your kids too like finger breathing, hot air balloon, bumble bee breath, elephant breathing and shoulder roll breathing to name a few. These are also great for adults and have the fun element too.
8. If you are saving several hours a day from not travelling to work, what positive things can you do in this time? Some of the activities that may have popped into your mind after reading #5.
9. Be curious about things you notice, see or read. It will enhance your creativity and improve both your mental and emotional wellbeing.
10. Eat well! Nourish yourself with fresh foods. Consume a variety of foods that are nutrient dense. Choose a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Eat when we are feeling calm, happy or relaxed, rather than when we are stressed or upset as our digestion switches off if our mind is in a flight/fight state.
It will be interesting to see what our workplaces look like after this. Our leaders and managers have the opportunity to choose quality work over quantity of work from their team. They may now value the creative ideas that emerge after a midday walk, rather than having sat at our desk without a break. They may stop rewarding the faster response over the better and more thought out response, or the longer workday over a more productive workday.
Will the values of the workplace change? Will employers and managers rely more on the ‘soft skills’ like Emotional Intelligence including: resilience self-regulation, self-awareness, motivation, empathy and social skills which are all prime at this point of time more than ever.
As Ben Crowe, an expert on Mind Health said, ‘It's our decisions, not the conditions, that determine our mindset, our attitude, our outcomes and our self-worth’.
We are often looking for the extraordinary moments, let’s look at making meaningful moments during this pandemic and these will be the most memorable when we look back on this time of our lives. Our grandkids and their grandkids will be learning about this time in history class.
Let’s remain hopeful and optimistic.
I would like to end with this quote.