Has lockdown got you feeling stressed, anxious and out of sorts? Priscilla Ramirez, founder of Plan Be coaching, a Positive Psychology coaching practice, is here to help. She’s put together tips based on the most common issues faced by her clients at the moment, to help you gain clarity, increase productivity, and boost motivation during these strange coronavirus times.
By Priscilla Ramirez
Balancing motherhood and all of our other roles is a challenge at the best of times, let alone when the world is in turmoil. If you find yourself struggling to keep all the plates spinning, then you may find the following five tips helpful.
Tip 1. Come into the present moment
Our negative thoughts can have us running away with them, causing us to spiral. Bringing ourselves back to the present moment helps us to stay focused and put some distance between us and the worries that will most probably never materialise. Mindful breathing has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in reduced levels of stress within the body, not just the mind. A great added benefit to mindful breathing is that you can do it anywhere at any time and the effects are immediate.
Take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and breath out of your mouth for 5. Repeat this at least 5 times.
When to apply this technique: Anytime you feel worried, anxious or stressed.
Tip 2. Take control of your stress & listen to what it is trying to tell you
Begin to view stress as a signal that something needs to be adjusted. Try to let go of labelling your stress as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ and just see it for what it is. Stress becomes a problem when we feel stuck and helpless. Instead, look at your stress as information that you can use to create positive change.
Ask yourself: What is your stress highlighting? Are you struggling with your workload? Is keeping the kids entertained too difficult? Are you not able to manage with home-schooling?
Look at the different roles you are juggling and for each one write down the answer to the following question.
What one thing can I do, accomplish or clarify today to feel better by the time I go to bed?
For instance, Partner role: Tell my partner I need more help and suggest 3 things he can do to ease the load. Mum Role: Reduce the stress around mealtimes as they cause interruption to my work flow. Make a list of quick mealtime oven options, or prep food ahead of time. Work role: Use the Eisenhower matrix to establish 3 goals for the day/week.
When to apply this technique: when you begin to feel your stress level starting to rise. This is usually accompanied by a feeling that we are not in control or lacking clarity.
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Tip 3. Have a daily ritual
Rituals are symbolic behaviours we perform, before, during or after an event. They are especially helpful when performed in situations of anxiety or uncertainty. Repeatedly performing a ritual before we embark on a particular task brings familiarity to the moment, helping us to satisfy a need for order and control and creating a trigger that brings you into the correct mindset with increased focus.
When to apply this technique: Identify the spaces in your day where you need to create a pause. A good time is usually the point where you go from one role or task into another.
Before starting work; light a candle, say an affirmation and prepare yourself a favourite drink.
Before home-schooling; let your children prepare their workstation with paper, pens and a jug of water and list three things they are grateful for.
To find out more on how to bring rituals into your day visit to my blog.
Tip 4. Become your own cheerleader
This is a surprisingly quick and effective tip which my clients find particularly helpful and achievable. It simply involves highlighting your wins throughout your day, no matter how small. For instance, acknowledging that you had a particularly productive day: “Well done me! I achieved great work today.” You squeezed in a workout despite feeling tired: “You go girl, you really pushed yourself when you could just have stayed on the sofa”. You managed to stop yourself before screaming at the little one for spilling her third drink on the carpet today: “well done me for managing my emotions in the moment and responding calmly”.
When to apply this technique: In the moment, as soon as it happens. Take a quick pause to acknowledge your small win. This technique works by highlighting all your small achievements and victories throughout your day and bringing them it into your conscious mind. Each acknowledgement is a reminder of how great you are doing, and over time, can have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing.
Tip 5. Start journaling
Journaling daily or as much as you can is a wonderful way to detox the mind. Set aside some time in your day to let all those worrying and stressful thoughts seep out by putting pen to paper. There are no rules. when it comes to journaling, you can write things out in diary form, bullet points, or jot down each worry into a spider diagram with possible solutions for each spider leg. Some prefer to write non-stop without too much thought, literally dumping every passing thought on the paper. Let your imagination run wild; add doodles, use different coloured pens for different moods…However you do it, it will be a calming and cathartic experience. I also find it’s a great tool to teach the kids for when they are worried, stressed or anxious. You can choose to keep your journal entries or rip them up, burn them (carefully!) or bin them in a symbolic act of overpowering your worries and concerns.
When to apply this technique: Whenever you are lacking focus or feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts. I also like to do a ‘brain dump’ before bed with a ritualistic herbal tea. I find emptying my mind of all its worries and troubles form the day helps me get a better night’s sleep.