Whether it is the pressures of working from home, the struggle of being in self-isolation, or simply the overall anxiety of the current world situation, each of us is facing new daily struggles and obstacles to deal with that usual. This is having a negative impact on mental health for many, but what can we do to help? I spoke to Vanessa Kandiyoti, a Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher and Author of “The Jewel Process”, to get some advice on how we can take small steps and make small changes to feel better about life right now.
JUST REMEMBER: Just do what you feel you can do. If some days the best you can do is nothing, that’s ok, don’t judge yourself. Just try to move, try to walk, listen to music and listen to what your body needs.
Vanessa Kandiyoti on Mindfulness & Meditation
Q: In light of the current situation, what are some steps we can all take to combat stress and anxiety?
A: A great way of handling any anxiety that you may understandably be experiencing at the moment is to firstly, give yourself realistic expectations. In the current climate, do what you can realistically and practically do to minimise the risk of infection, ie. wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, avoid close contact with others, eat the right foods to keep your immunity strong, etc. Over and above this, it’s a good idea to give yourself a sense of purpose each day. Try to devise a timetable for each day of what we call meaningful activities to keep your mind from straying to those things that are somewhat mostly out of your control. This can be anything: outstanding housekeeping tasks, catching up on reading novels, or trying something you have always wanted to do, like cooking or creative writing. This will give you a sense of achievement which should hopefully help to dampen any stress and anxiety.
In Mindfulness Meditation the idea is to be and accept all that you are going through i.e. thoughts, emotions and as you practice watching, you become the observer of those different scenarios, free of judgement and with self-compassion. We don’t know what all of this might be triggering within, so how about meeting the place within you that needs the support, needs to be held and reassured. Once you sit and observe, using your breath as an anchor to come back to the present moment every time your mind takes you in the future, you will notice that your nervous system starts to calm down and that you might even be taken over by a sense of peace and deep acceptance. But first, it’s about finding the ability to sit and watch, without reacting or being harsh on ourselves.
Q: How do you keep a healthy mind set while being in self-isolation?
A: One of the main things for a healthy mind set would be to focus on maintaining social contact. Self-isolation doesn’t mean social isolation. Whilst modern day technology can often be an unnecessary distraction in normal day life, these are unprecedented times and so the benefits outweigh the costs in this instance. Call your friends and family or better yet, video call them. We humans are social creatures by nature so it’s important to maintain social contact with somebody outside of the house everyday whether it’s over the telephone, on Skype, or even just talking to your neighbour. Do more of what feels good to your nervous system and soothe it with constructive actions; go for walks when you can or put some music on and dance around at home, the important thing is to try to find ways to move your body in a way that helps you release tension. Whilst it’s important to voice your struggles, try to keep them in perspective and also focus on the positives too of which there will always be some. I recently spoke to a friend who is now working from home and she told me how she’s had the chance for the first time in years to walk her daughter to and from school every day. I found that beautiful as she had found her silver lining. Finally, stay away from too much news. It’s important to be informed but too much will only fuel the fire.
Q: Many of us are now working from home. What are some ways in which we can get our work / life balance right?
A: We are creatures of habit and so it can take some adjustment to go from working in an office alongside your community, to working from home on your own. A change in mindset is needed and ease into some kind of schedule. You will need to give it some flexibility until we find a routine that feels right so ease off the pressure in order to settle into new ways. The end goal is to set boundaries so you can exercise the self-discipline to juggle both within the same space without compromising either. Focus on things like creating a dedicated workspace, staying off social media, and avoiding procrastination which should help to not let your professional standards slip. If you wouldn’t do it when you’re in the office, then don’t do it when you’re at home. By the same measure, close your laptop once work hours are over and unless it’s an urgent matter, resist the temptation to carry on your work through the night. Rest and relaxation are important to be productive the next day.
Q: Due to the current climate what should our diet be?
A: Diet is a key part to keeping yourself mentally healthy during self-isolation. We all know that the food we eat has a direct effect on our minds and bodies. Resist the natural temptation to comfort eat and instead, try to focus on foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as green tea, fruit and vegetables. This will not only keep sluggish feelings at bay, but they will boost your immunity as well. Try to avoid foods that trigger inflammation too; so, reduce your caffeine intake, avoid sugar, dairy, gluten and try to cut down on alcohol too.
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