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The 5-a-day campaign recommends eating a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day to maintain a healthy body. The New Economics Foundation claims that five small actions per day can too promote a healthy mind. A review of the work of over 400 scientists from across the world led to the creation of a set of five simple actions which can improve emotional well-being in everyday life.
During the Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown, therapist self-care is more important than ever. Not only do we take on our clients’ issues with the aim of helping them overcome personal difficulties, but we are currently also managing their anxieties about the coronavirus outbreak: what it means to them, to their loved ones and how to cope with being locked down and unable to engage in their usual routines and leisure activities. As therapists, we too are dealing with our own distressing feelings about this outbreak. If we ever need tips on self-care, it is now!
The 5-actions-a-day for mental health are outlined below. I have adapted these to complement the current lockdown scenario, offering ideas on how to best incorporate these suggestions within the limits imposed on us by the current circumstances. Please feel free to share your own ideas below..
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful and remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
Our permitted daily outing can present an opportunity to notice the first buds of spring. Perhaps lighting a candle as evening approaches can offer a relaxing few moments while watching the flame’s flickering dance. One of the benefits of being at home is having a lot more time on our hands, taking moments to notice our surroundings and to reflect, or to be grateful for what we do have. For those juggling working from home and having children around, what a great opportunity to play with them a bit more and notice how quickly they are growing, learning to talk, becoming independent…
Go for a walk or run. Step outside, cycle, play a game, garden, dance. Exercise makes you feel good.
Once again, the daily outing can provide opportunities to be active. YouTube has an immense array of workout videos, dance classes, yoga practices to sample. Countless gym and dance studios are offering courses via Zoom and other group conferencing platforms. Engaging in some DIY, like clearing out the garage or shed can also count as physical activity, while possibly providing extra space or a much-needed therapeutic sense of clearing out clutter. These are great solo activities but also many which can involve the whole family.
With the people around you – at home, at work and in the local community. Building these connections or ‘cornerstones’ of your life will support and enrich you.
This particular one is the challenge these days, isn’t it? For some, the challenge is being cooped up in common areas, being on top of each other. For others, it is the isolation. Technology usually gets a negative reputation for alienating us from one another. It is actually proving to be our saviour at this time, giving us a way of staying connected with our family and friends.
Skype wine evenings, FaceTime coffee meet-ups, Zoom, Google Groups or HouseParty gatherings are helping us stay in touch, keep up-to-date and give us a semblance of (or a new way of having) a social life.
Try something new. Sign up for that course. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
Once again, online learning is flourishing at the moment. Universities offer courses via Coursera. The Open University (OpenLearn) also offers free distance learning courses on a variety of subjects. Udemy offers low-cost courses in countless subjects from Life Coaching to Creative Writing to Public-Speaking.
While many struggle to find time (and space) with children and spouses at home these days, creativity is key here. Children too may benefit from being entertained via these sources, perhaps some can be done as a family. For those struggling to find things to do with so much time on their hands, this is a chance to grab the guitar or paintbrush and check to see whether an unemployed musician or artist is offering classes online.
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Smile or volunteer your time. Look out as well as in. Seeing yourself linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
One thing I appreciate about the British is how well organised you are about ‘getting organised’. Charities and community groups sprout everywhere in normal times, but especially now. Facebook community support groups provide a voice for the vulnerable to reach out for help. My neighbourhood in West London has organised a fundraising and help-giving service via Social Media, not only for our specific community but for hospitals and GP practices in the area. Opportunities abound to drop off surgical masks, gloves or snacks for NHS staff. Groups are organising volunteers to help the vulnerable in the community: walking their dogs, dropping off groceries, or running errands for the elderly.
Opportunities for giving are plentiful at the moment. Not only will we be helping the world, our city or our village during this tough time, but we will be helping ourselves to feel part of something bigger, providing us with a sense of belonging at a time when we most need to feel connected.
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