5 Ways to Protect Your Wellbeing Post-Lockdown by Suzy Reading
By Suzy Reading
One year ago few of us would’ve expected life to be so impinged for this length of time.
As we prepare for the dialling down of restrictions, we need time and space to restore, recharge and process our experiences. We also need a practical toolkit to help us navigate the next unfolding chapter. The ‘next chapter’ feels much lighter and more malleable than ‘the new normal’. After such a long time in our own little bubbles, any change will take some getting used to.
The theme that keeps coming up in conversation and over social media is “why am I so tired”? There’s great awareness of just how tough some people have had it – the deep pain of bereavement, financial insecurity, job loss and personal health challenges. In recognising the extent of other people’s suffering, many of us are feeling guilty for having a difficult time. But the fact is, this has been a tough time for everyone. Another person’s pain does not negate your own.
Toxic positivity isn’t just something we do to ourselves, it is something you experience when other people tell you ‘don’t worry’, ‘at least you have a job’, ‘just look at the bright side…’ and it genuinely serves no one. What’s much more helpful is acknowledging and validating emotions and experiences. A useful prompt might be: how would any human being feel had they walked in your shoes? There is tremendous healing to be found in the words “of course you feel as you do, anyone would”.
So many of the ways we would usually nourish ourselves have become inaccessible in the last 12 months, there has been a very real threat to our wellbeing, we’ve been cut off from being in the physical presence of loved ones and our ways of working have changed radically, coupled with impossible demands for parents home schooling their kids. If you’re wondering how it’s normal to feel in these circumstances let’s be clear, the normal response to tough times is to struggle. You are tired because this has been a deeply worrying and depleting time. Uncertainty is draining, not being in control of our lives is stressful, and grief is the valid response to missing out on memory making or celebrating moments in our lives with people precious to us. Rather than judgement or comparison, we all need a giant dose of tenderness and compassion.
The way we live our lives has radically changed in the last year and even as restrictions lift, it’s not like we will be leaping back into the way things were pre-covid, and arguably, nor would we want to. Work practices are evolving, which despite the challenges of remote working, provide an opportunity for carving a healthier work-life balance. After more than a year of social distancing we need to gently reintroduce mixing with others to avoid overwhelm. We need a plan to help us support ourselves and each other as lockdown eases.
5 ways to protect your health and boost your energy
1. Optimise your remote working set up
When we went into lockdown in 2020 we didn’t plan on this being for the long haul. What was manageable for a few months might now be manifesting in an aching back, tight jaw, eye strain and poor sleep. If you haven’t already, it’s time to address your work set up. Where possible, create a dedicated work space with the equipment you need to support good posture – a supportive chair, harmonious desk space and ergonomic computer set up. For more details on how to make your environment conducive to your wellbeing, check out this article: https://peperperspective.com/tag/posture/
2. Break up sedentary periods and move more
‘Other generations have been called to war, you’re being called to sit on the sofa’. While this smart quip was designed to bring us perspective it completely underestimates the toll that lockdown has taken on our mental and physical health. We all know we need to move for our health but we’re not so aware of the genuine dangers of sitting. Incidental exercise has been reduced to trips to the fridge and the loo and we’re spending huge chunks of our day immobile. Even meeting the national guidelines for daily movement (150 minutes of cardio vascular exercise per week) is not enough to protect us from the harmful effects of sitting. Too much sitting and sitting poorly wreaks havoc with our mood, circulation, digestion, energy and stress levels. In addition to sitting with a tall, upright spine, aim to get up and move at minimum every 30 minutes. Think about standing or moving during activities you would normally sit down for, like phone calls or brainstorming, and if you equate downtime with sofa-based screen time, think about other ways you can relax and unwind.
3. Rest is medicine
Despite all the sitting we’ve done, we are not well rested. After all the anxiety, the disconnection and the screen overload, we need some heavy duty rest to soothe our frazzled nervous systems. If you’re feeling bone tired, you’re in good company. Now is the time to prioritise sleep and practices to de-stress. You might need more sleep than normal so where possible, get an early night. If your sleep has been disturbed, make soothing practices during the day a regular feature – reclaiming the ability to relax will have significant dividends on its own but also helps you get to sleep. Legs up the wall for a few minutes, gentle stretches, breathing exercises, guided relaxation like ‘yoga nidra’ or try some ‘green gazing’ on trees in the distance to rest your eyes. Far from being lazy, a decent (screen-free) rest could be the most productive thing possible right now.
4. Connection after all this time apart… or together!
This has been a deeply challenging time for us, being physically separated from loved ones, at home alone, or stuck in close quarters together. Even the healthiest of relationships have been challenged. Whichever scenario you’ve faced, you’ve had your own demands and pressures. With the forming of household “bubbles” there might be difficult family dynamics to navigate as restrictions lift and we try to create new patterns in connection. Think about what connection means to you, make a mind map of people important to you and consider ways you can stay current and communicate care. If you find zoom calls depleting or don’t feel ready to meet up in person just yet, send a voice note, a post card or care package. Relish some solo time and plan some happy rituals to reunite when the time feels right for you.
5. Managing anxiety about lockdown easing.
There is a very real concern about navigating the transition to a more normal existence, it even has a term: re-entry anxiety. If you’re feeling worried, go gently on you. Spend some time reflecting on your boundaries. Ask yourself, what do you need to feel safe and healthy? As outer variables change we need to check in and get clear on what feels right for us now. We also need to get courageous and give voice to them. People cannot read your mind. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health so give yourself permission to honour what you need to function well. Choose carefully the social plans you make and adjust expectations of yourself and others. Compassion again is the key because we are all wired differently, we all need different things. Pace yourself, being mindful of your energy levels and know that there is time. If we’ve learnt anything from this pandemic, it’s the value of our health. So keep protecting your wellbeing, managing your energy, and nourishing you.
About Suzy Reading
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is on the editorial board for Motherdom Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in the hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster came out in 2017, ‘Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents‘ and ‘The Little Book of Self-Care’ came out in 2019. ‘Self-Care for Tough Times’ and her first children’s book ‘This Book Will (Help) Make You Happy’ by Wren & Rook are both hot off the press.
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