The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the state of fear I was in and all the emotions that came with it when my husband suffered his stroke 4 years ago. My anxiety has been creeping in. I was waking up in night sweats. My chest was tight. My breathing short. My heart pumping loud and fast like a drum in my chest. All the old worries came flooding back. How will I pay the bills? What is our children’s future going to be like? How can I continue to support them? How do I manage my husband’s care? I have been tearful. I have felt frightened and left vulnerable once again. It’s as though all those security walls I worked hard to build around myself and family have been smashed down. Once again.
So, I had a little chat with myself. Silently. Just in case the dogs thought I was losing the plot. What did I do last time round? What choices did I make? What can I do differently? I am sharing them with you as they helped me enormously and I hope they will for you too.
I chose to take action. Choose action over fear. Every time.
Instinctively I knew that if I didn’t reduce my stress levels, I wouldn’t be able to help anyone. I was like a headless chicken running around in circles achieving nothing. This time round it is different. I am not alone. We are in this together and together we can help one another. Turning your focus on how you can help others puts you into action and makes you feel better. It feels amazing to be able to help others and knowing the pleasure it brings to them makes you feel good about yourself too, so it’s a win-win situation. A warm fuzzy feeling like a mug of delicious hot chocolate. My focus at that time was getting the best help I could for my husband and emotional damage limitation for my children. Now, many of us are in lockdown and unable to leave our homes except for essential purposes, so it may be that you pick up the phone and check in with others and offer emotional support. It’s that simple. Ask yourself what can you do to help those in your household? Make a cup of tea for them, empty the dishwasher/washing machine, cook a meal or pick up the hoover and help with chores.
It is vital you take care of yourself too. Mentally and physically. I turned to the 3 pillars I use in my Stress to Success Program. Nutrition, Movement & Wellbeing.
Nutrition: I have to confess that I was never into cooking. I love to eat but I didn’t have the patience for cooking. I was done after all the prep work! As I began researching how food not only nourishes our body but there is also a whole brain/body connection going on I became fascinated with what I was ingesting. I wanted foods that were going to help my husband’s brain recovery. Foods that would help with his depression and help boost my mood. Foods that were helping the immune system, lower my stress and give me energy. So, I got busy in the kitchen. With this new mindset in place I actually love to cook. I know! From friends and family telling me I “could burn a salad” to this new passion is quite remarkable. We have plenty of home time now so it’s a great opportunity to get busy in the kitchen and improve your dietary habits. You may even find it to be a great stress reliever.
Movement: Lack of exercise, poor sleep and chronic stress place pressure on our complex immune system which helps fight disease and illness. So, I do something physical every day. And yes, housework, gardening, a gentle stroll and stretching counts. Exercise for me is a mental and physical work out. Daily exercise has shown to have a host of health benefits as well as being an excellent way to de stress. I tune in to my body. Do I fancy yoga, a HIIT work out or strength training today? The key is to mix it up and enjoy what you do.
Wellbeing: Prior to my husband’s stroke, I thought wellbeing was for hippy dippy types or “airy fairy” types of people as my late father would have said. How wrong I was. Learning to meditate, practice gratitude and develop a morning and evening routine helped restore calm to my crazy buzzing mind and provide some control. Have you ever had great ideas come to you whilst in the shower? It’s a bit like that. Taking time out to readjust or revisit a situation and find a solution. Just having a good night’s sleeps can set you up for the challenges of the following day.
Which leads me to answer my question “What can I do differently?”. Ask for help! I tend to bottle things up and try to do everything myself. I am still a work in progress but seriously, why not ask for help? What’s the worst that can happen? They say no and you feel rejected. For a little while. Ask someone else. There are lovely, kind people out there who will gladly help. And you could be one of them. Don’t keep things to yourself. It will keep you in that state of fear. Voice your concerns. Share your opinion. Listen. Laugh. Share. You are not alone. We are all facing uncertain and challenging times. When we come out of this horrendous situation how do you want to feel about the way you showed up during this time? What could you be most proud of?
Your health is your wealth and you are your most important asset.