By Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.
During the pandemic we have all coped in different ways; some of us have adjusted more easily whilst others have had to deal with pain and hardship, or with feelings of burnout or isolation. Whilst people who have had to shield may understandably need time to adjust to coming out of lockdown, many of us may be feeling anxiety for a variety of reasons. Now as we are slowly opening up the world again it is important to ensure that we are best equipped for what may still be a series of uncertainties and ups and downs. Here are some tips from Dr Shaw that may help:-
1.) Stay flexible – Whilst we have many reasons to be optimistic, the future is still uncertain. Accept that change is inevitable and be open minded. If things don’t go to plan straight away, take a deep breath and try to keep your options open.
2.) Take your time – Before getting up each day perhaps listen to the birds or practise gratitude for a few minutes and make happiness and health a daily choice. Going forwards in the weeks ahead, try to avoid rushing big decisions, prioritise what needs to be acted upon first, take your time to get it right, avoid comparing yourself with others.
3.) Positive thinking – Facing challenges head on and realistically whilst thinking positively helps to move forwards and build resilience. Research shows that those who face adversity with a positive mindset deal with stress and problems better and have a better health outcome long term. Avoid the traps of negative thinking and swap in more positive language. Re-examine negative situations from a different angle and try to find a workable solution.
4.) But don’t chase happiness – Sometimes when we have been yearning for something and then get it, we don’t find the fulfilment we really hoped we would have, which creates real disappointment, and we turn to something else to want. Spend a little time appreciating what you have and make sure your goals and values are aligned with your life.
5.) Ensure you live a healthy lifestyle including regular physical exercise, a good sleeping pattern, low stress and a healthy diet. Focus on things you can control.
6.) Be safely social and inclusive – Follow the rules but remain sociable where possible, even if that means keeping events virtual. Through brain imaging, scientists have found that when people experience social exclusion and social distress some areas of the brain are similarly activated as if they were experiencing physical pain.
7.) Work out your new priorities – The pandemic has made many revaluate their priorities, leading people to ask themselves what truly makes them happy. Are you happy at work and in your relationship? Are you happy in your own skin? Set some goals for yourself which you feel will make you happier and revisit them once a month to track your progress. They could be anything from exercising, to getting in touch with old friends to getting a promotion.
8.) Be careful of burnout – Identify the signs early. Signs of burnout include fatigue, irritability, sleepless nights despite feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and physiological changes in your body like raised blood pressure. Ensure you aren’t consumed by your old life once restrictions lift and that you use what you learnt in lockdown including perhaps slowing down.
9.) Feeling overwhelmed? Seek help – You may have PTSD and anxiety so seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Some signs to look out for include low energy, insomnia, frequent illness, chest pains, rapid heart rate, panic attacks, migraines / headaches and upset stomach. As well as your GP, there are plenty of mental health charities on hand to support you if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
10.) Take stock – The constant adjustments we have had to make to our lives in the last year have been really difficult. Be proud of what you, your family and friends have achieved over the last year and reflect on how well you have done.