When Life Gives You Lemons ....
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
.... say thanks for one of your five-a-day!
Whether your preferred ending is "make lemonade", "grab the tequila" or any other variation, the underlying idea is the same. Too much of anything, particularly those things that are out of our control, can be overwhelming. We handle those things best when we can change our mind set, find a different way to frame the issue and turn the problem around.
Right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is so important to accept that we can't control everything that is happening around us. We can however, control how we react and, by doing so, we can keep our stress levels in check and protect both our mental and our physical health.
If we can control our thoughts and our reactions, then we can change how we look at our lives, and the environment around us. We can better rationalise how we view the difficulties and the hardships. Importantly, we can hold onto the good things, and enjoy the best and most joyful bits of today.
So, how do we take back some control?
Let's start by saying how you won't get it back. The default "pushing through" and hoping that things will get better rarely works. Burying your head in the sand is a sure-fire way of allowing everything to layer up to the point where you end up in a state of constant elevated stress.
Instead, we need to pause. Just taking a few moments allow us to calm our minds and allow ourselves the space to re-frame our thoughts and responses.
There are proven tools, practices and activities that can help us do this. Download my free "Beat the Stress" guide to find out more, it's available from my home page - https://www.karenlawthernlc.com/ As well as these tools, there are plenty of other ways that we can consider to help us cope better with the unique challenges we are currently facing. I've outlined my top ten favourites below.
COVID-19 COPING STRATEGIES
1. Take time out
Yes, we love our families … but we really are seeing quite a lot of them!
We all need to recharge by ourselves - so let's make sure we have pockets of self care each day - whether that's 30 mins in the sunshine enjoying a book, a lovely warm bath or a daytime nap (a luxury we never normally manage!)
2. Keep a gratitude journal
Writing down 3 things per day we appreciate and are grateful for is great for reminding us about the positives in our lives and something we can all do!
3. Family exercise
Create obstacle courses and sprints round the house/up the stairs/in the driveway. Do together and cheer each other on! What about keeping a scorecard and having a weekly prize for most improved?
4. Stay in touch
At least daily, spend 30 minutes chatting to friends and family. Use WhatApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, phone calls, texting - anything to connect with other people. At this time, it's important to seek and provide support for each other.
It’s a great idea to do this for the kids as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc. They are missing their friends, too!
5. Stay hydrated and eat well.
Whilst this may seem obvious, stress and eating often don’t mix well and it's easy to find ourselves over-indulging, eating the wrong types of food, forgetting to eat or even avoiding food altogether.
Try to drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and maybe challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
Remember too, not to beat yourself up if the nutrition isn't 100%. You're doing the best that you can!
6. Mindful activity
We are normally pretty busy and are often guilty of being quite distracted when spending time with each other. In lock-down, if I’m doing something, I'm really giving it my attention!
Whether its conversations (especially online), playing games, schoolwork (oh the joy!), building lego, let's take a deep breath and focus totally on the people involved and the activity at hand. Multi-tasking always was over-rated anyway!
7. Cut everyone some slack ... and maybe give them a little space!
A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in us all and we won't always be at our best. We need to navigate through the outbursts and step away from some of the arguments. More than ever, we can't hold on to grudges or let disagreements rattle on.
Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
8. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take time to have a bath, manicure or facial. Put on some bright colours. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
If you're having a virtual karaoke, party or quiz night, why not dress for the occasion! 🤩
9. Create everyone an individual retreat space.
With space at a premium for many of us, it can be a challenge to find separate areas for work and for relaxation. Yet differentiation is vital! If you can, work from a spare room that you have a sense of “going to work” - otherwise, assign a specific area for work, preferably with minimal traffic.
It's not just the working space. Make your bedroom a sanctuary (unless, of course, you already have a man-cave or equivalent) that you can retire to for "me-time" and know that you won't be disturbed.
For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. Make it a comforting place using blankets, beanbags and pillows - the good old tent fort.
It's good to know that we have somewhere we can go to take some time out.
10. Remember this is not forever
No matter how difficult this time currently feels, how frightening the headlines and the reality of the situation, it will pass. Even though not knowing an exact date of returning to normality makes it difficult to plan, it is still important to look forward. Picture that time when we will return to normality, see friends again, and feel safe in social engagements. Draw up a plan of all the things you'd like to do, the places you want to go to. It's been proven that such planning can enhance your mood.
This list is by no means extensive and many of us will find our own personal coping strategies - learning a new skill, helping others, organising volunteering activities. Find what works for you. Stay occupied, look for fun where you can and control what you can control.
We can think about how we are breathing, living, what we can do to make things better, right now - for now. We can try to see a brighter tomorrow, dream, focus on everything that is positive. We can think about what we have - friends, family, a home, food ...... and a bright and wonderful future.
We may be in lock-down for a while. Let's think about what we can do in the next few weeks (months?) to be stronger, more resilient, happier, healthier, a better person/parent/wife/husband?
To all key workers, and particularly our health workers, thank you so much!
Wishing the speediest recovery to those who are ill.
For the rest of us, I wonder how we might view this time as a gift - and how we can ensure that we use it wisely?
With thanks to the Institute of Health Sciences and Margie Donlon, psychologist.