Anyone else feel like we’ve been sucked into a dystopian novel or Black Mirror episode? The world has officially shut down. But despite the anxiety and fear surrounding this pandemic, I feel so inspired by the emerging stories of human kindness. Italians singing from their balconies, rooftop-led fitness classes in Spain, children posting notes to elderly neighbours and local businesses sending out care packages to those most vulnerable. The community spirit that this difficult time has triggered gives me so much hope in humanity and our ability to overcome and learn from this.
This was originally going to be a post about vision boards and achieving personal goals. But that doesn’t seem so relevant right now. Like a lot of people, I’ve had to put a few plans on hold. My surfing holiday has been postponed and the career progression I had been working towards was cancelled. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful that I am still employed and have a roof over my head. In the grand scheme of things, I am writing from a position of extreme privilege. But it still feels like I am moving backwards.
Ultimately, this is only a minor setback. A small interruption in my larger ambitions. So I’m not going to stress about things I can't control. Instead, I am finding meaning and purpose in slowing down and focusing on my values. There are a few things I have done to be kinder to myself during this time and I’d like to share them with you.
Shift self-critical thinking
One of the biggest changes I have made is noticing my self-talk. Like many of us, I have a tendency to engage with negative thoughts when I spend a lot of time by myself. To combat this, when I notice I’m being critical or deprecatory about myself, I immediately replace that thought with something softer. I don’t beat myself up about being negative in the first place, I simply shift to being kind. Instead of “wow I really haven’t been productive today, I’m so lazy” I try “OK I didn’t do everything I wanted to today but I’m doing my best and I’ll get there.” This can be difficult to do on really down days, but noticing critical thinking allows you to detach yourself from it. You are not your critical thoughts and you can shift your thinking patterns with time and patience.
Find a new routine
I may not always feel like it, but I know that having structure is good for me. I am more productive and optimistic when I have a clear idea about how I’ll be spending my day. Having a lot more free time can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure how to spend it. So get out a pen and paper and write down a daily plan. Include what time you wake up, what you do in the morning to feel energised, what time you’ll have breakfast, what time you’ll start working etc. I don’t schedule breaks into my working from home plan as I like to be more flexible about when I step away from my screen. But feel free to write them into your routine if that works for you. Just be mindful that this exercise should help you approach your day confidently, rather than be something to hold yourself accountable to. This isn't a tick list you need to accomplish. However, if you never stick to your written routine, you can always revisit your plan and adjust it. Your new routine should work for you and allow you to fulfil your potential during this difficult time.
Connect with others
We may not be able to have a catchup over coffee or go for a quick drink after work, but we are still able to have meaningful connections with friends and loved ones. Technology is a godsend in this crisis. Have you downloaded Houseparty yet? It’s a fantastic app for group video calls and virtual pub quizzes. I am making a conscious effort to contact friends and family more regularly and have never felt closer to my loved ones. Check in with the people you care about and let them know you’re thinking of them. We’re all going through this together.
Slow self care
You know those things you put off for when you have more time? Without a commute, evening gym class or social gathering to attend I’m finally able to slowly tackle these tasks. I have begun to sort out some of my kitchen cupboards and declutter other areas in my flat. Having a tidy home helps me feel more relaxed and centred. Plus, after I’ve spent a bit of time cleaning I can still fit in a face-mask and pedicure before bed! There are many ways to care for yourself during this lockdown. Maybe it’s a workout and cooking a delicious dinner, maybe it’s trying new skincare or learning a language. There’s no pressure to be productive. If self care for you is a lie-in and a box of cookies then you do you. For once, time is on your side.
Let me know what little things you’re doing to be kind to yourself during this pandemic.