Week Seven: Getting used to the new normal, for now

I was on the phone with one of my best friends last night while she was making extremely bougie looking nachos. She said she wanted to pretend she was having brunch out in Dublin.

We were chatting about aspects of our personality that we thought could do with some improvement.

“I don’t think I’m that adventurous, that’s something I want to work on.” 

“Hannah, you moved to Australia, I would say you are fairly adventurous.”

“I moved with my routine though.”

*Before saying the next statement, I want to make it very clear that I am in no way content that coronavirus is happening.*

I don’t mind lockdown.

Once again, I am not saying I love it and I am certainly not delighted that we are all living through a pandemic,

But, 

I don’t mind lockdown. 

Our favourite question to all our loved ones at the moment seems to be; “Well, how are you handling everything?” 

There’s a mixed response. Some people are finding it hard to cope without their routine, others are not finding it easy to spend so much time with their own thoughts, some are starting podcasts and even more are baking banana bread. 

I am not a university certified Self-care Specialist so feel free to take everything I am about to say here as you like. I can only ever offer my anecdotes and life experience. 

I think a lot of people are currently, or will soon struggle with the lack of structure, increased alone time and widespread worry lighting up our phone screens. People who thought they were completely content might realize that they actually hate their commute or even their industry. People might realize that they don’t like the house their living in, or their roommates or their roommate’s dog. Whatever. All I know is that loads of people are getting divorced in China after having to spend a significant amount of time together so that might be saying something about how so much time alone can change our perspective. 

We’re living through strange times, obviously, and each and every individual has a unique defence mechanism when they feel that life as they personally know it is being attacked.

For week seven’s blog, I want to help anyone who might be reading this, anyone who might be reading this and might be feeling a bit yuck in their current circumstances.

Q. So, why would anyone listen to my advice, the advice of someone who is not a Selfcare Specialist, in the hope of improving their likelihood of staying sane?

A. I spent a significant time visiting a number of mental health professionals in an effort to overcome anorexia and anxiety. As many of us know, both conditions are often deeply rooted in feeling out of control. At present, many of us may be feeling like life is a little out of control.

My experience of both the condition and the treatment left me with a great skill. That skill is recognizing and managing my mood before it gets to breaking point. 

You don’t need to have, or previously have had anorexia or anxiety or any emotional illness to be having a shit time during the lockdown. You may have thought you were the most laid back person up until this whole thing kicked off. Maybe that’s changed now. Maybe you’re experiencing feelings that are making you feel overwhelmed. Maybe you’re genuinely feeling worried about how you feel. 

All of this is okay and totally natural. 

The only reason I am genuinely okay at the moment is because I have put a serious amount of time into learning how to look after my emotional wellness. It’s a formulaic routine. I might seem adventurous or feel like I’m doing something scary, such as moving to Australia but wherever I go, my routine comes with me. 

Maybe having a routine will help you too. 

If you’re feeling shit, here are a few things that I think will genuinely help you.

Write down why you’re feeling shit

Whether it’s a scattering of words or a short novel, just rip out a sheet and write down everything that is causing you to feel negative. Once you have that jotted down, create another column and write down what might help alleviate the negative emotion. 

Eg.

  1. I feel claustrophobic and trapped in the house all day.
  2. Maybe if I go out to the garden and water the plants or read my book outside I’ll feel better.

Eg. 

  1. I feel lonely and unmotivated to do anything
  2. Maybe I should face-time my friend and we can come up with a hobby we can do together remotely.

Eat well

This might seem like a no-brainer but sometimes stress can make us completely lose our appetite, or on the flipside, it can cause over-eating. Both of those scenarios should be taken seriously if they you start noticing them. Others might just not feel motivated to cook a nice meal and end up snacking on crappy options. One of the best things that ever happened to me in my ED recovery was gaining a huge appreciation and creativity towards good food. Chopping veg can in fact be an act of mindfulness if you let it. There can be joy in nailing a new recipe. Getting three meals a day and two snacks keeps you fulfilled and alert. If you’re struggling with your eating in any shape or form, chat to someone you trust, there’s power in speaking out loud and often we answer our own questions once we start vocalising how we might be feeling, whether that’s around food or pretty much anything else.

Wake up and fall asleep at the same time

Most of us have lost our commutes if we’re still lucky enough to have our jobs. This change can tempt all of us into staying up late and waking up 10 minutes before work starts. That is a sure way to feel unmotivated and uninspired. Trust me, I did one eight hour shift in my pyjamas and the crappy feeling by the end of the day was enough to give me the kick up the arse I needed. 

On that note…

Keep it the same, even if it’s different

A lot of things have changed but we can keep some things the same. We might not be physically going to work but pop on your jeans and a clean shirt, brush your hair, put your eyebrows on, keep some things the same. It will significantly help you move into work mode and put time stamps on different parts of the day so you can become “work you” and then move back to “home and chill you” without leaving the house.

Get fresh air, every.single.day

Get as much fresh air as you can each day, it clears out the brain junk that either accumulated overnight or after a long day. Walking for four minutes is still better than walking for none. I am not a fan of the fitness influencers throwing around hashtags such as “no excuses” and “summer is coming” – people have enough to be worrying about without getting hung up over gym closures, but do get fresh air every single day, your body and mind will thank you for it. 

Unplug 

I am a social media junkie, there’s no denying it, but even I (sometimes) recognize that social media can just cause more stress if you’re already feeling a little nervy. Put your phone into a draw for one hour. What could possibly happen in one hour? Just go on, give it a go, no social media, no calls, no nothing. Pick up something that does not have to be plugged in, a book, a pen, a cat, a dog, a nice fluffy pillow. Sit with yourself, let your thoughts in. Let yourself not be distracted for a full 60 minutes and you’ll be better for it. 

Meditate

I am a very cynical person who used to think mediation was fake news, but it is SO GOOD for clearing out the head. There are so many free videos on Youtube, there are also great apps like Headspace and Calm that offer free trials if you want to dip the toe in but aren’t sure. I only started meditating regularly and at home, as opposed to after yoga classes, since moving to Australia. It’s been my proactive way of acknowledging and processing stress as it arises and it’s been so helpful in staying positive and rational during this time.

Prime example of how mediation can be helpful; I didn’t know what to write about this week. I popped on a quick meditation and now here we are on page 4 of my Google doc. You see? It’s super. 

As I said, I am not a Selfcare Specialist, nor am I a psychologist, but I do know that you don’t need to be someone who is prone to stress to be feeling less than 100% at the moment. I know that the above formula has massively helped me on my way to becoming someone who can handle life a little bit better and especially now. I hope that it can help someone else this week too. Stay safe, stay home.

10 Things I’m Grateful For This Week:

  1. Unorthodox (Netflix)
  2. Vegan cheese that actually melts 
  3. Black coffees on cold mornings
  4. Mr. Veggie (Best Chinese in all of Melbourne)
  5. The return of 3 Girls, 1 Keith (Spotify)
  6. Getting my dream job(s)
  7. Tiger King memes
  8. Freshly laundered sheets
  9. Bright nail polish
  10. Socks and sandals 

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