Photo: Ixia maculata / African corn lily
Cox’s Bay Reserve © Danielle Turnbull
Not long after I read Catherine’s article Beating the winter blues for a peaceful mind, never was there a better time to really look at how to beat the winter (lockdown) blues for a peaceful mind.
I started writing this article to share with you how I coach my clients during life transitions, but I changed tack. Given I, just like all Aucklanders, have experienced our longest lockdown ever, I wanted to share with you how I got through these five weeks.
When the going gets tough, my emotional health is the first thing that starts to wobble. It is important to distinguish the difference between mental health and emotional health, and according to Dr Guy Winch:
“Mental health is about diagnosable conditions like depression and anxiety. Emotional health is about common experiences like loneliness, failure, and heartbreak, the non-diagnosable stuff.”
Being a co-parent in a shared care arrangement with my son’s Dad and his partner, we decided to change the rotation to one week on / one week off. The first week was good, as my son was around but I was gripped by feelings of isolation and loneliness during the second week. Knowing I needed to bolster my emotional health, I allowed my imagination to run wild with all the things I could do (within the parameters of level 4) that could bring about a sense of peace and enjoyment.
My biggest source of bringing forward a sense of peace was to put in place a daily wake up and bedtime routine, I wanted to start each day as I intended to finish. When I wake, I open my curtains to let the light in, I take some deep breaths and do a few stretches to wake the muscles up. I make my bed, drink a big glass of water, light a candle, and meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. Depending on the weather, I meditate either inside by my plants, or outside in my garden, always within nature. Some days (like today) I do two sittings, I allow my body to guide me to what I need. I did one at home this morning and one when I went for a long nature walk after lunch.
Meditation for me is the ultimate act of self-care and self-love, as I can really connect with myself by stilling the mind to balance me so I can prepare for the day ahead. I consciously engage in my morning skin routine (thanks Mia Belle!), I have my morning coffee, which I take sitting in my chair by the balcony and as spring has sprung, I can admire all the blooming flowers. I revel in the silence so I can listen to the mating call of the Tūī in the neighbour’s cherry blossom tree. I spend about half an hour in this peaceful repose and use the time to plan my next steps, which usually entails making a mental list. I spur into action by first checking in on friends and whānau then I get into the nitty gritty of work until it’s time to break for my first meal of the day (lunch) and hopefully I can get out for a walk.
Getting out for a walk is high on my list, it’s good to get some air and sun (if it’s around), it reminds me I am part of this world. If it’s raining, I will do some gentle stretching at home to keep up with movement, or I might brave it and will go for a walk in the rain (although usually never up for that challenge!) Tuesday nights I do Yoga Nidra (currently on Zoom) and it helps me to wind down after the day to relax my parasympathetic system. Some say one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep. If you would like more info, you can find more about it here.
The most challenging aspect about this lockdown has been sticking to a decent hour to go to bed, it has been all over the place. I try to get at least 7 hours’ sleep and I ease myself into slumber either by having a bath, or by journaling. I reflect on what has come up for me that day (What emotions surfaced? How did I react to these emotions? How could I better respond tomorrow? What did I really enjoy today? What might I like to try tomorrow?) I set a couple of intentions for the next two weeks (I will remain calm when there is no milk left for my morning coffee), and I express my appreciation for anything (I appreciate being able to hear so I can listen to the Tūī each morning).
I have found having a routine and a list of activities on hand has really helped me to stay on track this lockdown and to fill up my cup, so I don’t feel an acute sense of isolation and loneliness. Engaging in activities that speak to me has definitely helped me to keep a steady balance each day and to show myself compassion when these feelings come up and it’s OK to feel them. I will continue to add to my list of activities and even after lockdown I will keep choosing things to engage in because I know this is what my emotional health needs me to do.
A number of my clients have mentioned that by having a routine, rituals, and a list of activities at their fingertips have also helped them to keep on track, to stay focused, and most importantly to stay connected to themselves in the present moment. Have you ever done something that just takes you so far away you don’t realise how much time has passed? I have and it surprises me every time – where did those three hours go? I get like that with gardening. I can spend up to 7 hours in the garden and I only notice because it starts getting dark!
Below are some examples of activities clients have shared. Have you tried any of these that you know support your emotional health? What else could you add to this list that you would like to try in the next few days?
Stopping to notice the beauty around them
Cooking a new recipe
Making the bed
Painting a room
Changing the house around
Zooming with friends and whānau
Limiting time on social media
Communing with nature
Colouring in with their kids
Donating a food box to a family in need
De-cluttering one cupboard / drawer a day
Learning a new language
Limiting phone time
Putting up artwork
Cloud gazing (a form of meditation)
Night walking (with a housemate / partner)
Creating a ‘peace’ space at home that’s just for them
Watching Ted Talks about what interests them
Spending quality time with their partner / spouse
Sitting outside with a cup of tea listening to the bird song.
These are just some ways we can strengthen and support our emotional health during these times of considerable change. By finding what speaks to us and by showing ourselves compassion, we can consciously choose to beat the winter (lockdown) blues for a peaceful mind.
What do you choose to do today to support your emotional health? Let your imagination run wild, and if you can’t do it today, plant the seed and the opportunity may present itself in the future.
Wishing you all the best for the next few weeks.
Personal Growth and Development Coach • Connector • Facilitator • Mediator
For more information on and about Danielle, here is her website.