by Saranne Postans
Anxiety’s a strange thing and it shows up in different people in different ways. For me it starts as a niggling, unsettled feeling in my tummy and, over time, becomes constant pins and needles in my shoulders, regular headaches and an inability to stay asleep past 3am.
Before lockdown began I had several of these warning signs, my sleep was messed up, my head ached most days and I felt a general sense of unease that wouldn’t go away.
Thankfully, I’ve learned to spot the signs over the years and understand what to do to take care of myself. Here are my fail safes…
I meditate every day.
At the moment I’m using an app called Calm. There are lots of apps out there, including Headspace, Insight Timer and Aura. If you’ve never meditated before and are worried it might be a bit ‘woo woo’, it can be as simple (and effective!) as slowing down, realising that you’re still breathing and checking out what’s happening in your body.
If you want to give it a go I’d encourage you to try a few different apps to get a feel for them before signing up.
I go outside as much as I can.
I’m lucky enough to have some lovely countryside within walking distance and, especially in these lockdown weeks, have done what I can to get out every day, even if only for 20 minutes round the block. When I haven’t had enough time to get out for a walk, I’ve spent time in the garden – I’m no gardener but the bargain hammock I bought from eBay has been a winner!
Wherever you live, even in the city, there are likely to be trees and green space within walking distance. It doesn’t need to be beautiful rolling countryside – a city park is enough to experience nature. It shows you that, whatever’s going on in your life, the seasons continue to move along, just as they have always done.
I spend time with the people I love.
I’ve spent more time with my family (hubby and two teens) in the last eight weeks than I have, well, maybe ever! It’s been brilliant to reconnect with them, watch TV together (we hadn’t done that for YEARS before lockdown) and play board games (if you want a recommendation, try Ticket to Ride). I’ve been pleasantly surprised that we haven’t got fed up with each other and, while we’ve all had our ups and downs, I’m so glad I have my brilliant home team.
I’m also really grateful for lovely friends. Several group Zoom calls, a couple of games of online Cards Against Humanity, a quiz and some straightforward chat, giggles and tears have been priceless on trickier days.
I am kind to myself.
Now, this one is tough. Like many of us I have a voice in my head that can be REALLY unkind. She likes to tell me about all the things I haven’t done or how crap a daughter/sister/friend I am. I definitely wouldn’t say these things out loud to another person so why do I allow them to be said inside my head?
Well, it’s pretty simple really – it’s a protection mechanism. Our brains like everything to be safe and so try to keep everything the same. Doing something different may put us in danger and so our brains respond by trying to convince us not to change things.
To deal with the mean girl in my head, the first thing I had to do was become aware of her. This awareness meant I could hear her and understand what she was trying to tell me, which has been, literally, life-changing. Although I’m a work in progress, I know now that the most important thing I can do to take care of myself is to be kind to myself.
For this skill I am absolutely thankful to Fresh Air Fridays – it’s one of the biggest things I learnt as a member and facilitator. Fresh Air Fridays’ work is all about taking people outside and giving them the space, support and skills to take care of their own wellbeing.
Lockdown has posed some pretty obvious challenges to Fresh Air Fridays’ work and so they’ve adapted and changed, innovating as many others have. They’re now working with people virtually in a number of ways, one of which is called Breathing Space – a 30-minute session designed to enable you to take a little time out, just for you.
An original unplugger, Saranne is a communications professional with 20 years experience. Alongside her communications work she is an accredited coach working with leaders, teams and individuals to support work and life transitions. She is passionate about mental health and wellbeing and has worked with Fresh Air Fridays, both as a facilitator and developing its marketing and communications.
— Monday 18th May —