Megan de Beyer is a psychologist and the author of “How to Raise a man - a modern mothers guide to parenting her teenage son.”
How is stress showing up for you? Even the most resilient of you will be experiencing some symptoms of anxiety.
It may show up as changes in your sleeping patterns or appetite; physical tension in the jaw or shoulders; strange dreams; snapping at loved ones or literally 'crying over spilt milk'.
Your nervous system is trying to adapt to your changed routine, of being locked up indoors all day,or suddenly being up close and personal with the family, hour by hour.
What are the changes we are facing?
Extroverts are happy in lockdown with good friends, as they need to connect.
Introverts might be okay if they can get loads of alone time to self-soothe.
Yet most of you (except the extreme sports junkies or those who have been in rehab or prison) have never experienced this combination of self-isolation, job insecurity, extreme change of daily routine, loss of social contact, increased online use, no dance class, no art class, shopping malls, workplaces, gyms, beauty salons, or book shops to browse in.
No outdoor fix for the nature junkie, no beach nor promenade run or ice-cold dips in the ocean.
All those random spontaneous acts that kept our spirits alive are also over. Even a nap in the sun doesn’t feel like the delicious moment it used to be.
Yes, your mind/body/soul is involved in a big-time adjustment.
Why and how must we expect anxiety to rise?
For me, there are two major reasons for the stress: the change and the unknown.
There are four ways we react to stress: thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviour. The uncertainties, as well as our stress response, have ramped up big time.
The unknown relates to the unpredictability of the future and the volatility of things.
The virus, our work-life, family wellbeing and future doubts pervade our thoughts.
Our minds are working overtime. These thoughts impact on our feelings, bodies and behaviour.
Reactions and Behaviour
Are you battling to focus? Are you unable to get out of bed? Demotivated? Snapping at loved ones?
Reaching for alcohol or another cookie? Obsessed with the news? Unable to work and unable to follow your schedule?
If it’s yes to a few of these, then it is time to prioritize wellness.
High-stress levels lead to erratic behaviour and irrational decisions.
Hold back on big decisions and remind yourself to open to different perspectives.
What can you do?
1. Feel the strange feelings
Acknowledge the loss of all that you normally enjoy. Frustration may well up, feel it!Then anger, then shock, then loss.
There will be a whole range of feelings that need to be felt. Journal these feelings.Keep a daily record.
Approach yourself with kindness and compassion. Imagine, as Rumi (the poet) says, that you are a guest house, and to welcome in all these feelings as 'guests'.
When the bad ones stay for longer, then imagine the more pleasant 'guests' and invite them in.
I like to imagine the best outcome and allow good feelings to arise. It shifts pessimism.
2. Talk things through with a buddy
Name a friend as your ‘check-in’ buddy. You are in physical isolation but not social isolation.
You can reach out. Be honest. You can talk. Have a laugh together.
Try connecting with a group of friends with Zoom or House-Party apps.
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3. Make a self-care plan
Set up some online classes.Wellness options are on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Instagram and on apps like Headspace, Calm and InsightTimer.
There is a lot out there so tailor your week with things you enjoy so that you look forward to the classes.
Do not get FOMO because your friends are doing other classes. Stick with what suits you.
An online gym session; a yoga class; an art group, a scrabble group or a book club. Take time out to read, write, sketch and find some alone time.
Create a happy playlist of your favourite music genre.
Baths and showers can become pampering rituals. Get fresh air daily even if it is breathing out the window.
Take an interest in the sky, the clouds and the birds on a daily basis.
I highly recommend waking at sunrise and enjoying the pause as the night turns into day.
4. Achieve something daily
This can be work or anything that brings you satisfaction. Even if it’s as simple as tidying out a drawer, or reading a poem.
Then say to yourself: "this is enough" - being is more important than doing right now.
Do something physical like plant a pot, weed the garden, change a tyre or paint a wall.
Time limit tech, and take a break from hard surfaces and screens.
5. Check-in with your thoughts
Stop looking at the dramatic news. Find the website that gives you the best data, facts and advice and stop feeding the frenzy of worry.
Is this worry or thought helpful or unhelpful? Can I find another perspective? Take a bird’s eye view.
Be open to different options. Accept more and react less.
There is not much you can control except your attitude and where you focus your attention.
Calm your thoughts with the ideas below, or distract them by doing something you enjoy.
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6. Soulful and mindful practices
What brings you meaning? What calms the heart and soul? These are very important to include right now.
I love to sketch flowers or leaves, listen to the birds, write poetry or meditate.
Be mindful of the little things. Make your tea slowly, savour your meal, smile and look in the eyes of your loved one.
I like to let go of thinking and open to my sense and simple awareness. Sit still in meditation - use a guided one or try yoga nidra.
Try praying, listen to soothing music, saying mantras or sing and hum. I listen to a spiritual teacher daily and allow my mind to contemplate higher truths.
Metta is an awesome meditation that teaches loving compassion.
Begin your gratitude book again.
These practices will help calm you.
Begin one now.
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