Self-help for Challenging Times

These are difficult times for all of us as we face every aspect of our lives with uncertainty. Bloody difficult. Naturally, we’re all feeling the stressed out and powerless (hence the loo roll madness) and this will impact on our immune system at exactly the time we need to be in robust health.

We need to find healthy ways to soothe ourselves especially when our hormones are shifting in menopause, a naturally more vulnerable time.

As a highly sensitive person, I am familiar with over-stimulation and carrying generalised anxiety in my body and I am VERY good at self-soothing, it’s become habitual for me.

So while things are tough, I’d like to offer you inspiration for healthy self-soothing so you can build your tool-box of soothers to use in your daily life. I’ll cover everything from breath to movies, via flower essences and womb massage so there’ll be something for every taste and situation.

I’m posting thoughts, ideas and practices below as I make them over the coming weeks of virus lockdown. New ideas will be added at the top of the post as we go along, so do bookmark the page and check in again soon.

There’s also a directory of both free and paid for online yoga, meditation, support circles, workshops and 1-2-1’s here. One advantage of self-isolation is that a wealth of healing and yoga is now within reach of our sofa.

I would just love to hear how you soothe yourself so please post your practices and ideas as comments below.

We need each other, we need to lean in and say “I felt anxious this morning, so I went for a walk to feel my feet on the ground” to find our communities. Taking care of yourself gives me permission to take what I need too. If you’d like to join us, we have a lovely community over at Woman Kind.

Self-soothing brings to my mind a child with a comforter, stroking a label or sniffing a special cloth. Too childish? Don’t knock it! As adults, we need this too. We need transitional objects in troubled times to remind us of safety and reduce our cortisol which will actually enhance our immune systems.

Right now, I am feeling the warmth of the sun on my arm as I type and this feels soooo pleasurable.

A creative Exercise to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety

A combination of simple breath exercises and art making, can help bring a person into a more present and calm state of mind.  It’s a simple way of soothing the nervous system, shared from the WellDoing blog. Click here or the image below to see if the exercise would suit you.

Heart-opening rest

In challenging times, our hearts and upper bodies can get stiff and closed in so that we can’t connect with each other or with our own feelings. This sweet heart-opener is one of my favourite ways to rest and open up a little.

Savasana

Savasana means lying down quietly, it’s basically the good bit at the end of your yoga class but in fact, you don’t have to go to a class to get your fix. This is a lovely nervous system soothing, 20-minute, guided relaxation from Birgitte Gorm Hansen. Grab all the cushions and blankets you need, then click on the image below.

savasana

Mindfulness

This was written by my beautiful friend Liza Waller for the Sara Lee Trust newsletter where she supports people with cancer.

Helpful Mindfulness Tips
Mindfulness meditation can be a hugely helpful resource in these challenging times. Here are some of our suggested tips to help you:

Morning
It maybe tempting on waking to turn on the television or radio but notice how this will inevitably feed anxiety and fear. Try changing this habit. Instead call to mind at least 3 positive things in your life and set your intention to remember these throughout the day. Leave the news to headlines only and leave til later on .

Daytime
Enjoy nature around you. Perhaps you are lucky and have a garden and can step out and breathe in fresh air. You can also simply open your window. Notice sights of beauty, the blue sky, the trees or flowers, this spring sunshine. Notice and see if you can enjoy sounds of birds. Feel the cool air on your face. Practice gratitude for the simple gifts that are all also present and allow them to bring you balance and calm. Some calm and gentle yoga or movement can also be helpful.

The mind and thoughts naturally rush off into the future with all the ‘what ifs’. When you notice see if you can gently come back to the present moment. Take a pause, feel your seat on the chair, or if you standing your feet on the ground , take some long deep slow breaths. Notice how and where you are holding tension and see if your body can gently release with each long slow out breath. You can practice these pauses or Breathing spaces during the day.

Observe your thoughts and beliefs right now. Ask yourself what are facts and what are speculations? Living with uncertainty provokes a lot of anxiety for us. We can notice this and bring our intention instead to stay in the present moment, here and now. ‘Let tomorrow look after itself.’

Be really kind to yourself! These are deeply challenging times. Can you be compassionate to yourself as well as others? Practice ways of being intentionally kind to yourself. It can be really helpful to bring your hand to your heart in self support , especially in times when you feel overwhelmed or fearful and your heart may be racing. Bring soothing to yourself as you would naturally to a young child. Hold and cuddle a cushion or pillow for self support if you are living alone And even if not!

Practice generosity too. This can help release fear as we think of others and in whatever way we can, reach out to others. Love is stronger than fear.

It can help to name your worries. Can you reach out and talk with someone about them? However try also not to ruminate and obsess with thoughts that go round and round your head alone or with others. See if you can let the thoughts come and then LET THEM GO. It may be useful to distract by intentionally choosing something else to do or think about.

See if you can develop new routines for yourself (like early morning) .This can help bring stability in such time of change. Those with children at home will find as much steady routine very supportive.

At night
When you are lying in bed and can lie on your back bring one hand to your heart and one to your tummy. Long slow deep breaths. Reflect on the day and recall your positives, practice gratitude for e.g. sunshine, having enough to eat, the phone call with a friend, any little moments when you forgot and were able to simply enjoy a moment. Wish yourself a peaceful night and trust that tomorrow will look after itself.

Remember you are not alone. Things that feel ‘real ‘ may not be true. We are all still connected even if self-isolating.

You can make a donation to the Sara Lee Trust here

Comfort reading

comfort-reading

One of my favourite things, when I’m feeling adrift, is to re-read the books I loved as a child. My very favourite is ‘The Wind in the Willows’  which brings me a deep sense of safety but there are many others that soothe me in troubled times. If you’re feeling wibbly today, why not reach out for a comfort read.

the-wind-in-the-willows

Can you touch yourself with love?

Social isolation is tough and I am so missing those hugs with friends, but you still have yourself, right?

Stroking your own skin, though not as delicious as getting a massage, still produces oxytocin and reduces cortisol.

Massaging your belly will calm the vagus nerve, support your digestion and help with any women’s health issues you may have.

But touching yourself is a tough call. Can you touch yourself with curiosity? At least open the door to the possibility of acceptance? Because right there in your hands is the possibility of creating oxytocin, reducing cortisol, soothing your nervous system and bringing you some calm.

This little vid will show you how to massage your belly 🙃

Self-soothing central 🌺

A shiatsu point for anxiety

shiatsu-point-for-anxiety

This is a really easy self-soother for whenever you’re feeling fearful or anxious. It’s a shiatsu point on the little finger side of your hand, in the dip below the nobbly bone. It goes by the lovely name of ‘spirit gate’ and you can hold it while you take three slow breaths…. ahhh, that’s better 🙂

Breathing your shoulders down

Here’s a quick practice to calm yourself down when things are getting intense, it combines breath with a little shoulder easing and it feels fab. It’s from Eric Franklin’s book ‘Relax your neck and liberate your shoulders’ It’s part of a series of self-soothing practices and ideas to help you manage your nervous system and boost your immune system.

Know your stress type

It’s helpful to understand what your habitual fight/flight/freeze/tend and befriend behaviour is, so you can manage your feelings appropriately.

Some people freeze, go numb or disassociate and might respond well to TRE a shaking therapy to ease trauma, soft movement or a big hug. Where hugs aren’t possible, try wrapping yourself up tightly in a blanket.

Flight people need strong physical action, running, digging, HIIT (or buying loo rolls. )

Fight people have the desire, well, to fight; so expect raised voices and anger. Fight people need to be met and heard in general, express yourself safely.

Tend and befriend people cope with the threat by looking after the people around them, if this is you, remember you need looking after too!

Managing your stress skilfully will help to support your immune system and your hormones too, so important for menopause.

We all need to find ways to express our feelings and be heard and come back to feelings of safety.

Yoga Nidra to switch off and calm

Click on the image to play the Nidra

My sleep has been a bit bumpy this week so I’m making sure I get a nap in every day. Yoga Nidra is a super 2-4-1 deal, you get rest alongside the benefits of meditation and if you fall asleep, that’s fine too win-win.

The better rested we are, the more our bodies can work to build our immune system and of course, soothe our poor nervous systems.

Here’s my Red School colleague Tessa Sanderson with a beautiful practice for you. Click here to switch off and calm.

Calming basics

Before you find your anxiety rising, it’s important to look at the basics of your life and see if you can make any areas more soothing for yourself. Getting overstimulated activates our primitive fight or flight systems and contribute to chronic stress, which will affect both our mental health and our immune system. Basically, imagine what advice a kindly mother figure would give you; your chance to be your own Mary Poppins.

Rhythm

Following a daily rhythm is important for us humans to feel safe and soothed, regular meal times and going to bed/getting up at the same time each day can really make a difference.

Water

Stay hydrated so your body can function well, having a drink near you all the time will help you remember.

Food

Make sure your food is nourishing, not too much sugar and refined carbs and lots of fruit and veggies.

Sleep

Sleep can be hard to come by in anxious times, but you can make a difference by following a regular evening routine. For the days you don’t sleep well, rest with Yoga Nidra or a nap for 20 or 40-mins.

Move it

Get creative and take some kind of pleasurable movement each day, there’s something for every taste online, or put your funky pants on and break loose in the kitchen.

Friends

Connecting with your friends and family is so important, especially at this difficult time. Make regular dates to chat on the phone or on Skype/Zoom/Facetime/WhatsApp, don’t let a day go by without reaching out. There are also lots of support circles online, or you might like our Woman Kind community.

News

Be careful to regulate how much news or social media you take in, it can activate your fight or flight system and badly impact your wellbeing and immunity. Make a plan about how much feels enough.

Share

It’s important to be able to express how we feel and not keep everything bottled up; our feelings won’t hurt us, but expressing them safely will help you cope. Talking with a trusted friend or family member is perfect, but when this isn’t possible you can journal, draw, dance, sing or shout it into the empty air.

Helping others

While you are able to, helping out other people is great for your mental health and for the community. Here’s a great place to start.

Breathe

To instantly calm yourself down, extend your out-breath and blow softly as though you were blowing on a baby’s foot. Let your in-breath come naturally and breathe out in the same way, repeat as required.

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