During my twelve years as a clinical aromatherapist therapist, I have been used to dispensing advice to clients about how they can look after themselves during stressful times and periods of crisis. The number one thing I suggest is to look after themselves first, so they will be in a much better place to look after others around them and give them the support they need.
During this period of lockdown down, like us all, I have had to draw deeply on my reserves of resilience, creativity, and thinking outside the box as to how I can survive and find new ways of being during this crisis. What I have observed in others and had to remind myself is that if these efforts of resilience are to be sustained we need to be "excessively gentle with ourselves" as John O'Donohue writes in his book Benedictus, in his blessing 'for one who is exhausted.'
So here you have it friends, my self-care shares for extreme times. One of the things I would like to begin with is to highlight that since lockdown started, never before has it been more important to stay connected. For some time now I have struggled with the term 'social distancing' and prefer to use the phrase 'physical distancing' For those who are on their own or self-isolating it is easy to have an illusion that the rest of the world is active and engaged, with family members and doing things. The reality is we are all in our own spaces right now, with pets, with family or alone. As a species, we are not designed to be alone or on our own. We are socially hardwired to be connected to one another. Deep down this is what we all want and need - to feel connected and to feel cared for.
"WE ARE FRIENDS"
I have developed a daily mantra on my jog around the park, noticing how we observe (and in some cases to the extreme) the social distancing rules. I mentally repeat the words "we are friends" over and over, sending it out to everyone I pass by. Having some kind of daily mantra is extremely helpful for choosing where you would like to place your attention, on the positive rather than the negative.
"Be kind to yourself and let your kindness flood the world" - Pema Chodron
When we are overwhelmed, anxious, and feeling stressed these are the times when we should show the utmost kindness and gentleness to ourselves. The following suggestions for self-care are based on the senses. A sensation is a message sent from your body to your brain to let it know what’s going on out there in the periphery. It’s how the brain is able to check in on what’s happening with your body. When we start to engage with the senses we become more mindful, more in our bodies, and take ourselves out of our thoughts and overthinking.
Take yourself into nature, sit for 10 minutes, and tune into all that you can hear. Listen to the sound of the birds, the wind in the trees, bumblebees buzzing, and experiment with tuning in to all of the layers of sound around you that are nearby and faraway.
Choose peaceful music to listen to, Moby has an excellent album for sleep, or perhaps something classical. How about a rich and nourishing podcast? I highly recommend the app Insight Timer which holds the world's largest collection of free meditations, thoughtful podcasts, music for relaxation, and relieving stress and anxiety.
Reduce your news intake. Switch the radio off from endless news bulletins and adverts telling you what you probably already know. It's useful to be aware of current events; however, having the same negative messages repeated throughout the day raises anxiety levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Engage your sense of smell with aromatherapy oils. Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of concentrated plant essences to relieve stress, enhance well-being, and support the healing process. Each essential oil has distinct healing properties. For example, some calm the nervous system while others energize. You can use aromatherapy oils in the home via a diffuser, mix in with bath salts, or create a massage blend.
My favourite blend for anxiety is a combination of Litsea, Ylang Ylang, and Frankincense. Litsea and Ylang Ylang act as natural antidepressants and Frankincense is known to lower cortisol levels. Choose a reputable supplier where the quality of the oils can be guaranteed. I recommend, Neal's Yard Remedies for their high-quality oils.
Get 'Earthed' and walk barefoot in nature. Much has been written about the benefits of walking barefoot. According to scientific research walking with your feet directly touching the soil allows your body to absorb negative electrons through the Earth, which helps to stabilize daily cortisol rhythm and create a balanced internal bioelectrical environment.
Self-massage has the benefits of releasing oxytocin, the hormone of relaxation and endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Here is a short sweet little video on how to self-massage feet, legs, hands, and neck - Tennis ball optional!
Get creative and think about how you can interact together with friends and family virtually, such as taking an online class or sharing a meal together. Every day stop and ask yourself, "who can I reach out to and connect with today?" Reduce your news intake to once a day, for the same reasons as written in the 'sound' category. Consider a social media detox for 48 hours. - what's the worst that could happen?
Bring in some greenery to your environment. House plants not only purify the air but bring uplifting greenery into your home. Plants play a key role in our well being and positive energy. Read more about it in this book Living Happily Ever After With Plants
Ignite your tastebuds with super healthy and delicious food. Treat yourself like a million-pound racehorse and keep yourself well hydrated. If water isn't your thing then explore the myriad of herbal teas out there. Notice where your tongue is. If it's stuck to the roof of your mouth then it's an indication of dehydration. Experiment with new recipes that will support the immune system and get in as many different colors as possible - eat the rainbow as I like to call it. I am so enjoying Sarah Britton's book, Naturally Nourished
To further explore self-care and how to manage anxiety and stress I offer bespoke one to one coaching sessions online via zoom which include breathwork and meditation. Please get in touch for more details as to how I can help you.
"Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through. Become inclined to watch the way of rain when it falls slow and free. Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour that fostered the brightness of day. Draw alongside the silence of stone until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit. Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time. " - John O'Donohue