Like many of us over the last 12 months or so, I have been acutely aware of how the effects of the pandemic, and the impact of remote working, reduced social interaction, increased uncertainty, negative media (you get the jist!) could take significant and lasting effect on my mental health and wellbeing. Each and every one of us are living in extraordinary times and whilst the magnitude of this ‘new normal’ cannot be underestimated or ignored, I have recognised that the answer to not only surviving, but indeed thriving in extraordinary times, is in fact very ordinary!
With this in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to share five basic principles I have discovered and applied consistently over the years, which I owe to having kept me feeling positive, connected and motivated during a time when the aforementioned have challenged us all.
- Make time for physical movement – Whether it be a gentle walk, a HIIT class or a yoga flow, I advocate any type of activity which will get the blood flowing round your body and release endorphins (otherwise known as the ‘happy chemical’) that your body produces naturally. The age-old saying is true that you whilst you may not want to work out, you always feel better for doing so!
- Enjoy the outdoors – The natural world is a gift to us all and one we should not take for granted – from fresh air, to sunlight, to the smell of fresh grass or the sound of the ocean, there is beauty to be found in the everyday. I have personally found that walking without my mobile phone has been hugely impactful in opening my eyes to the sights and sounds of my natural environment that I would have previously overlooked.
- Eat mindfully – Whilst this can be a complex topic for many, for me, eating mindfully means feeding my body in the way that it needs, to allow it to operate at its best. The definition of mindful eating and what constitutes as ‘eating mindfully’ will vary by individual, but an awareness of what nourishes your body and makes you feel good (long term) is a great starting point when considering what mindful eating could look like for you.
- Be aware of your connections – By our very nature, human beings are social animals; we want and need connection with others to live a fulfilled life. The people we connect and surround ourselves with are our ‘tribe’ – they are people that support us, tell us hard truths, and champion our ambitions as if they were their own. Connections with others are not the only important connections, however. It is equally important to take time to connect with ourselves. Regardless of the medium (meditation, creative writing, volunteering, etc.), recognising what is needed for us to feel connected to our community, roots and self is imperative to feeling emotionally grounded and thus contributes to the nurturing of positive mental health.
- Know when to rest – Whether it is from work, socialising, social media or exercise, rest is vital to re-set, re-centre and re-charge. You cannot pour from an empty glass and so giving yourself time to recoup is a necessary part of self-care. There is a huge amount of literature on the types of rest and the benefits they provide – I often refer back to this when I need validation for saying ‘no’ to a social gathering or missing a workout!
The above is not new, nor revolutionary, nor even terribly exciting but for me, it works! Stripping life back to basics and recognising the power in simplicity, gratitude and the innate power we have to listen to our bodies is a refreshingly rudimentary approach to managing mental health. It allows us to create structure, build resilience and nurture our wellbeing so that we are able to live, and give, the best versions of ourselves to us and those around us.
Yes, ‘bleurgh’ days will happen – that’s normal, that’s life and that’s unfortunately not going to change – but when these odd days hit, my advice would be look after yourself as if you were physically unwell…I am a strong believer in the power of comforting food, a cosy set of PJs and a good box set to brighten a cloudy day!
About the author: Zara Livingston is the EMEA field marketing manager, having joined the Intelex family only last month after a career spanning market analysis, product management and marketing within the technology industry. Her BA and MA studies were in Geography and Cultural Geography respectively, thereby reflecting her interest and passion for the cultural, socio-economic and environmental changes in today’s world. She is delighted to now be working in an organisation which so closely aligns to her own vales. In her free time, Zara enjoys walking her dog, volunteering and spending quality time with her family and friends.