Written by Kelly Louise Marshall & Image by Deborah Anderson
‘Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.’ – Lao Tzu
As a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, for many of us, over the past eight months, our lives have changed drastically. Whether that be through working from home, socialising less, or not being able to visit loved ones. Our lives are just not same. Even if we choose to go to shops and restaurants in the quest to find some kind of a norm, everything we do has an added anxiety looming over us. It’s difficult to really feel ‘carefree’ anymore.
So, as we begin a second lockdown here in England, there are probably a whole host of emotions, thoughts and worries that are racing through our bodies and minds. However, as Deborah was saying in the previous blog, on the plus side we have all experienced this before. So hopefully we can keep some of the things that we’ve learnt previously, with us. Perhaps we can even become more content in doing less and being more. As, if we can bring a level of acceptance to how our lives are right now, in this moment, instead of fighting against it and wishing things were different, we may even be able to find some positives in this really difficult situation.
For example, in Yogic traditions there is a word that describes a state we can aim to be in, called Santosha. The definition of this is as follows:
‘Santosha, or contentment, means keeping a positive attitude in difficult times. We can choose to wallow in darkness or difficulty, or we can rise above our challenges and see them as opportunities for transformation, and the discovery of immense and lasting joy. The more we choose contentment, the more we are able to grow.’
So, here are five top tips to help us to stay present, mindful and in a state of ‘Santosha’, through these tough times, as we don our boxing gloves, ready for round two:
1: Meditate, Meditate, Then Meditate Some More…
Meditation is one of the simplest, yet most effective tools we have as human beings. The more it is researched the more the amazing benefits of it are found. Not only mental health benefits, such as a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression, along with a more positive state of mind and outlook, but also physical benefits too, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol, boosting of our immune systems and lessening of chronic pain. People who meditate often find they sleep better too. It also helps us to learn to live more mindfully and in the moment.
You don’t even have to leave the house to go to a class to meditate anymore, because meditation is everywhere. You have access to mindfulness through apps such as Calm or Headspace. There are also loads of freebies on YouTube, such as this one for reducing anxiety by Jason Stephenson, called ‘The Alchemist’
Or if guided meditation isn’t your thing, you can simply practice focusing on your breathe for a couple of minutes. This can be used whenever you feel anxiety or stress creeping up on you. The 4, 6, 8 technique is perfect to slot into your day, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing:
Simply inhale slowly, through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breathe for a count of six. Then exhale again slowly, through your nose, for a count of eight. Then repeat. Ideally for around two minutes.
After just a couple of minutes of this, you will feel calmer, less stressed, more focused, and hopefully, ready to face whatever challenges the day has in store for you.
2: Keep A Routine –
It’s important right now, when we can easily slip into a state of slumber, or become completely unmotivated, that we take the time to plan our days. To have some sense of a routine. Sooo, why not invest in a weekly planner, so that you can plan your days. Include your daily exercise, any work you have to do, leisure time etc, in that planner, and then tick it off when it’s done.
You can also use a fantastic method called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s this brilliant time management method, that was developed by a man named Francesco Cirillo, in the 1980’s. What you do is, before beginning a task, you set a timer for 25 minutes. At the end of that 25 minutes you take a short, five minute break, where you do something else completely unrelated to the task. It could be stretching, making a cuppa, walking round the house, dancing to a favourite tune. Whatever you fancy. Then after four rounds, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Once you've done that, it's time to go back to the beginning again.
The benefits of this technique are that you get to train your brain to focus on one task at a time, then you have a little break and a chance to reset your brain, before you begin again. This can also make tasks and time feel more manageable and stop any feelings of overwhelm. Which is brilliant right now when everything feels so overwhelming. It also gives you that sense of routine, and you will probably feel so much better if you can keep some sort of schedule right now, rather than just aimlessly drifting through your days
3: Be Kind To Yourself –
If a friend came to you and they were completely in the pits of despair. If they were on a complete downer about themselves, then what would you say to them? I mean you may be thinking, ‘For God’s sake Joanne, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get a grip woman.’ But hopefully, you wouldn’t actually say that.
So, why are we sometimes so harsh on ourselves? Promise me now, you won’t be anymore. Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend, ie BE KIND. If you want you can even try reciting this Loving Kindness mantra when you meditate, or when you look in the mirror:
First, picture yourself with a golden light all around yourself, then say, ‘May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be safe, may you be loved.’
The world is hard enough right now, we don’t need to punish ourselves.
Or, you could read a fabulous self-help book, such as Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. In the book she explores the way that limiting thoughts and ideas can restrict us, and stop us from living our best lives. Louise teaches us techniques for how to change those limiting thoughts and ideas.
4: As Some Bloke Called Frankie, From The Eighties Once Said, Relax…
What do you like to do to relax? It could be an exercise like dance, yoga or surfing. Or maybe it’s something less vigorous, like watching back-to-back episodes of your favourite Netflix show. It could be painting your nails, or reading a book, or simply getting out for a walk in nature. Whatever it is that makes you feel chilled, do it.
Journaling can also be a great way to get rid of our worries and demons too. There is a writing tool used by many writers, called ‘Morning Pages’, where you keep a journal beside your bed, then upon waking in the morning, the first thing you do is write in a stream of consciousness for ten minutes about whatever comes into your mind. It’s a great way to learn to vent, then reflect, then draw a line under and close the pages (literally), on our worries.
Because when the world is as stressful as it is right now, it’s really difficult not to get pulled into the collective stress that we are witnessing all around us. That’s what makes it’s so important to have some relaxation time too. As I said before, be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to just be.
5: Set Goals -
What ridiculousness is this? You may be asking. How can I set goals when I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring?
Well, while it may not be possible to achieve some of our larger scale goals right now, like travelling the globe. We can still set and achieve our smaller scale goals. For example, we may not be able to travel right now, but we can still create and plan a list of all the places we want to go when the Pandemic is over. We could even go so far as to plan out the route we will take and the hotels we will stay in, so that it is all in place for when we can begin to travel again. Or maybe we want to learn something new, a language, a skill, even something that is a hobby, like a craft, or art activity. Why not take that free online course, that you’ve been putting off for ages, but now have time to do? There are loads of options, some of which can be found over at www.futurelearn.com
Start where you are, write a list of goals and tick them off as you achieve them. The smaller scale goals can also be working towards a larger scale one, as I said before. Just do what you can now, in this moment, and don’t whatever you do punish yourself if you don’t achieve them. Just take a step back, re-adjust, re-set, and keep on keeping on.
However, on the days when you feel like you just can’t keep on keeping on and you would rather stick a firework in your eye than set another goal, don’t. Because that’s fine too. Just allow yourself to do whatever feels best for you in that moment. No pressure. You can start again tomorrow (or the day after that).
So there they are, five tips to help you stay a little more in the moment, during Lockown numero-twomoro!
Hopefully, now, despite the way that our lives are constantly changing because of this horrible virus, you are feeling a little more positive about the things that you can do to make your life better. Because the one thing we have all gained right now is more time, so why not use it productively and to our own benefit? Why not use it to reach a state of Santosha?
As while the pandemic may be out of our hands to a large extent, our lives are still our own. Focus on the positives, however small, and never lost sight of your dreams. Or more importantly, your sense of wellbeing.
Finally, here are some resources that you may find helpful:
Have a great week.
Peace, Love N Lipgloss,
Kelly Louise Marshall