For Sydneysiders living in lockdown, many of us are living with daily worries from lack of sleep, fatigue, lethargy, to negative thoughts and stress. At times stress in small amounts can be good as it allows us to do well and perform at our best. This positive stress helps motivate us, focus our energy, feels exciting, allows us to rise to the challenge, and improves our performance. When it is fleeting it is a sign that our body is performing at its best. When we are put in situations like living in lockdown, we may start to feel stressed constantly, which is when problems may arise.
Unfortunately, we cannot have an OFF switch and stop stress in our life, however, we can use techniques to change how we react to those situations.
Looking for some ways to help release anxiety and stress, create mindfulness, and balance while stuck at home during the lockdown. Here are my 9 top tips:
1 – Connect with others / spend time with a pet
If you live alone, schedule regular zoom coffee catchup with your friends. If you live with family or friends, have set times to connect over a meal, movie or board game. Don’t forget to spend time with your pets too. Cuddling them can have huge benefits.
2 – Maintain a routine
It is really easy to use this time to sleep in, spend all day in your pyjamas, let the exercise routine slip and go straight from the bed to the couch. However, it helps to keep a routine, especially in the morning. Getting dressed as you would typically start your day, can help set your mind up to focus on what you want to achieve for the day. You may find now you have some extra time in your day, which you could use for a daily family walk before school or work starts. Trying to stick to the same time for getting up, doing exercise and eating meals keeps us feeling more productive and energised.
3 – Take time out for yourself “ME” time
If you are living with others and are with others 24 hours a day, you will need some time to reconnect with yourself. Even as little as five to ten minutes sitting outside with a book in the garden or on your balcony, having a bath, lying peacefully in a room and focusing on your breathing, writing in a journal, listening to a guided meditation or your favourite song are all important ways for you to reset and reconnect. My children (tween and a teen) have used lockdown to clean up their desk drawers and along the way discovered some art and books they used to love doing, forgotten about, but picked up these activities and enjoying them again.
4 – Do something new
Just adding a little bit of variety will give you a break from the groundhog-day feeling and the on-repeat schedule. Doing a suduko puzzle book, trying new recipes with your friends, or rediscovering your love of Yahtzee can help break up the monotony and keep you creatively busy.
5 – Try meditation or breathing techniques
I am always asked if you need to sit in silence for a long time to experience meditation. If you have the time – great! However, even five minutes can slow the internal chatter (or ‘’monkey brain’’), calm the thoughts, and set you up for the day ahead. You can do a guided meditation or just sit and be still and keep the awareness on the breath.
If you are new to breathing techniques, just sit straight (in a chair or cross-legged on the floor) and close your eyes. As you breathe in through your nose, count in your mind for a count of five, then out for a count of five.
Not up for trying a seated meditation? Try “crocodile pose’’, which is said to help reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia. This pose is done lying face down with feet wider than your hips and forehead resting on your hands with your elbows bent. Close your eyes, and if you like, add in some simple affirmations. As you inhale say – Breath in. As you exhale say – Relax.
6 – Limit media intake
It can be easy to go on a daily dive down the rabbit hole of social media. Sometimes you might look for an update of Covid news and find that you are still watching two hours later. It is important to stay informed, however, try to limit your news and social media time to once in the morning and once in the evening to avoid feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and worried.
7 – Do something for others, and give back
Even if you are in isolation during the lockdown, thinking of others can be helpful. Email, call or text someone who may be living alone. Look for actions you can do to help in your community. Bake for your local police or paramedics to thank them for their service in these trying times. Encourage children to write cards for our returning Olympians who are in hotel isolation for two weeks and missing out on the celebrations of their success. Think about neighbours that you know are sick or elderly.
In yoga, we practise Metta, also known as loving-kindness meditation. Practising this meditation is a form of self-care as well as thinking of others. It can be used to help reduce stress, send love and kindness to others, and feel connected (even if not face to face with others).
8 – Using affirmations for positive self-talk
When we are worried we are thinking in the future (unknown) or past (repeat of what has happened). Take some time to think about how you talk to yourself as well. A lot of the time we are talking to ourselves harshly, rather than the way we would talk to our best friend.
Introducing positive affirmations can allow us to attract more positive thoughts in our minds and help us cope with our worries and fears. When we are setting affirmations, remember to use the ‘’P’s” – keeping them Positive, Personal and in the Present (as if happening now). Try to say them at the same time each day so they become part of your routine. Say them when doing some deep breathing, upon waking before starting your day, and again before going to sleep. Really anytime when you need them.
Here are just a few examples: I am safe and loved; I am smart and open to learning; I believe in myself; My body is strong and healthy; I am grateful for all the joy in my life; I can make mistakes and still reach my goals
9 – Get moving
It is important to keep some exercise during the lockdown. If you do not have exercise as part of your routine, now is a great time! It will help our physical and mental wellbeing, and also helps with stress, anxiety, ability to get a good night’s sleep, increase our happiness levels, and help to release tightness from all the sitting we are doing at home. Even if you are unable to go for a walk (if you are in isolation) try a few minutes running on the spot, doing some star jumps, dancing to a YouTube video, or following a fitness routine online, can make a huge difference. Dance like no one is watching!
At our house, we do mini exercise breaks of ten minutes, such as a quick walk in between classes, or handball on the deck.
Heidi Horne is a Yoga and Wellness Teacher and Positive Mindset Coach. She loves to share her passion for creating balance and wellbeing and inspiring others with her retreats, online courses and yoga teacher training. Sign up here for a free download of her Body Scan 10-minute Guided Meditation. https://bit.ly/3yvGrVa
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is to be used as a guide only, and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional.