Updated: Dec 18, 2020
There is so much going on in the world right now. Where I live, in Calgary Alberta, we have gone back into lockdown for 4 weeks. That means that Christmas is essentially cancelled, or at least it feels that way. While that is incredibly sad and difficult to accept, Covid cases are growing quickly and I think it’s important that we all do our part to contain the spread of the virus.
On that note, things might be tough for a while. I mean, things HAVE been tough for while! 2020 has been a really hard year for everybody. While I truly hope that you are happy, healthy and have been impacted minimally by the pandemic, I understand that is likely not the case for the majority. Many of us are feeling isolated, both physically and emotionally, being separated from our loved ones. This is new territory for everyone, it’s hard to know how to cope.
I personally struggled with mental illness for several years. I would lay awake at night, unable to turn off my brain from the negative thoughts. This was incredibly unhealthy and it impacted every aspect of my life. The lack of sleep was debilitating, making me a walking (often crying) zombie. It became a vicious cycle of feeling depressed and not sleeping, not sleeping and feeling depressed. This experience eventually led me to my passion of helping others with their sleep.
I am so happy to be able to say that I eventually learned how to cope with my anxiety and depression, I used many of the techniques below and I also started using medication. It took me many years to finally accept my doctor’s recommendation of medication, but it was the right decision for me. Only you can make that decision. Mental illness is so common and it needs to be normalized, especially in times like these. There is no shame in having depression or taking medication for it. There is no shame in having these feelings and seeking help. There is no shame. Period.
I wanted to share some tips that I have accumulated over the years, on how to cope with these feelings when they arise. I hope that something inspires you and helps you get through the emotions of Christmas, 2020 and whatever 2021 brings.
In no particular order. Just kidding, I totally put Sleep at the top on purpose, but the rest is in no particular order!
It can be difficult to sleep when you are experiencing high stress and anxiety. Falling asleep and staying asleep become seemingly impossible. Your body NEEDS sleep, and getting the proper sleep requirements for your age will drastically improve your overall emotional well-being. Out of all of my suggestions in this post, getting more sleep will help you the most. Possibly because it is my business, but mostly because I have had insomnia and I know the affects it has. Check out my other Blog “10 Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep,” if you are struggling, or reach out to me.
Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, close your eyes and focus only on the air going in and out of your body. Take deep breaths, counting slowly from 1 to 4. In moments when emotions are high, breathing helps to ground you in the moment, lowering your heartrate and distracting your mind from what is causing you stress.
Your Happy Place
Think about somewhere you have been that brought you joy. Go to that place in your mind whenever you feel the need to escape. Recall the details, truly envision yourself there. It helps to be alone and in a quiet and peaceful space, but you can really do it anywhere.
Try to set aside 10-30 minutes once a week. Take this time to write down all the roles you have in your life (friend, sister, brother, parent, child, manager, student, etc.) Think about little ways that you can improve in each of those roles, then come up with some small steps you can take. Look at your week ahead and think about how and when you can accomplish those things. (Ex. As a student, maybe you want to improve your grades on a class you are struggling in. Set aside extra time to focus on that class. Be specific. Wednesday at 6:30-7:30pm I will put my phone away and read chapter 9 again.)
(Ex. 2. As a mother, I want to connect with my child more. I will turn off all electronics and sit with my child and read to them for 20 minutes, every evening after dinner.)
Keeping a daily log of your thoughts and experiences can help you. Write down things that made you feel happy, sad, anxious, overwhelmed, out of control, etc. It can help to get these emotions out, even if it just on paper or digitally. It is also beneficial to look at your list and recognize that there may be things that you can control, and things you cannot. You can then focus on the controllable items (when you are awake during the day, not when you are lying in bed at night), and learn to let go of the things you have no control over.
I also recommend setting aside 5 minutes in the morning before you start your day. This time can be used to write positive affirmations (you are strong, you are worthy, you are where you need to be). I also encourage you to write down 3-5 tasks you want to complete that day, something that will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and will help you feel less stressed. Use your “role goals” to help you create these small and simple tasks. It can be something that has been keeping you up at night, or something as simple as making your bed, drinking 8 cups water, or reading 10 pages of a book. This is meant to help you find some direction, not stress you out or overwhelm you. You may start to notice that you feel accomplished when you get to cross off the things you have completed!
Sometimes it can feel like we are trapped, stuck in this situation and unable to move forward. Right now, this is truer than ever, since we are literally being forced to stay home. It can help to visualize the life you want. You want to visualize yourself sitting in that dream car, owning that beautiful home, working in your dream career, etc. Whatever your dreams are, believe that they are going to happen for you. And if you truly believe it, then they WILL. Manifest that shit.
I have created a Vision Board on my Pinterest Page which I have connected to a widget on my iPhone. Every hour, my phone cycles through my Vision Board pictures, so I see a new photo of something I want in my life. I take a moment to visualize myself there. This can also be a moment for you to escape if you’re feeling stressed, but it also helps you see that you have a future and you control where it goes.
There are so many books out there that can help you get through difficult times. Music is also incredibly therapeutic, listen to songs that bring you joy or calm you. If you know what hobbies or activities make you feel good, set aside time to do them. Bring joy into your daily life as much and as often as you can.
A few book recommendations:
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Your 5 Senses
If you ever feel out of control, emotionally, bring it back to basics. Open your eyes and think of 5 things you can see. Then close your eyes and think of 4 things you can feel/touch. Then 3 things you can hear. Then 2 things you can smell. And finally, 1 thing you can taste. This will help ground you and help you realize that all the emotions you are/were feeling are just extra. Life really comes down to those 5 senses and taking a moment to focus on them intently can help bring your awareness back to the foundations of life.
I want you to make your bedroom your sanctuary, this will help with your sleep and overall mood. Move your furniture around if you need to, paint your walls, hang up pictures, write your favorite quotes on your mirror or frame them on your nightstand. Fill it with positive smells, pictures and objects. Keeping it tidy will also help your stress immensely! Find a candle you love or an essential oil diffuser and make your room smell amazing. Then whenever you walk into that room, the scent will bring you peace. It sounds hippy-dippy, I know (haha), but there is a lot of science and truth behind aromatherapy and the effects on stress and depression. Try it and see how you feel.
You want to feel happy and comfortable in your entire home, not just your bedroom. I recommend trying to keep it clean and organized. Declutter if you can or need to. If you look around and see chaos, that chaos will manifest in your mind and cause stress.
This may seem like the last thing you need, and it will depend on your situation. If you live alone, that’s one thing, but if you’re home with small kids like me, some alone time will be amazing for your mental health. So take the time to yourself. There is definitely merit to having people around, but being comfortable with being alone is so important. Take that time to visualize your happy place. Make a list of your best qualities. Practice self-love. You are amazing and you deserve love, especially from yourself.
Family and Friends
We are in a pandemic and you may not be able to spend time with your loved ones, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still video call or social distance and visit. Pick up the phone, write a letter. Lean on them if you need to and give the same support to them. Try to maintain a normal life (without putting society or yourself at risk, be smart about it please!)
You may also be in the position where you need to let go of toxic relationships. Don’t be afraid to do what’s best for you. If that means saying goodbye to some people, it may be the time.
I believe that everybody can benefit from therapy. It has honestly taught me so much about myself and allowed me to let go of pain, forgive myself and love myself. There is something to be said about being able to open up and get advice from someone who is outside of your social circle and coming from a place of zero judgement. I highly recommend it! If you have benefits through work, it is likely covered with insurance, so what do you have to lose?!
Food is fuel! I love pizza as much as the next person, but it goes without saying that processed foods and junk don’t give your body what it needs. If you are feeling low on energy, lacking motivation, struggling to sleep, you should start with being more mindful of what goes into your body. Try limiting, or eliminating, stimulants to start (caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol and drugs.) Then focus on eating clean, unrefined foods. This will improve your physical and mental health!
Being in nature and getting fresh air will do wonders for your mood! Vitamin D is something most people are lacking, so try to get at least 30 minutes of natural sunlight a day, specifically in the morning. Vitamin D will help your sleep too! Bonus if you get outside and exercise!
Speaking of exercise. I highly recommend working it into your day. The endorphins that are created during a workout WILL make you feel so much better! I promise that no matter how difficult it is to make yourself do it, you will feel better after a good sweat session!
Focus on what helps, not what hurts
Mindset is everything. Life is all about your perspective and how you choose to look at things and react to them.
News and Technology
There is a lot of negative things in the news and online. It can be difficult to avoid, but it could help to try. Turn off the news, delete twitter, don’t read negative comments, unfollow accounts that don’t line up with your values, and follow accounts that motivate and lift you up!
I hope that these tips help just one person who reads them. I understand feeling like you don’t know how you will get through the day, it’s awful. I also know what it is like to come out the other side of depression and live a positive life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it’s possible and it’s worth it. I am here to help with your sleep needs, but I am also just here if you need to talk.