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Be inspired every day with Living North
Dreamstime.com
Health and beauty
January 2021
Reading time 5 minutes

Rhian Lewis, Counselling Psychologist and Clinical Director at The Clearing, shares her top tips on surviving the winter lockdown

Whilst Lockdown 3.0 may not have come as much of a surprise, many of us have experienced it as another blow at a time when we were already flagging. With restrictions likely to stretch out into March, the challenge that we all face now is how to keep our spirits up, whilst managing the heightened stress of this unusual time.

Take Care Of Yourself
Self-care is going to be key and what that looks like will be specific to you. There really are no rules. All you have to do is be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself as best you can. Practically speaking, that means making sure you eat well, getting as much rest as possible and spending your free time doing things that make you feel good.

Use Your Time Wisely
Tune into how different activities affect your mood. If they calm or comfort you, spend more time doing them. If they cause stress or worry, then try to step away. It can be very tempting at the moment to stay glued to the news or social media channels but given their content, this may not be the healthiest use of your time. Staying mindful of how activities make you feel will help you to make the best choices you can for yourself.

Find Outlets For Your Feelings
Finding an outlet for stress is also essential. Stress and anxiety are high energy, restless feelings, and so using the body to release pent-up energy can be really helpful. Physical exercise is often our main go-to for this kind of release, but you may also find a long, hot bath, self-massage or breathwork just as effective on the days when you can’t, or don’t want to, get your heart pumping. Remember that anxiety is most often a future-focused emotion, so try to bring yourself back to the now, break problems down and take one day at a time.

Practice Self-Compassion
Anxiety and low mood tend to go hand in hand, with depression being the body’s way of getting the rest it needs after long periods of stress. Practicing self-compassion is key if we are to avoid slipping from low mood into full-blown depression. If you find yourself feeling down, ask yourself what it is you need. Maybe a duvet day is in order, or maybe you need to reach out to a loved one to talk through how you’re feeling. Tuning into your feelings and allowing yourself to do whatever it is you need to do, without judgement, will help you to get through any dark days.

Our mind can be our best friend but more often than not, it’s our worst enemy. Stay mindful of what you’re thinking about and if you catch yourself going down a negative or self-critical path, try to switch tracks. Ask yourself what you’d say to a loved one if they were thinking that way, and see if you can change the narrative to one that is more compassionate towards you.

Take Practical Steps To Ease Your Load
One of the benefits of this being our third lockdown is that at least now we know what to expect. Think about what you found the most difficult first time round and then ask yourself what you could do differently to counterbalance that. For example, if loneliness is your biggest concern, who can you reach out to in an effort to stay more connected? If it was the overload of trying to work and home-school at the same time, could you set some realistic boundaries at work to allow yourself more leeway?

Seek Professional Support If Necessary
Whilst this may all be sound advice, in reality, it’s not always so easy to implement these kind of self-care tools without some outside help. If you do find yourself struggling, it may be worth seeking professional counselling to help you through. Online support is available and will allow you the space to process whatever feelings lockdown has triggered in you. Giving your feelings space and time will provide not only the necessary emotional release, but also the increased self-awareness that is necessary to develop better ways of taking care of yourself on the difficult days. In this way, you’ll build your resilience while we all hunker down and wait for spring.

Dr Rhian Lewis is a Counselling Psychologist and the lead therapist at The Clearing Online counselling and psychotherapy service. To arrange a half price consultation visit theclearing.org.uk

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