Jeez how the world has changed in such a short space of time! We are all facing new challenges that we wouldn’t have even imagined just a few months ago and I feel deeply concerned about how people will deal with these elevated levels of uncertainty and stress. We have all been overloaded with advice on how to wash our hands, isolate ourselves where possible, work from home if we can and practice social distancing but not so much advice on how to manage our mental hygiene. For many years I have been saying that we need to look after our minds like we brush our teeth – a daily habit that is practically automatic. We know if we don’t brush our teeth decay will set in and our teeth will fall out. Now more than ever it’s vital that we all do the same for our minds.
Some experts say that we need to think positively and focus on how our lives will get back to normal soon enough and, to a certain degree, that is helpful. It can be challenging to implement this practice when your basic human needs are threatened. For those familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our physiological and safety needs come first so thinking about our goals and dreams unfortunately can take a back seat.
If thinking positively feels like a stretch at the moment then the good news is that achieving a “quiet mind” has lots of great benefits too. When we bring our minds to a state of stillness it allows the mind to start the process of restoring homeostasis in the body. Restoring stability in the body allows our internal organs to function in harmony and keep us safe from the threats of the outside world. Sounds like just what we all need right now doesn’t it?
I know what you’re thinking…how the hell can I have a quiet mind when I am worried about paying the bills, the health of my family the lack of food in the shops etc? I don’t know who said this quote but what you choose to focus on expands so if we are filling our day with watching the news, scrolling through social media for the latest updates then there is a bountiful supply of negative information to fuel our fears. So here are a few tips on how to achieve a quiet mind:
- Limit exposure to news & social media – of course we all need to stay informed so set aside some time each day to check the facts (emphasis on the facts word here!) and then get on with your day.
- Make a list of the things that you like doing and do them – I know we are very restricted on this right now but they can be very simple things like cuddling a pet, having a coffee in the garden / balcony, calling a friend, listening to a favourite song, trying a new healthy recipe, reading / listening to a book, mediation, yoga etc
- Keep yourself occupied – All those things that you were always too busy to do! Ok some of these things you were just putting off because you didn’t really want to do them but it’s very therapeutic to tick them off the list…..cleaning out drawers & cupboards (especially the one under the sink!), sorting out the household paperwork, decorating…the list goes on!
- Taking your focus outside of yourself – when we focus on ourselves and our situation it can cause stress. When we focus on how we can help others who are less fortunate than us then the balance will shift and we temporarily forget our own issues. Can you get some shopping for an elderly neighbour or call a friend or relative who lives alone?
- Be in nature – In Australia we are blessed with beautiful beaches and bush. For now we can still go for walks (subject to social distancing of course!) but even if that changes and we cannot leave our homes there are heaps of YouTube videos of nature walks, rainforest sounds, bird songs to listen to. I have a friend who sits in her garden and counts how many different sounds she can hear – a great way to focus the mind.
- Be grateful – I don’t need to say how lucky we all are we just need to remind ourselves, often, of all those things we take for granted. Even this virus is giving us so much, showing us how the little things in life are the most important of all. Here are a few questions to help you:
- What is good about this situation?
- What can I learn from it?
- What 3 things am I grateful for today?
I could go on all day with suggestions on ways to distract ourselves and I’d love to hear your suggestions too on things you have been doing to support your mental health. They key takeaway from all of this is to firstly distract yourself from the negative thoughts and then bring the mind to state of calm & stillness so it can do its job of keeping you safe and well.
Sending you all healthy vibes and the certainty that we will flourish.
Photos by: Chloe Lambert