Taking care of ourselves in isolation

On the 16th March we had our first online Christian Climate Action gathering in the coronavirus era and we spent the first half of the meeting exploring how to look after ourselves in this difficult time.

Here are some of the tips which were shared by mental health practitioner Holly-Anna Petersen.

We need to be disciplined and intentional in giving our bodies what they need:
1. Maintain a routine. Our bodies like to have a routine – they like to know when they are meant to be awake, asleep, alert, relaxing or digesting food for example. This routine is not going to be the same routine as we had previously but it’s important that we find ourselves and settle into new routines.
2. Stay physically active. Physical activity is great for both our physical and emotional wellbeing. It keeps us fit and gets rid of excess energy in our body which will otherwise go into restless anxiety. Physical activity doesn’t need to be a massively intense workout – we just need to get out heart rate up. Doing 10 minutes of jumping jacks intermittently throughout the day is just as good.
3. Manage our surroundings. Let as much light, greenery or fresh air into our homes as possible to make sure that we’re feeling fresh and awake throughout the day.
4. Make a note of what is helpful. We will all find different things helpful. For some it may be crafts, for others it may be getting engrossed in a good book. Make a note of what is helpful for you. This is especially important because sometimes the thing which we find helpful aren’t necessarily the things that we feel naturally inclined to want to do – such as exercise.

Let’s think about our relationships:
1. Be intentional in our relationships. Even though we might be in the same place as our beloveds or housemates for extended periods of time does not meant that that is quality time. Quality time is still important. Acts of kindness and scheduling in enjoyable activities can go a long way.
2. Carve out time to yourself. As much as we may like the people who we are cooped up in our homes with (!) we all need some time by ourselves.
3. Communicate your needs. This might seem anxiety provoking for some people but we all need to get better at it if we want to stay well in this time of isolation. We can do this is a disarming way – for example using “I feel” statements instead of accusatory language and explaining our needs using vulnerable language such as “the room feels quite dirty to me and it is making me feel low”, rather than “pick up your smelly clothes and do the dishes”!
4. Keep in touch with people. It can be hard being away from loved ones so do set aside time to speak by phone or video to those who we can’t be physically close to.
5. Ask for help when you need it. This is not a sign of weakness, it is allowing people in which can be a real privilege and cause relationships to blossom.

Know that worrying does nothing to tackle our situation
1. Let go of control. We worry about things which are outside of our control, are unpredictable and uncertain. It is completely understandable that we would be experiencing worry at this time. Trying our best to take back control of the situation will only cause us more distress in the long term. We need to try to let go of our desire to have control of this situation and invite the holy spirit, the comforter, into our lives.
2. Is this something I can do about this now? This can be a good question to ask when we find ourselves worrying. If the answer is yes, then we can feel free to take action. If the answer is no then we can let the worry pass – or write the worries down on a piece of paper.
3. Focus on today and tomorrow. Thinking about the future might feel tempting as are analysing and predicting animals that want to prepare. However we just don’t know what down the road looks like, especially at this moment in time. Therefore it’s best to take each day as it comes as much as possible. What is the plan for today? How can we break up the day? What is the structure for tomorrow?
4. Doing Engrossing activities. We worry more when we are inside our heads, thinking worrying thoughts. We need to give our brains a break by being in the here and now. Sensory activities are good at this, such as cooking – we can feel the food, we can hear the sizzling sounds, smell the spices. Craft activities or games can also be really good for this as they focus our attention onto what is right in front of us.

Finally – let’s be kind to ourselves and each other

As we say, these are just tips. If you are experiencing considerable difficulties, please do seek professional support such as your local NHS IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) service.

Below illustration by Hannah Kittle from Christian Climate Action Leeds


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