• Lauren Maxwell

Change the Tune!

2020 feels like it’s been going forever, right?! The news feels the same, and it’s on every channel. Shopping is done online, and I can’t smell and touch my fruit to decide which piece I want. And I’ve just about come to the end of every streaming service because I’m not going out (oh who am I kidding….I’m a home body at the best of times). But my point is, this has been a strange year. And for some people, it’s been a terrifying and overwhelming year in which they have lost jobs, security, and very unfortunately loved ones. For most of us, 2020 has bitten the big one. And it can be really tricky to manage stress when it’s as prolonged as a whole year.

As humans, we do pretty well with short term bursts of stress (think stressful holiday periods, times of short to medium term illness, buying/selling your house etc) – in fact we’ve been designed to manage such time-framed periods of stress. But longer term, we don’t do so well with continual medium to high level stressors which 2020 certainly qualifies as.

For many, this adjustment to life with masks, home schooling, and working from home along with restrictions on social distancing and quarantine has brought with it monotony along with frustration. Work life balance has probably blown out, and if you’re like thousands of other women, you’re feeling like tearing your hair out right about now! And you’ve probably had plenty of chats with girlfriends about the importance of taking care of yourself now right, because pop-psych blogs have outlined why “it’s super important” and more than that, you know that without you at the helm of the household ship things might fall apart?

But how exactly do we do self-care in an era of monotony, isolation and dollar saving as 2020 continues to jump the shark?

Have a basics days and limit unnecessary pressures – get through whatever you need to in the day, and leave the rest for another time – the world really won’t collapse if the ironing isn’t done today! It can be a struggle for many people to “lower their standards” when it’s suggested and can actually increase their stress levels (which is why I’ve purposely avoided that old chestnut), but a good alternative is getting clear on what a ‘basic’ is for us. Basics are the bare minimum that we can do, whilst still feeling comfortable. For example, my idea of daily basics is: personal care (shower, dressing in clothes or clean pyjamas); house care (wiping down the kitchen bench, opening the blinds around the house); people and pet care (fed, watered) – have a think about what your basics are, and give yourself a basics day every now and then. You can spend your new-found extra time on….whatever the hell you’d rather be spending it on!

Go on a local treasure hunt. Yes yes we’ve all heard how important exercise and fresh air is, especially at the moment but it can be hard to keep things fun if we’re restricted to the same places and you’ve exhausted your playlist! Whether you’re going for a walk by yourself or with the rest of the fam, why not create a treasure hunt? Get someone else to identify say 5 items that you need to find on the walk (and if you’re in a family unit, get everyone to develop a list for someone different in the household). This is not only a fun way of training your brain to look for new and exciting things along the same path, it’s also a good exercise in mindfulness. And if you’re after something really different with a nerdy bent, google geocaching trails in your local area.

Make love not war – sex, intimacy, and just plain old physical touch bring out the love hormones to make us feel better. Some studies suggest that regular sex is good for heart health, immune system, and even helping us to be more resilient. So snuggle up to that person who is COVID, STI, and emotionally safe and let the love hormones flow. And if you don’t have a partner, take things into your own hands, and “treat yo-self” – we’re talking self-care afterall!

Learn how to play again! Remember the sheer joy that came from playing as a kid – the kind where you weren’t thinking about anything particularly logical but just focussed on doing fun stuff?? Sadly play is one of the first things to be traded for grown-up activities of life, but it’s an integral part of having fun and a great way to build our happy hormones. Play is basically doing something just for the pure enjoyment of it – there’s not necessarily an ‘end-point’ (which for adults can be a strange feeling). Some ideas to get started: paint or draw a picture of your house with your non-dominant hand; download some retro computer games and reminisce; choose a word that your family members use on a regular basis and do a dance everytime someone says it – see how long it takes them to catch on. Give it a go again and just have fun!

And finally, the blah blah blah boring things we can all do to help ourselves in 2020:

  • Decrease alcohol – your liver and brain will thank you, and so will your sleep and moods. Contrary to popular belief alcohol in fact disturbs our sleep patterns and can have a significant impact on our overall moods. Love the habit of a wine after work? I know I do! Try instead a dealcoholized version – I can recommend Edenvale chardonnay

  • Keep a routine – boring but helpful. Keeping regular sleep patterns, meal habits, and general routine of home chores (unless we’re having a basics day) plays a huge part in good mental health. Our brains are wired around routine and pattern – ever noticed how quickly you start to flounder when you get out of routine? Chores start to slip, personal presentation changes (hello, is anyone still wearing a bra in 2020??), and our mood can start to feel lost…..

  • Keep connected – now this one isn’t boring at all (if you’ve got the right company)! We’re all learning how to use tech much better this year, and there really isn’t a reason not to stay connected – zoom, skype, whatsapp, teams, facebook messenger – there’s one that will suit you. And if you’re into more tactile connections, send a letter – those things we used to write with a pen and paper that felt so much better than a bill when you received them!

Lauren is a Rehab and Career Development Counsellor, who after nearly 20 years of helping people adjust to life after a major health change, wants to make sure that women everywhere are proactively making educated choices about their lives. She's an unabashed nerd, total chook and cat lady, and is mildy addicted to Netflix. You can work with Lauren one on one, catch her running workshops, or grab her e-workbooks at www.headstrongwomen.com.au

#headstrongwomen #mentalhealth #personaldevelopment #laurenmaxwell #selfcare

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