What’s your wellbeing mantra?
As we approach the end of May, things are beginning to open up at last. Across the country, the vibrations of movement are re-awakening after a challenging period of lockdown.
Mental Health Week also took place this month, with themes focused on personal and community-wide mental health, hinting at positive changes to come, but also at the challenges that have been faced and the need for continued support as we enter a new phase of this pandemic.
One of the biggest challenges Covid brought was the extraordinary impact it had on our once familiar habits, and daily rituals. How we prepared for the day, going to work, doing the Saturday shop, or having a bite out to eat on the weekend, once familiar, was suddenly unavailable to us.
You may recall this series reflected on the importance of continuity, and creating simple habits in our day to help us to feel more at ease. This is because we often find comfort in the familiarity of routine.
Our habits may have gone unnoticed to us before the pandemic, either because we did them on auto-pilot, or because we had simply come to associate particular events with days of the week. Despite going unnoticed, these habits may have helped us to keep a healthy balance in our lives.
The pandemic forced us to form new habits quickly. Many of us found ourselves working from home, or perhaps not working at all, staying indoors, and limiting our social contacts. These new habits didn’t form overnight, and many found the transition from the old normal to the new normal challenging. This is because the making and breaking of habits takes time, and can be energy-draining.
While we adjusted to lockdown, our brains were busy building these new habits. We learned to keep our distance, to greet each other with an elbow-bump, and to adjust to limited social interactions.
With this in mind, despite the long wait to ‘get back out there,’ we might notice feelings of anxiety and unease at the prospect of actually doing it, until we get our chance to build these new habits again. Forming new habits can be draining, and it is common to feel more tired than normal as we adjust. Even though we might be longing to ditch the pandemic habits and ‘get back to normal,’ we might find that our habit-forming brains may need a little more time.
Developing a supportive mantra
One way to support ourselves while we try to form new habits is to develop a mantra. A mantra is a simple phrase, or a few words, that we can repeat to ourselves during times of stress. Developing a mantra does not mean we must take up meditation, or learn off a long list of phrases. A mantra can be something simple, that is meaningful to us. The rhythm of repeating something soothing to ourselves, and the positive associations it brings, can help us to feel calmer when we notice we have begun to feel anxious, to over-think, or to worry.
For those who have pets, you may have felt the benefits during lockdown of having a pet nearby. Animals are often a great example to us of how to relax and keep a healthy balance. I have a cat named Lady Lavender. She sleeps, she eats, she plays, she finds the one sunny patch to lie in when the weather is good, she seeks out company when she needs it, and also enjoys moments of solitude. All in all, she lives her best stress-free life.
My mantra is ‘be like Lavender.’ When I notice I am feeling stressed or worried, repeating this simple phrase reminds me to relax, and helps me return to a feeling of calm. Mantras like this can help to reassure us, giving us something positive and re-affirming to focus on instead of our worries.
As we enter this new phase of the pandemic, try creating a personal mantra that can support you while you get used to new habits. You might look to someone or something positive in your life as an example, or choose a familiar phrase or song, something that’s personal and allows you to re-centre in a positive way.
A final thought…
As we are emerging from lockdown, it’s important to recognise that although it brings many positives and hope for the future, this may also be a challenging time for us as we learn to form new habits. Developing supportive techniques, and taking a few moments to simply remind ourselves of how well we are doing today, can help us to remember that this is a new experience for each of us, and that we can only take it one day at a time.
This post featured as a Monthly Wellbeing Series article in The Midland Tribune on 27th May 2021