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5 steps to self care in anxious times

Lockdown dragging you down? According to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics, over half of adults in the UK feel anxious as a result of Covid-19. No surprises there. Restrictions might be starting to lift but things are certainly no less worrying for many. Wellness pro Jane Singleton gives us her expert tips for feeling fab.

We caught up with Jane Singleton, Northamptonshire’s only Reproductive Reflexologist & Women’s Wellbeing Practitioner, who provides support to women experiencing symptoms relating to stress, anxiety, fertility and hormonal wellbeing. Jane works with a combination of reflexology, gentle release therapy, acupressure, coaching and mentoring techniques. Here, she gives us the lowdown on how to cope with the added strain we might be feeling right now.

We may be slowly easing out of lockdown, but many of us are still feeling the effects of the traumatic experience of this pandemic. We might not consciously view it as trauma, but we shouldn’t underestimate its effects which are, in many ways, similar to grief. Many lives have been lost, and some of you may be grieving the loss of a loved one. But there’s also been a wider impact – we’ve all been grieving life as we once knew it since lockdown was announced. We’ve lost routines, predictability, opportunities for physical connection with, and the touch of others. The pandemic has also bought with it a huge amount of fear, worry and stress into our day to day lives, sending our nervous systems into overdrive as our innate need for safety has come under threat.

Our bodies are well equipped to deal with stress but the problem for many of us at the moment is that the stress has been prolonged. We’ve faced and had to adjust to new demands such as working alongside homeschooling, being furloughed, businesses and livelihoods being under threat to name but a few and our bodies are having to fight harder to restore the balance. Having ‘fight or flight’ hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline continually surging through our bodies impacts on our wellbeing in so many ways, affecting our periods, our fertility, our digestion and our immune response, even increasing our inflammatory response. Ever wondered why your periods go awry in times of stress, or why you fall ill the minute you finish work for a holiday, or have disturbed sleep, aches, pains and low mood? Our hormones are having a little party at our expense!

The effects of this pandemic are not going away any time soon, so it’s prudent for us all to begin to gently nurture our wellbeing to counteract the impact on our minds and bodies. Here’s some ideas of where to start:

  • Firstly, bring awareness to the impact that lockdown and its fall-out has bought to your whole self. By starting from a place of awareness, understanding you’re going through a period of grief and that it’s impacting on how you’re thinking, feeling and responding to life is the first step towards thinking about how you might be able to positively move forward. Consider whether you can feel it as tension or pain in your body? Have you become aware of changing emotions? What’s changed for you positively and negatively?
  • Bring focus a little further into your emotional wellbeing. Now you’ve bought awareness to the situation, acknowledge how you’re feeling and start to give those feelings a voice. Talk to a friend, family member or partner or make a note in a journal. Emotion is literally ‘energy in motion’ and moving it on from being held within your body is a positive step towards better wellbeing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the belief is that when energy becomes stuck, this impacts on the flow of our vital energy or ‘Qi’ all around the body leading to dis-ease so in this sense, emotional expression is a key component of our overall wellness.
  • Go back to basics and bring some attention to the physical elements of your wellbeing. Are you getting enough sleep? How is your diet at the moment? Are you moving your body/getting enough exercise? You don’t need to make huge changes. I’m a firm believer in taking little steps towards improved wellbeing and the last thing you need at the moment is to add more to the mental load. But maybe a small tweak here and there could be sustainable. In terms of your sleep, perhaps commit to an early night one or two nights a week, reducing screen time beforehand and maybe reading a little and/or indulging in a spot of pampering to calm your nervous system down to support a better night’s sleep. In terms of nutrition, perhaps focus on one aspect, maybe breakfast for example – a simple switch away from a sugary cereal towards something more nutritious could positively impact on your energy levels and mood as you start your day. In terms of exercise, you don’t need to suddenly go to any extremes, but maybe just explore gently increasing your exercise levels if you find you’ve become more sedentary as a result of the lockdown.
  • Don’t forget your mental wellbeing – ensure you’re giving your mind the time to rest and take a break from all the processing. Take a break from reading/watching the news and the pull of social media. Maybe start by making a list of all the things you love to do to relax if there were no barriers. Pick a couple of the simple, no/low cost things and commit to doing one thing off that list each week.
  • Spiritual wellbeing is important too. This doesn’t need to be anything ‘Woo Woo’ if that’s not your thing! Just remember that your soul/spirit is just as important as your mental, emotional and physical self. Ignite your creativity, explore what brings you joy and indulge in this. Practising gratitude is a great way to start – something as simple as having a little notebook to jot down 3 things you’re grateful for at the start or end of each day can positively impact on mood and/or sleep.

Jane Singleton Reflexology and Wellbeing offers services online and in person from her home treatment room. Jane’s personal experience of stress, anxiety and a prolonged fertility journey inspired her to retrain and she now holds the hands of others on their difficult wellbeing journeys.

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