Updated: Oct 1
During times of stress (such as a global pandemic and social isolation for example 😉) we often find it much harder to put in the time and effort really needed to truly look after ourselves and our mental health. Your usual routine may have gone to pot and you may be feeling less than happy right now.
Many people tend to go into "survival" mode when they feel overwhelmed and do only what's necessary. So, you might comfort eat or find yourself drinking more alcohol. You might find that your sleep pattern suffers or you spend less time on your hygiene or appearance. The less you do, the more your motivation declines. This leads to a snowball effect until you feel you have absolutely no energy or inclination to do anything at all. This can lead to very negative thoughts and feelings about yourself and the world around you. If that continues, it can even lead to depression and anxiety.
Others may get into a spin trying to keep permanently busy and looking after everyone else. If that's you, you might be feeling completely stressed about all you have to do to keep everyone else happy. You may be lying awake worrying about your friends and family. Perhaps people are putting pressure on you from all sides but you just don't know how to say no. This can lead to feelings of bitterness and resentment, which is obviously not good for any of those relationships. It can also lead you to complete burnout and, if that happens, you will be no good to anyone, including yourself.
Obviously, there are practical things you can do that we all know can help us feel physically and mentally healthier. Things such as eating well, setting a regular sleep routine and exercising daily. I know we've all been a bit bombarded with all this advice recently, so I'll steer clear of that as much as possible and give you some of my own top tips for boosting your mood and generally feeling better about things.
1. Lower Your Expectations
It's important to be realistic. So, if you're setting yourself up to fail and then judging yourself negatively when you do, you are fighting a losing battle. Often, when we set up such high expectations of ourselves, we become completely overwhelmed and eventually give up, leading to feelings of failure and dissatisfaction. So, look at what you're trying to achieve and be honest with yourself. Is this realistic?
Maybe you could ask yourself:
Do I really need to do this?
Whose rules am I following?
What's the worst that will happen if I don't do this?
Can I break it down into smaller goals?
You may have to lower your expectations of others, too. Not everyone will think like you or have the same values as you. The gap between what you expect of them and what you actually get can cause many arguments and a lot of stress. So, stop and ask yourself similar questions when you start to get wound up by someone else's behaviour.
2. Take Time Out to Relax
What do you find relaxing? It could be a hobby, such as gardening, painting, cooking or reading. Maybe you could soak in a hot bath and listen to some of your favourite music. Meditation, yoga, heart-breathing or exercise are also great ways to relax. Think about what works for you and schedule in time every day as your relaxation time. It will help you to feel calmer and clearer and just give you that little bit of time to reset your mind and let go of the stressful thoughts and feelings.
If you find yourself feeling guilty, remind yourself that you need to practise self-care so that you are more able to do the things you need to do for everyone else. It's very similar to the advice given on a plane when they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. It's not selfish, it's absolutely necessary and it's the responsible thing to do.
3. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
This is one of my biggest bugbears and yet I still catch myself doing it! We are all on our own journey and we all have our own particular strengths and weaknesses. If you've been spending time on social media, focusing on what everyone else appears to be achieving and feeling that you're coming up short, then stop looking! Take a break from it all, relax and focus on making yourself happy.
So, maybe Jane from no.4 has used the past few weeks to teach her four perfect children to speak fluent Japanese whilst you're wondering if yours will ever actually master English. Perhaps Pete from work really has managed to run 5 miles a day since you've all been furloughed whilst you are struggling to find the energy to even walk the dog around the block. Then there's your cousin Mary who has proudly posted a picture of her one-thousandth set of scrubs she's been busily sewing for her local hospital whilst simultaneously running her business from home. That's wonderful! Maybe Amanda and her daily FB posts about how Mike "completes" her and how they are just relishing every single moment of their 24 hours a day together is constantly reinforcing your own sense of loneliness. Don't allow it to!
Just be aware that nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors and many people will only post a positive snapshot of what their life really looks like. What you are seeing will never be the whole picture. Nobody is living the perfect life, no matter how it might look from the outside. Every one of those people will have things they are not happy about and they may even be secretly envious of you. The truth is, you will never know the whole story, so it's not worth thinking about.
This constant comparison means absolutely nothing. It will only lead to self-judgement and worries about how other people see you and what they think of you. Focus on yourself and your own personal goals and achievements. Don't worry about what everyone else is up to. It's all just story-telling, anyway. Keep reminding yourself of that.
4. Quiet The Critical Voice
Notice the way you talk to yourself. What do you find yourself saying? Are you constantly beating yourself up? Would you say these things to someone else? If not, then why would you be so unkind to yourself?
Try this exercise...
Imagine that voice as a little character in your mind; as something separate from you.
Close your eyes and imagine them there saying all those mean things. Who or what do they look like? Make them look as ridiculous as possible.
Now imagine shrinking them down to something so small and insignificant that you just want to laugh at them. You can't believe you ever took them seriously.
As they get smaller and smaller, their voice gets higher and squeaker.
Find a way to completely get rid of that character. Squash them, walk away from them or throw them out of the nearest window! Have some fun doing this and be as imaginative as you like.
Now imagine a best friend or loving, spiritual guide or guardian angel coming towards you instead.
Listen to all the positive things they have to say.
Allow that character to become bigger, brighter and louder.
Keep them in your mind, repeating all those positive and loving messages as though you have your very own cheerleader in your head at all times.
5. Spend Time With Your Happy and Supportive People
We all know that there are those people that drain us and lower our energy levels or vibration. You know the ones I mean. They never have anything positive to say. They seem to enjoy gossiping and putting others down. They constantly seem to look for arguments and reasons to be miserable. Just spending ten minutes with them can lead you to feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted and put a damper on the rest of your day. I think they're commonly called "energy vampires", although I always think of them more as "soul vampires"! We all have them in our lives and it isn't always possible to avoid them completely, although I would spend as little time as possible with them!
The more empathic and sensitive you are, the stronger the emotional effect others have on you. So, it's important to take time out from the negative energy and spend time with those that lift you up or raise your vibration. These tend to be the ones who make you smile and put things back into perspective. You come away from these encounters feeling calmer, happier and maybe even inspired to make positive changes. Maybe you're lucky enough to live with them but if not, a chat on the phone, a few messages or a Skype or Zoom call can all help. So, arrange regular meetings and make sure you don't lose touch with your support team!
If you are struggling with anxiety, stress or lack of motivation and would like a chat about hypnotherapy and how it might help, please do book an initial consultation I offer online sessions via Zoom so we can work together no matter where you are based. Many people find they get even better results with the online sessions as they are more relaxed in their own home or office. If you'd rather come and see me in person, we can meet in the therapy room in Exeter.