The phrase “we’re in this together” has never been more applicable than right now. Worldwide, humans are united in this season of change, facing variations of the same challenges. Indeed, days can feel surreal when you watch them come and go from the confines of four walls. A lot of us thrive on a dual course of routines and novelty, but we’re now unmoored. Finding ourselves in new territory, we’re collectively wondering how to stay well and keep swimming.
Interestingly, while the majority of us are working from home, we also seem to be working more than ever. With no clear boundaries being drawn between work and personal life, it isn’t uncommon for people to be sending emails at 11.00pm, or working sporadically through the weekend. It is no wonder that we’re feeling out of sorts – the balance that came simply by showing up and then removing ourselves from our workspaces and homes no longer exists. More than ever, we should intentionally find ways to be productive when we need to be, but equally, to unwind and slow down to welcome balance into our lives in this ‘new normal’.
In response to a pervasive sense of isolation, a lot of us are spending even more time on our devices. We’re constantly plugged in – to social media, the news, streaming platforms, online games. This over-stimulation, however, will only add to the feelings of anxiety you might be experiencing. We’ve all been there after we’ve binge watched an episode too many, or spent way too much time scrolling on Instagram. The feelings of emptiness and mind-fog that follow are very real.
The truth is, they’re called distractions for a reason; looking outwards instead of inwards is one way that we avoid acknowledging complicated emotions within ourselves. The solution may simply be to disconnect so that we can better connect to the people who matter, and perhaps even more importantly, to ourselves.
Consider trying this:
Create a nighttime routine that allows you to slow down and calm your nervous system before bed. At least an hour before you intend to sleep, put your phone on airplane mode and leave it in another room. Turn down your lights, take a warm shower, listen to some soothing music, light a scented candle, and mentally run through the things that went well in your day. Rest your eyes, and breathe deeply as you ease away from the external world.
In this hour, allow yourself to be present to your thoughts and emotions, acknowledging them and observing them without judgement. If you’re not used to doing this, it might feel a little uncomfortable or even unnatural at first, but as with building a new habit, it will take some time to settle into a flow. Make an intentional activity out of slowing down.
Disconnecting helps you create boundaries in these amorphous days that can otherwise seem to meld into each other. In time, you’ll wake up feeling more centred and energised, which will help you connect with your loved ones even better.
The sharp rise in banana bread recipes indicates that people are taking to creation to reintroduce the element of adventure into their lives. Creating doesn’t have to be the abstract, inaccessible pursuit it’s made out to be. The act of expressing yourself through an activity that interests you perfectly encapsulates the simplicity of creation. When your home has to be your world (for now, at least), creating allows you to experience moments of learning, joy, and play in your day – a welcome break from the monotony of passive consumption.
When you’re creating, you’re in a state of flow where you’re enjoying the process instead of just focusing on an outcome. Studies show that people who engage in creative activities are more comfortable with uncertainty, and can solve problems more effectively. There’s no better time than now to put yourself out of your comfort zone and take yourself on a mini creative adventure every week. Creating engages your senses, leading you gently away from your ‘thinking’ world, and inviting you to explore your ‘feeling’ world, a state of sensory awareness.
Consider trying this:
Set aside at least one hour for a hands-on activity that you enjoy, which should rely on your active involvement. This could be a relaxing stretch session, tending to your houseplants, scheduling a virtual cooking session with a friend, taking that watercolour class you’ve been eyeing, free-writing, or taking a mindful stroll around your neighbourhood park. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate ordeal. Simply commit to making space for creation and joy in your week. Put this hour down in your schedule like you would any other work meeting. Then, all you need to do is show up and be present.
Take stock of the various sources of information you’re allowing in your day. The flipside of all this digital connectedness is that with prolonged exposure, the content we expose ourselves too can seep into our subconscious minds and greatly alter our moods. So don’t refresh the news every ten minutes if you can help it, and certainly don’t follow people or accounts that leave you feeling frustrated or upset.
Remember, you get to choose how, and from whom you get your information. While the news is a great way to keep abreast of the latest happenings in this volatile world, the truth is that the majority of the news that’s broadcasted isn’t positive. Constantly exposing your mind to information that’s worrisome or unpleasant isn’t going to help you stay balanced. If possible, try to check the news only once or twice per day, and never right before you go to bed.
Similarly, if you find yourself feeling unsettled by a certain social media account, simply mute or unfollow them. As much as negativity is an issue, so is toxic positivity. Toxic positivity involves disregarding or stigmatising feelings that are seen as “negative” (such as fear or anger), choosing instead to sweep them under the rug. Not acknowledging your negative emotions won’t make them disappear, and forcing yourself to feel positive all the time simply isn’t sustainable. So If an account makes you feel inadequate because you aren’t baking or following a rigorous workout routine or feeling amazing all the time, that’s a red flag too. You know what you need to do.
By being selective about your sources of information, you can focus on messages of hope and light instead of just negativity and despair. Make sure that you, too, are putting out messages that are uplifting, kind, and authentic.
Consider trying this:
Do a quick scan through your phone and mute all the Whatsapp groups, social media accounts, or news channels that have been adding to any feelings of anxiety or frustration you may be feeling. You’re not obliged to consume information that makes you feel worse off.
Ultimately, these three steps are inviting you to draw healthy boundaries to support yourself. Boundaries encourage you to take time and space for yourself, to do what uplifts you while gently moving away from things that don’t. Choosing to say “yes” to yourself isn’t selfish. It takes you closer to being whole, which in turn allows you to show up as your best self – for your loved ones, for your job, for your other commitments. Nurturing yourself in small but significant ways will add up to create a sense of balance and well-being; much needed as we renegotiate what it means to exist in the world today.