Appreciate the good, prioritise self-care: how to look after yourself and survive the next few months
Coach Amanda Alexander joined us for a webinar and Q&A session called ‘Working Parents’ Survival Guide’, aimed at helping those with kids to support their wellbeing through the pandemic and beyond.
In this blog, we share some of Amanda’s top tips that she shared in the Q&A.
Navigate change, gain control
In the current climate, it’s useful to think about what we call your ‘locus of control’. This relates to how in control, or not, you feel about any given situation. If you have an internal locus of control, you feel as though you have control over your life, and you make things happen. If you have an external locus of control, you feel as though things happen to you and there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s beneficial to be in that internal locus of control as much as you can. That’s where your resilience lies, and we all need a special resilience to get through the pandemic.
The truth is that most people hop around in their locus of control, especially when things are so challenging. Amanda talks about the ‘change curve’, which describes the various stages of grief, but these stages can be applied to any kind of change. And haven’t we all been through enormous change?
Look at where you might be on the change curve now, and where you were back in March just before lockdown was announced. If you tune into where you are now, you’ve probably just swung back into an earlier stage of the change curve. Be kind to yourself, accept that there will be days when you feel as though you’re doing really well with lots to celebrate, you feel in charge of your destiny, and that there will be other days where you ask yourself what the point is.
If you’re in the feeling of external locus of control, just accept it and let yourself feel it for an hour or two. Do what you need to do to boost your resilience and then you’ll find yourself coming back to that internal locus of control.
What does self-care mean and why does it matter?
How do you boost your resilience? Self-care. It’s essential, especially as we head into winter. It’s about putting on your oxygen mask; that’s the only way you can help yourself and the people around you.
A first step is to get fresh air every day. You’ll need to plan when you do this as the days get colder, darker and shorter, and do prioritise this. Sleep is number one; if you think about our pyramid of health, sleep is right at the bottom. Add in exercise and good food too. For more on self-care, Wim Hof’s The Iceman is an interesting book that looks at how to improve your wellbeing and immunity.
Parent with your values and nobody else’s
Values-based parenting will help you to stay strong. That means raising your children in accordance with your values and what’s important to you. Being steadfast in your values will help you to ignore the noise around you (including the chat on any WhatsApp groups you might belong to). Your values are your business and there are many ways to identify them.
Here’s a fun exercise to discover your values. Think of a moment when everything felt really wonderful, when everything felt in sync and connected. A golden moment in time. What was going on there? What were the values behind that? Think about what was happening, who was there, what people were saying. What values were showing up there, for example, was it love, was it adventure?
You can also flip this exercise to consider a poignant moment in time where things weren’t going to plan and you felt a bit discombobulated. This could point to values that weren’t being honoured.
Refine your values to a list of your top five to seven. These are what’s core to you. It’s not a wish list or a nice to have, it’s what’s crucial.
Focus on good and gratitude
Looking for the good is an important way to keep yourself feeling positive. This is easier to do on some days than others. If you do this regularly, this gets you into a more resourceful state more of the time.
There are practical actions you can take to help you look for the good. Try keeping a gratitude diary. Each morning, write down ten things you’re grateful for, and get really specific. This is about helping you to appreciate the good moments in life, so something like “nice food to eat” is too broad – instead you might write “the delicious dinner that I made last night while listening to the radio”. At night, with your partner or a friend, ask each other what five things you’re grateful for. Doing the exercise in the morning gets your day off to a great start while ending it will help you to sleep better.
There’s a part of your brain called the reticular activating system which organises your neurons to help train you into noticing certain things or certain behaviours. In short, the more you notice good things, the more good things you notice, all helped along by this part of the brain. You can train your reticular activating system, especially when you ask yourself to notice the good about challenging people or situations in your life.
Let go, forgive, and do what’s good for you
Finally, remember following beautiful quote from Michael Beckwith:
“It is what it is. Accept it. You cannot change it. It will either control you, or you will control it. Harvest the good. The more you look for it, the more you’ll find. Forgive all the rest. Forgive means to let go of completely, abandon.”
Do what makes you feel good, and keep going. This too shall pass.