The impact of COVID-19 is hitting us all. The drastic change to our lives due to much-needed self-isolation to protect the most vulnerable in society. The concern for ourselves and our loved ones at a time when the minute-by-minute actions people all across the world make all the difference. It is a time of unprecedented and understandable worry and a time to take care of yourself now more than ever.
Keeping yourself healthy and your immune system strong is, of course, essential. But it is equally important to take care of your mental health and learn to cope with anxiety when it comes up. Fortunately, no matter where you are or what situation you find yourself in, there are many simple steps you can take each day to keep your emotional wellbeing in check and we’re here to share a small selection of those with you.
But above all else, choose kindness. Choose kindness for yourself and for others at this time. For your loved ones and for those you have never met. Despite finding ourselves forced into isolation, these extraordinary circumstances present us all with a chance to reach out and connect in ways we haven’t for years. Where there is dark, you will always find light. Look for it, share it and take care of each other.
By allowing yourself to play, not work; to take time out to relax multiple times a day you are giving your brain the chance to sort and store or release worries, information and experiences. This also vastly increases your chances of getting a deep and rejuvenating night’s sleep – essential for optimum physical health.
This doesn’t mean you have to take a nap (although if you can and feel like it, that’s a good option!), it simply means enjoying an activity which allows your mind to wander. Doing this gives you a chance to access an essential processing part of the brain referred to by experts as the Default Brain Network (DBN).
There have been many studies to support this, but the first came from researchers William Dement and Nathan Kleitman. These two pioneering sleep experts discovered the 90-minute sleep pattern during which we move through five stages of sleep, (from light to deep, and then out again) more than 50 years ago. They also discovered that this natural flow is not limited to sleep. We all operate by the same 90-minute rhythm when we’re awake too, moving through phases of higher and lower alertness. This suggests that our brains are wired to take breaks, supposedly for the essential purpose of processing. Without this we can easily become overloaded and anxious.
Take the time during self-isolation to prioritise downtime activities regularly throughout the day. This could be enjoying a craft, such as knitting or painting; reading a book, playing chess or a card game. Just something which presents enough of a challenge to keep you focused, but that you find easy enough to relax while doing it. If you need a little help unwinding, keep your Kloris CBD oil handy and you’ll get there in no time.
Laughter may in fact be ‘the best medicine’ – or at least one of the best, natural therapies available at the drop of a joke or a new Netflix comedy. There are many, many studies to support the benefits which range from the physical (reduced artery inflammation, relaxed muscles, an increase in blood flow) to the emotional (a decrease in cortisol and a whooshing release of negative emotions). It works wonders for the immune system too.
The positive impact a simple bout of laughter can have on anxiety is so clear that lots of doctors specialising in this field are calling for the roll-out of laughter ‘prescriptions’. And it doesn’t even have to be triggered by a genuinely funny event – you can fake it ‘til you make it, and it works just as well.
Try smiling at yourself in the mirror every day, for ten seconds. This kicks off a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. You’ll feel an instant lift and reduced anxiety. If you’re home alone and want to share a giggle, call the free ‘Rise & Shine Laughter Line’ Monday – Friday 8am – 8.10am on 0333 3000 310 and then enter the pin number: 55511151 You’ll be connected to the group call with other laughers! Simply take a deep breath (in through your nose, out through your mouth) and join in.
Avoid Emotional Contagion
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the world, now more than ever. But being around someone who is suffering from anxiety can worsen your own mental health exponentially due to a phenomenon called ‘emotional contagion’. Anger, panic and a sense of helplessness in another can easily heighten your own worries and make them feel very real if you do not take steps to identify and separate your own emotions and responses, particularly if you are in close proximity for extended periods of time.
Protect your own mental wellbeing from the impact of others, and educate your loved ones on how to protect themselves from your own spells of anxiety, to create a more supportive and calm space all round.
Check in with yourself regularly, using mindfulness techniques such as meditation, to get to know your own mind and your own worries separated from everyone else’s. Visualisation is also very helpful tool for creating a protective barrier when necessary without becoming distant: Just imagine winding a window up between you and the person suffering from anxiety – the glass allows you to clearly see and hear them and provide the empathy they need, without having to take their fear on as your own.