As we discussed in part one of this series, maintaining positive mental health can be very challenging in isolation. A huge part of staying well is satisfying our needs and being kind to ourselves. That could mean temporarily suspending goals such as exercise plans. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure, but much more as a positive action to ensure adequate rest and recuperation.
Relaxation and reflection
One of the key elements in feeling better about ourselves is putting time aside to relax. This could be taking a bath by candlelight, reading a book or playing video games. Whatever you like to do to switch off from the stresses of life. Relaxation is crucial for recharging and reducing negative thoughts; which are all too common in isolation.
If you struggle to let go of these thoughts, then daily reflection exercises can help. Write a list of positive things, even the smallest achievements, that happened during the day. Alongside that list, write one of the things that didn’t go so well. For this list consider what you could have done better. If it was something outside of your control, cross it off and move on. Exercises like this help rewire our brains to feel good about achievements and to move on from setbacks. When it comes to negative thoughts, an important rule is don’t entertain something that you wouldn’t say to a friend.
Feeling hopeless, worried, stressed and unmotivated can all contribute to negative thoughts and a tendency to be unkind for ourselves. Being isolated at home can exacerbate negative thinking because we are trapped with our thoughts.
In this situation, practising mindfulness can be very beneficial. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that teaches us to be present and engaged with whatever we are doing presently, being free from distraction or judgement, and aware of our thoughts and feelings, without letting them control us. This moment to moment awareness is achieved via meditation, which enables us to develop the skill of mindfulness and apply it to life.
By teaching the mind to be present, we learn to live in a more mindful way; to live in the now, take a breath and not to let negative thoughts and feelings rule us. This is a very useful way to deal with challenging circumstances, manage stress and harness positive thinking.
We should all use this time to improve our sleep pattern, which can support being kinder to ourselves both physically and mentally. However, these challenging times mean that bad habits can emerge. It takes time and work to establish a better sleeping pattern.
The key to improving sleep is to establish the causes of sleep disruption. Is it routine-based? Do you go to bed too late? Do you watch TV or use your phone before sleeping? Or could it be psychological? Do you go to bed with thoughts racing, feeling stressed? Are you unable to switch off from work? If it’s looking at your laptop or phone, then take steps to ban this activity and hour before sleep. If it’s stress and not being able to switch off, think about employing reflection and mindfulness. If the problem continues, consider talking to a therapist.
Improving your sleep pattern is a big part of being kinder to yourself, which is something we all need to get much better at. During this worrying pandemic, the priority must be to stay healthy and other things can take a backseat. Be kind to yourself and we’ll get through this together.