It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.Leon C. Megginson
I’ve just come off the back of an unexpected period of intense and stressful days. Lots of family stuff. Some big decisions after life suddenly changed. A stupid amount of work and juggling of things to be done in a ridiculously short time frame. And the need to pose hypothetical questions and come up with possible solutions to problems we haven’t faced yet but might soon, given that we are living in a time of great uncertainty.
By last night I was shattered, physically and emotionally.
It’s a place I’ve been before, and the choices I make once I get to this place become critical. If I make good decisions I come back to center quickly, and my coping skills kick in and I find my feet again, no matter how bumpy the ground. If I make poor decisions I usually come crashing down, get sick, lose my resilience and end up deep down a hole that takes a long time to find my way back out of.
I speak from hard-won experience here. So, given that life is tough for many right now, I thought I’d share my top tips for managing myself back to a better place, in the hopes that this will help you too. If you’re in lockdown or your life has been turned upside down by COVID I want you to know that as a chronic illness sufferer I have already walked this path – I’ve been a shut-in, I’ve had shitty unbearable diagnoses, I’ve lost jobs and been in economic uncertainty, had sudden expenses right when I was stretched tight, I’ve had relationships fail, I’ve lived with climate uncertainty, family hardship, and I’ve had everything around me crumble and needed to find a way to get back up and deal with it, knowing there was no-one to rely on but me. I’m an old hand at this. I want you to know that all of this can be managed. You can find a way through all of if – if you just get yourself in the right head space first.
- Sleep and rest. Seriously, nothing works with no sleep. When I am shattered, all that matters is that I get myself to bed. If necessary I will put myself to bed before the sun goes down, or I will do all the things needed to get me to sleep (warm shower, dark room, magnesium, lavender essential oil, and if I’m really a mess I may even take a sleeping aid). Why? No-one can think, heal or cope on lack of sleep. Staying up late, endlessly scrolling Facebook or watching Netflix all night won’t help. Sleep does. If you need to, juggle your schedule and make some space for yourself. Give yourself the rest and time you need.
- Ramp up self-care. It’s easy to let self-care slide when you are stressed, depressed or feeling unsupported, lonely and unloved. What does self-care look like? Showering and wearing clean clothes or pyjamas, eating well, staying hydrated, cleaning up after myself. It might be easier to eat junk or to comfort eat, to drink alcohol or resort to other numbing behaviours, but they only ever make you feel worse. So, I keep self-care easy, but I make myself do it. I always have a few easy and healthy go-to meal options. Brains and nervous systems need fat and protein and carbs. Healthy food. Foods that fuel you. I tidy my workspace and keep the kitchen and bathroom clean. I make my bed if I’m not in it.
- Get it off your chest. Phone a trusted friend (or Skype or Zoom or whatever works for you). Oh my goodness, the comfort of another human voice. Someone to sit on the end of a phone or a screen and listen as you pour your heart out. Haven’t got someone to talk to? I’ve been in that space too. Try talking out loud to yourself, and reassuring and encouraging yourself. Talk to God or the sky or trees or your pet. Write in your journal. All of those things help calm your mind and unburden you of some of your pain.
- Fresh Air and Movement. It’s proven that being able to see trees, sky or ocean helps to calm us. If you can’t get outside look out a window, use visualisation or look for images that evoke feelings and memories of the outdoors. If possible go for a walk, or do some stretches, yoga or dancing. Getting your blood circulating and oxygenating will always help you elevate your mood.
- Own Your Situation. The faster you can adapt, the faster you will get unstuck and get moving again. Accept where you are at, even if you don’t like it, and start from there. Don’t wait for things to change, or for someone to save you. Keep asking yourself What else could I do? What other solutions or possibilities are there?
- Create a Plan. And have a back-up plan too, just in case. There is nothing worse than being stuck and feeling like you have no control over anything. Granted, you might not have much control over external things, but you can ALWAYS have control over your thoughts and emotions. When you start thinking about what your possibilities are, and look for ways to create solutions, you begin to empower yourself again. Stuck for where to start? Try Google. Someone out there has been through what you are going through and will have tips, strategies and suggestions you can use. You could also try a counselor, therapist or coach. Create a plan for yourself, and start to work the plan. (Need fresh eyes on your situation? I can help. More details here.)
- Create some simple routines and habits. Routines and habits reassure us, and help us to move from lost and overwhelmed back to anchored and safe.
- Trust that you can find a way through, or cope with whatever comes. It might sound crazy, but some of my biggest breakthroughs, self-realisations, spiritual insights, positive changes and new opportunities have come from the shittiest of life’s circumstances. Somehow, I have made it through. I know that you can too.
Thinking of you, and sending love, Nicole xx