ARE YOU MENTALLY READY FOR WHAT’S TO COME?
In my intro of last week, I mentioned a few other titles that I was thinking of writing about “from How To Prepare Yourself For The “Big” Release After Lockdown, What We Have Learned About Ourselves and What We Will Be Using In Our Life Down The Road or even Me-Time and Why It’s Important.”, so I have decided to combine these topics together into this week’s blog. While some might see this National Lockdown as a type of Hibernation, I see it as an opportunity to get to know yourself, find your strengths and build your resources and coping skills for the uncertain times and challenges ahead.
No matter which clients I work with, I love encouraging Me-Time and quite often I see a look of complete puzzlement on their faces. To put it simply, it’s like taking a time out. It is the time that you take for yourself, for your own enjoyment and where you do something for yourself. It allows you time to re-energise and think more clearly about the decisions that you need to make. It helps to build your self-esteem and it makes you realise that you are important and deserve to spend a little time on yourself. Now you might ask, but how do I do that? Here are a few examples . . .
- First of all, 20 minutes a day is all that’s needed, but can be stretched to a couple of hours a day. It is important though that you commit to this every day, if at all possible.
- Take a break from electronics like your cell-phone, computer and television. Avoid getting lost in social media or emails and rather use that time to read a book, take a walk or work on a creative project.
- When you do decide to work on a creative project, remember that it does not have to be perfect. Here the idea is to get creative and to spend that time in a creative and relaxed state. Do not get hung up by the planning process, but rather enjoy the flow and calmness that it brings.
- Call a friend, somebody that you can talk to and have a good chat and laugh with. Maintaining this positive relationship will feed your own positivity and happiness and allow you the opportunity to just enjoy their company. Who knows, maybe your telephone call might exactly be what the other person needs at that time.
- Start a journal. Write whatever you feel, draw pictures, use colours and make your journal your own escape and release.
- Have a play-date. It might be a bit difficult at this moment, but it can still be done with a bit of technology and some creative fun. Should you and a friend both love playing an instrument, why not Skype or WhatsApp Video Chat each other and make music together for a few minutes. Or what if both of you have dartboards and play a game long distance? Both of you could through darts to your own boards and still keep score. This social interaction and fun are great for the soul and relieves tension quickly.
- Take a bubble bath with music, a good book and relax. Upscale your shower by indulging in special shower gels, aromatherapy or you could even invest in a shower radio to play all your favourite tunes. Allow yourself to feel the tension flow out of your body.
- Take an online course to learn something new and uplifting. There are so many wonderful online courses available these days, that you could even learn how to do any type of dancing in the comfort your own lounge or make the most beautiful jewellery by weaving a few things together.
- Clear your mind by doing a bit of yoga, exercise, or meditation. Find something that works for you and that you really enjoy. I found that this works best in the mornings, but you know what works best in your own schedule and when you will be able to make time for yourself.
- No, I do not mean over-indulge, I just mean indulge in that something special, like a couple blocks of chocolate or that cup of hot soup on a winter evening. Savour the taste, eat or drink it slowly and enjoy every sensation that this little treat brings into your life at that time.
Remember that me-time is all about you and grounding yourself. It is a way of slowing yourself down and calming your thoughts. This is the time where you put yourself first and give yourself those few precious moments to just breathe and start the process of finding yourself in this chaotic world. What is so wonderful, this is not only a tool for the lockdown, but that can and should be used everyday of our lives, whether we are at home or not.
It is important to know who we are, not what we are . . . Fundamentally, we won’t be able to make a huge impact in our own lives if we are unsure of who we really are and why we matter. We tend to know more about what we are instead of who we are. For example, you are a broker, a cleaner, a mother or father, a scientist, a nurse, a manager, but all these things are the What and not the Who. It is a fact that when you suffer from a weak sense of self, you tend to suffer from depression, anxiety, co-dependence, feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and emptiness, just to name a few and this normally flares up in the times of our lives when we are confronted with change from our outer lives. Yet, we are the ones who live with ourselves all the time, so how can we not really know ourselves and who we really are? One of the many reasons are that we worry so much of what other people want and expect from us that we forget what we want and need from ourselves. We also tend to concern ourselves more on what we want to be instead of realising who we truly already are.
You know that you have found your true self and knowing who you really are when you trust yourself completely. Basically, you trust the sound of your own voice, your intuition and take action on what you know and believe are true and right. You face challenges with grace and power and know that place of peace within yourself, no matter what is happening in your outer life. You adapt to situations well and are able to set healthy boundaries, especially with negative people that comes into your life. You do not need constant approval from others and are able to take responsibility for your life, no matter what life confronts you with. You are able to act in a way that is authentically true to you and not what others expect of you.
So how do you find yourself then? It is a process and it is not an easy exercise. It will take time; it will take a bit of patience with yourself and it might not always be easy to face things about yourself that you might not like. The good thing though, is that when you investigate, know and acknowledge the things that you are not happy with, then you can change them and grow yourself in a positive and uplifting way. This is also not a once-off exercise, but a continuous journey and path of growth and self-fulfilment.
Wikipedia has this awesome quote. It says, “A “journey of self-discovery” refers to a travel, pilgrimage, or series of events whereby a person attempts to determine how they feel, personally, about spiritual issues or priorities, rather than following the opinions of family, friends, neighbours or peer pressure.”.
- Create a timeline of your life and know your own story. Here you want to think about certain events that have unfolded in your life, they might not be pleasant stories, but those are most likely the stories that define you, especially when you deny them. How did these events and places leave a mark on your life? You need to own those events and although it might not feel pleasant, you now have the chance to let them go and re-write your brain patterns and the way that you have been thinking and judging yourself. You are now giving yourself the opportunity learn from what you have experienced and be able to face and deal with other situations in a more authentic way. This exercise is not here to let you wallow in self-pity, but it allows you the understanding of what you learnt from these experiences and how they allowed you the opportunity for growth , strength and courage.
- Stop avoiding situations where you might experience discomfort, fear, distress, change, failure, or disappointment. Face these events and see them as opportunities to learn and grow. Do not hide or scurry away from these opportunities, who knows, you might learn the lessons that you need to learn and eventually experience the joy that life tries to offer.
- Look within yourself rather than what is out there. I am truly fortunate that I have 4 people in my life that always encourages me to discover the answer within myself that I forgot I knew all along. Credit to my daughter, husband, mother, and brother. I trust them with my everything, I know that they always encourage me to trust myself and what I am capable of. What I am saying is that these people help me by encouraging me to discover solutions and answers on my own. They are not there for direction or advice, but they trust me to make my own discoveries and solutions through their support and encouragement.
- What makes you, you? Who are you really in this word? What makes you different from anybody else? Are you overly critical of yourself and continuously compare yourself to others? Stop the feeling of being weighed down by what makes you different and rather celebrate what makes you different. Allow yourself to be happy with who you are and be proud of yourself. You might want to start by writing about 5 to 10 special characteristics down about yourself and make peace with who you are right now. Keep those negative thoughts at bay and concentrate on the positive traits that you possess.
- Talking about being overly critical, it is important to let go of your critical side, especially if you want to live your best and most authentic life. To be kind and gentle to yourself is crucial as you cannot grow from a place of hate and self-rejection. Cherish yourself, you are worth it.
- It is important for you to be critical of your thought process though, especially if it is negative. It is quite natural to always sway towards the negative side and that is where problems start. When we believe our negative thoughts, we tend to lose our true identity. Put a guard on your thoughts, become aware of what your thoughts want you to believe. Become conscious of your thoughts and how you react to those thoughts. When you are able to observe your mind and thoughts, you are able to live in the present moment and are no longer trapped by your negative thoughts that can suffocate you.
- It came as a shock to our systems when we were forced to do things differently. We could no longer do things the old way, but we can take this into our stride. By allowing yourself to discover new things about your life and the way that you live your life, allows you to discover new successes, especially when you start to live your life in a more intentional way. You start by confronting things about yourself that you do not like and simultaneously focussing on the things about yourself that you do like, practising full acceptance. You open an avenue that allows growth which also allows you to find out who you really are. You start by living in the present, giving yourself the opportunity to fully embrace your weaknesses and allowing yourself to improve on those weaknesses.
- Hopefully by now you would have realised the power you have to make change happen. You must believe in your own courage and take the opportunity to tap into your power to make change happen, but you have to be willing to go after it. Do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, but do not belittle others or walk over them. Accept the fact that there will be times where you will be vulnerable, do not be afraid to ask for the help that you might need, it makes you true to yourself and it will help you in becoming more comfortable in the presence of others.
You will notice that once you really know yourself, your perspective on life, other people, yourself, its purpose, your past and your future will become more positive. You will start to realise what an amazing human being you are and what you are really capable of. No, you will not become another person. You are still the same person, just a better (if not the best) version of yourself, it just takes a bit of patience, work and commitment to get there. Once you reached this new perspective of life, it is yours to keep. You will notice that you will work even harder to keep yourself from getting “lost” again.
And this is where Resilience comes in. It is how we are able to deal with challenges and changes that life puts on our path and how we are able to bounce back during and after difficult and hard times. What we do not want to do is allow life’s hurdles to paralyse us, to strip us from the opportunity to learn and grow and to take control out of our hands. Just to name a few of the characteristics of resilient people, are Being Authentic, Having a Clear Purpose, Being Confident in Own Strengths and Abilities, Developing Multiple Solutions to Help Solve Challenges and Being Forward Focused. Unfortunately, resilience cannot be developed and maintained in isolation, there are other factors that plays a part into building the whole package of resilience, some of these are Identity (knowing who you are and where you belong), Autonomy (being able to make decisions and that it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them) and Insight (to help people to make appropriate actions and choices). To build resilience we can do the following:
- Make connections with others and maintain support networks. As always, relationships are important. To be able to accept the help and support from others will strengthen your resilience. These relationships do not always have to come from family and friends, but also from organisations and groups that you form a part of. In the same way, your ability to assist others will also benefit you in a positive way.
- Accept change as part of life. Life is full of changes and challenges and the most important thing here is to accept the circumstances that cannot be changed and rather focus your efforts on circumstances that you can change. Highly stressful events do occur and unfortunately that is a fact of life, but how you interpret and respond to these changes makes a big difference.
- Move towards your goals in a focused manner. Rather than seeing your goal as a big mountain laying in front of you, break that goal into smaller pieces and keep focus on those smaller goals and work towards reaching them. Give yourself credit for those small accomplishments that you reached along the way. Take decisive actions towards those goals rather than focusing blindly on the problems and stressors that is fighting to consume you.
- Use your unique strengths and look for opportunities for self-discovery. Be realistic of how you see yourself, your strengths and vulnerabilities. This will give you a good indication on your capabilities and limits when dealing with challenges. You may even notice that you have grown in certain aspects in your life when you experienced and gone through a difficult time. When you do notice these positive and additional newly found abilities, you develop confidence and trust within your own instincts that helps you build resilience.
- Remain hopeful and optimistic. It is so easy to blow a stressful situation out of proportion. Try to keep perspective and seeing things from a broader and a longer-term viewpoint. Keeping your goal in mind at what you want, rather that stressing and worrying about what you fear will give you a solid foot to start off from when working towards becoming resilient.
- Relax and take care of your own feelings and needs. Remember those steps that I talked about earlier about “me-time”, it is important to find time for yourself and to keep your body and mind in primed condition so that you can handle stressful situations in a controlled and positive manner.
- Maintain perspective, especially of your own thoughts. Become in control of those negative thoughts that keeps creeping into your mind and find ways to alter the way of your thinking. Exercise is particularly good here as it gives your mind time to “breathe” and to focus on something more positive and uplifting.
- Continue to work towards being open minded and flexible. Open your mind to creative thinking patterns. Challenge yourself to see the event or circumstances from more than just your own perspective and allow these new viewpoints to give you a bigger scope of the whole situation. Once you are able to see the whole picture, it’s “behind-the-scenes” events and reasons it should give you the ability to not jump to conclusions and negative thoughts straight away. You are giving yourself permission to investigate the situations more closely so that you can alter your own thought processes, and this is also one of the cornerstones to building resilience.
If you think back to the tools that you implemented, so far, while being in lockdown, what did you do? Did you notice errors in your thought processes, did you manage to find activities that engages your mind in a positive way, did you allow the darkness of the situation to cloud you, did you realise a new passion or talent or did you realise that your calmness helps those around you and that your words helps others to stay grounded? Whatever the case may be, those were the things that kept your mind occupied. It is now up to you to decide whether you want to allow your thoughts to drag you down or to lift you up. By building resilience, by maintaining “me-time” and by remembering who you really are and to keep on learning more about yourself will give you a huge advantage on how you will be able to cope in the uncertain times ahead. No, it will not be easy, but here you have to maintain faith in yourself and your abilities.
You will notice that some of these activities require quite a lot of self-searching. If you are already depressed and suffer from anxiety and suicidal thoughts, please do not attempt to go through these activities alone. Rather reach out to me or a therapist close to you to help you through this and any other challenges that you might have to face in the future. Remember, you are not alone and there is a hand of support reaching out to you.
As always, I like to end my blog with a quote or two and the following really spoken to me in this time when everybody needs a bit of hope. The first one if from Mark Twain saying “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did to. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And this one from Iyanla Vanzant who said “Don’t get hung up on the hard times, the challenges. Tell your story by highlighting the victories. Because it’s your victories that will inspire, motivate, encourage other people to live their stories in grander ways.”.
As a reminder, GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible. I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health as we face these challenging times.
Thank you very much for reading my blog. I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere. Please send any feedback or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember to have a look out for a new blog every week.