How to Live with Lockdown
"There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers.”
Here we go again!
New lockdown restrictions with the threat of more in the next few weeks.
We have lived through an unprecedented event. Like World War 2, future generations will learn about the great pandemic of 2020 and wonder what it must have been like.
This time we haven’t suffered the same physical hardships as in the 1940s. We are not under threat of bombing and while we might have to queue at a shop, there is more than enough food to go around.
This time it is our freedom that has been curtailed.
There is evidence that there has been a huge impact on our mental wellbeing.
Not seeing the ones we love is hard.
Not being able to do the things we want to do is frustrating.
Whilst shops and activities are open they are tainted with fear. Everyone wears a mask, avoids physical contact and even eye contact.
We have had everything that we look forward to removed. There are no certainties and we are not making any plans.
All of this negatively impacts on our mental health.
The frustration generated by the new restrictions is palpable in the media and in our families and friends. It feels as if everyone is bracing themselves for more.
We cannot control what is happening or the steps the government takes to protect the population but we can control what is happening within ourselves.
The true meaning of resilience is to thrive and not just survive during adversity. To do this we need skills, tools and techniques.
That is why this week; we want to talk about rituals.
Rituals are the things that we do over and over again. Human beings love routine. It makes us feel safe and keep us on track.
It also brings us into the present moment and prepares us for what is to come.
There is further medicine in harnessing the power that resides within our regular routines.
Regular routines are in fact our rituals.
They allow us to create time and space in which we can consciously celebrate, honour, cherish, give thanks, value, love, move on, acknowledge, pledge, dedicate, and grieve.
Our lives are full of them. From simple things like brushing our teeth, the route we take to work, the greetings we share with colleagues, our work timetable and our bedtime ritual; to the celebrations we attend and the rites of passage we go through.
Many of our rituals can be seen as habits but there is an important distinction. Habits tend to be unconscious; we just do them without thinking.
It is the meaning that we give to our rituals that makes them conscious and brings our awareness into the present moment.
Our rituals can be healthy and unhealthy. Physical activity immediately springs to mind as a healthy ritual, excessive alcohol as unhealthy. Many people adopted a healthy exercise ritual to help pass the time during the first lockdown.
In fact, the power of any ritual lies in the meaning that we give it. If a person hates physical activity, then a regular parkrun is never going to be a powerful ritual that works for them. It will feel like a chore and they will struggle to do it despite the benefits and endorphins they may gain.
Giving meaning to our ritualistic activities attaches importance to them. It means that we are serious about their purpose.
Now, more than ever, when our normal routine is disrupted, we need to cultivate new healthy rituals.
In our article ‘How to be Grateful,’ we describe a healthy ritual involving looking for the lessons in everything that happens to us and thanking the Universe for the opportunity to grow.
Our tool this week is a different kind of ritual, a ‘Self-Check.’
It is another powerful way to reframe negative thinking and turn frustration and inertia into positive forward motion.
It is a deep dive into what is going on in our heads at any given time.
This tool is best used ritualistically throughout the day. Regularly asking ourselves set questions regarding our mental wellbeing allows us to identify the how much the current situation is impacting on us and what factors within it we can and cannot control. This will give us direction for our thought processes and actions and, in turn, improve our day. This is also a useful tool to use when we feel overwhelmed.
As always find a quiet place to sit and take 3 deep breaths.
Breathe deeply to the bottom of the lungs.
Now sit and ask yourself:
1. What do I want to achieve right now?
2. What is taking up most of my thinking right now?
The answer to these questions should be the same, but often it is not. During these times, when freedom is restricted, and we are blocked from doing exactly as we please, we may become frustrated by our circumstances and feel powerless to change them. We may become distracted from our tasks and spend our time ruminating and catastrophising about the future. Bringing ourselves into the present moment and focussing on what we want to achieve calms us and offers purpose.
Now ask yourself
3. What am I feeling right now?
4. What is draining me?
5. What is supporting me
Acknowledging what we are feeling helps us to give ourselves permission for those emotions and to accept and express them.
By asking what is draining us, we may realise that it is something we can change. On the other hand, it may be outside of our control and must, therefore be accepted.
By asking what is supporting us, we will become conscious of those things that deserve our gratitude. A grateful mindset leads to abundance because we attract more of whatever we focus on.
Now, ready yourself for the rest of the day where you will consciously choose activities and rituals that nourish and replenish your psychological, emotional and physical energies.
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