Mental Health Awareness Month has passed, but that shouldn’t mean the eleven remaining ones are spent ambivalent to the ups and downs of your wellbeing. With lockdown presenting upheaval and downtime which can be difficult to make sense of, it’s never been more important to take a moment to take care of yourself.
Recent research conducted by Nuffield Health – the UKs largest healthcare charity – revealed that over a third (36%) of people believe their mental health has got worse since the start of the lockdown. As such, it’s vital right now to be practicing acts of self care and inward facing kindness, which act as an antidote to worry, anxiety and low mood.
With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, to bring you these 5 IDEAL tips on practicing self care during lockdown.
RECOGNISE THAT BEING KIND TO YOURSELF IS GOOD FOR YOU
Self kindness is just so important for our wellbeing. Without stating the obvious, we spend more time in our own company than anyone else’s, and how we relate to ourselves has a huge impact on how we feel.
Indeed, self-compassion plays a vital role in our mental wellbeing and can act as a powerful antidote to many mental health difficulties. There are also physical benefits to be gained. Our bodies benefit from giving and receiving kindness with positive impacts on human physiology, including the immune and cardiovascular systems, nervous system and regulation of our genes.
So, during this topsy turvy time, go easy on yourself. If you want to chill on the sofa instead of conquering the complete works of Tolstoy, then do it. Should you need an afternoon off to regroup, give yourself one! If it’s cake and tea which brings you joy, for heaven’s sake, don’t deny your urges. This time is tough enough without adding extra pressure on your already burdened shoulders.
ACCEPT THAT NOBODY’S PERFECT
The idea of being kind to yourself can be a difficult concept for some people who find it much easier to be compassionate to others than to themselves. In fact, we have evolution to blame for that; science suggests that humans have developed to be overly self critical, to improve their alertness to danger. So, next time you’re laying in bed running through that stupid thing you blurted out at a party in 2007, blame your evolutionary biology.
Indeed, true self compassion involves being honest with ourselves and fully accountable for our actions, but with an understanding of what it really means to be human and the acknowledgement that no one is perfect.
In recent years, and beyond the usual wellness circles, it’s been well documented that practicing gratitude is a key contributor to happiness. Here at IDEAL, we like to turn that practice into print, by keeping a diary of daily appreciation. By doing the same, you may find yourself more grounded, humble, thankful and kind towards the world around you.
There are different ways to do this, but experts recommend keeping it concise and unique. Every morning just after waking, or each night before bed, try recording three things which you’ve enjoyed that day, or three you’re looking forward to tomorrow, or perhaps three things you’re grateful for in your life more generally. You’ll be amazed at how you feel your outlook shifting and optimism returning, even in these darker times.
It’s wise to approach this act with empathy, rather than simply going through the motions; if you’ve had a non eventful day, or aren’t feeling inspired to jot down anything mindful, don’t feel compelled to complete your journal. Instead, focus on depth, not breadth, and on people you appreciate, rather than things. In doing so, you’ll notice a gradual, growing warmth towards to world.
COMPASSION, NOT CRITICISM
Being cruel to ourselves is not motivating: instead, it leaves us feeling threatened and demoralised, and unable to fulfil our potential each day. That’s not to say you should go about life in a Teflon-coated bubble, immune to meaningful change. Quite the opposite, in fact. Compassionate self-correction and motivational self-talk can boost happiness and represent an effective means of enhancing our resilience and ability to cope with difficult situations.
So, endeavour to change that inner monologue to something more understanding. In doing so, you’ll start to reflect that compassion outwards and onto others, and that’s something we all need right now.
BE LESS OF A CRITIC, MORE OF A COACH
We are all too often our own harshest critic. A helpful tip is to try to imagine how a ‘kindness coach’ might help us approach the complexities and difficulties that life throws at us; they accept us ‘as we are’, not how we wish to be.
If you’ve succumbed to your vices during this tough time with an increased regularity for instance, rather than beating yourself up over it, your inner kindness coach would listen, interpret the reasons why, and offer helpful, healthy solutions to get you back on track, rather than dwelling on what you’ve done wrong.
Channel that energy today, and every day, and we can’t wait to meet you again on the other side.