We're now into our fourth week of lockdown here in the UK and I think the realisation of this situation has hit home with mostly everyone. Daily life has dramatically changed and as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I am hopeful for some good to come from this awful time, but honestly, there will also be a whole load of crap too. People are dying, businesses are folding, many won't have a job to go back to and I won't even pretend to understand what is going to happen to our economy, but of course, the dreaded recession word is being used, and that is never good.
As I sat having lunch today I realised that we are all going through a trauma and I don't think we are giving ourselves the space or time to really process what is going on. If you're anything like me then you have gone into auto-pilot, trying to help everyone else in the family feel OK about what is happening. I'm organising, shopping, cleaning, sorting, playing, teaching, cooking, washing, listening, chatting etc etc, What I'm not doing is taking time to think through how all these changes impact me.
I realised a couple of weeks ago that something was wrong as I kept wanting to buy hand sanitiser even though I didn't need it, it was almost as if I thought it might get me through this tough time. It was super irrational but the mind plays tricks on us when it feels overloaded. I also recognised that I wasn't getting much done in a day, I felt busier than before the lockdown and how could that be as my work has dried up and I didn't have to go anywhere?
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
We're not machines and the sooner we realise that the better, the enormity of this situation we all find ourselves in, will have a different impact on every one of us. It's difficult, it's hard to process and it is humungous. There is so much uncertainty right now, it's no wonder that we feel a bit off-kilter.
We know that kindness and withholding judgement are essential at the moment. We do not know what is going on in someone else's life and it is not for us to say if it is OK for them to walk their dog four times a day, or to go for a drive in the hills. But we also have to remember that the kindness needs to be extended to ourselves as well.
Self-care is a very popular topic and they'll be loads written about it at the moment especially, but I think self-compassion is more important right now. I'm not talking about having a bubbly bath with candles, although that could be enjoyable and important for you. I'm talking about treating yourself how you would your best friend.
Of course, you're not firing on all cylinders at the moment, achieving the most, looking your best or ploughing through the to-do list but what does it matter? I'm just asking you to extend a little compassion to yourself to remember this is a tough situation you are in and you are worthy of a break.
Here are a few tips for practising self-compassion (and yes I realise some of them seem common sense, but it doesn't make them any less valuable)-
- Identify what you are feeling and name the emotion. Take time to acknowledge that things are difficult right now, and remember it won't last forever.
- Recognise you are not alone in this, suffering is a shared human experience. Most of us are feeling the same at the moment, some just handle (or mask) it better than others.
- Acknowledge that you are beautifully imperfect. We are all created as unique beings, each worthy of respect and valuable in our own right, just by being. It is ok that we have flaws, we can all work together to achieve everything that needs doing.
- Do some physical exercise. Within the first ten minutes of starting to exercise your body will respond with your heart rate increasing meaning there is an increased supply of blood to the brain, making you more alert and blocking pain signals.
- Breath, really breath. Take long and deep breaths. There are loads of meditation, mindfulness or prayer apps out there that you can use. I like Lectio 365 and Soultime.
- Think about your situation as if it was happening to a friend. What would you tell them? How would you respond? Now, do this for yourself. Remember it is all about kindness.
- Do something that you enjoy and that calms or soothes you. These could be the classic self-care tasks - a bath, a hot cup of tea, listen to good music or stroke a pet, or it could be something completely different. No-one else has to approve, it just has to be good for your soul.
- Keep a journal. Be really honest with yourself, no-one else has to read it. I find it helpful to just sit and allow the pen to write whatever comes to my mind. It doesn't have to be tidy, aesthetically pleasing or even cohesive. Just the process of externalising your feeling can really help.
- Keep a good sleep pattern. You may not be able to sleep really well at the moment, but try to stay in a routine with regular sleep and wake times, it's important for your body.
"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
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