Strategies for coping with self isolation and getting work done.

Happy self isolation-photo Julia M Cameron

 Strategies for coping with self isolation and getting work done.


The following could be considered as tools to help you:

(i) engage with an activity that you have till now been procrastinating over
(ii) explore your emotions that may have become stuck or persistent, e.g. depression and anxiety
(iii) plan a daily routine that will nourish your mind, body and *spirit.

* I have come to appreciate that the term 'spirit' can be off-putting if you are not remotely religious. If this word conjures up hippies and meditation, or bible bashers, you can simply replace that word with 'nourish' - after all, whether you are inclined to connect with a god or guru, or simply enjoy listening to a piece of music, it is all nourishment that makes us feel good, and is a welcome distraction.

Tips for dealing with depression (for deeper or longer term depression - professional help should be sought of course)

The Motivational Speaker, Xandria Ooi has come up with her own set of techniques for bringing herself back to feeling happy. They may not be a cure, but could be a welcome distraction and the beginning of a daily routine of working with them throughout the day.
 
5 practices for being happy


Step 1. Focus on your objective, this could be very simple - to be happy
Step 2. Focus on what you are grateful for in your life, rather than saying to yourself "If only I had more money, or a nicer house, or the latest smart phone..." My grateful list includes - my loving partner, our dog and our home, my health... the list is endless.
Step 3. Accept all your emotions and don't treat them like the enemy. Your emotions are part of you and will come and go, whether that is feeling happy or sad.
Step 4. Give yourself good vibes. This is especially helpful if you currently live alone. Why wait for that other person to call you? or the latest 'like' on your recent facebook page to fill good about yourself. You could wait a long time to get some positive vibes or acknowledgement. For me, dressing up in nice clothes, using the best cups for drinking tea or coffee and gathering flowers from the local fields, are all activities that give me good vibes.
Step 5. Think about life as being a celebration, anything else treat as a lesson to learn something about yourself. For example, this morning I became annoyed when I thought I had lost this document. Because I had spent several hours developing these ideas I felt justified in feeling angry. However, I caught myself in time, walked away from the computer, made a coffee, sat back down and finally found the document. A lesson in patience for me.
 
Engaging with your emotions


One technique I use with my client work is to encourage them to be in touch with the hurt part of themselves. For example, one client whom as a child received very little love from his parents and so grew up suffering from long bouts of depression and feeling angry. In our work together he began to learn to love his own internal child. 'self parenting' is the therapy speak for engaging our internal parent to comfort and love the 'inner child' that is hurting. 

If you have ever experienced that feeling of being cut off from your emotions, numb, or on the point of tears but not being able to cry - I certainly have from time to time, this is most likely a deep part of you that is crying out for some attention.

The following technique is very simply but very poweful. Allow yourself the luxury of time to complete the exercise, allow the emotions to surface and then allow time also to recover. Be extra kind to yourself for the rest of your day, give yourself plenty of good vibes.

Take a blank pad or piece of paper, lined or unlined, doesn't matter and some colouring pencils if you have them, or a standard one colour biro pen will suffice. The idea is to draw pictures or write some words using your non-dominant hand. This helps to engage the child in you, and I know from experience, seeing that spidery writing and those child-like drawings will certainly remind you of what it means to be a child again. One of my male clients did this in one of our sessions. He cried for a long time, and once the tears had faded a little, and with my in-put, he engaged his own inner parent with the author of the drawings and words. The parent spoke softly to his child and apologised for not talking with him sooner, the child became pacified, drew a few more words on the page to say thank you. My client felt like a huge weight had lifted from his shoulders after this exercise. He repeated this techinque at home whenever he felt stuck and numb inside. If you don't connect with this exercise, or the emotions don't surface, accept that process and put down the pen. Allow yourself to be still for a while and imagine yourself as three years old again. Then again, pick up the pencil or pen and begin to draw or write whatever comes to mind. Keep the work of your child, put them up on display. Be proud of them, and of him/her, and tell them so everyday.

Lonely-on-the-window
 
Mindfullness techniques


These are becoming ever more popular. I love the work of  comedienne and actress Ruby Wax, who is very open about her own journey of living with manic depression. Through the work of mindfullness she has learnt to accept and overcome her own emotions. Check out her books, 'A Mindfullness guide for the frazzled' and her more recent volume 'How to be human, the manual'. She is stunningly frank about the depth of despair she has had to work through, and continues to fight what Winston Churchill called, the Black Dog of depression.  And because of her honesty I find her work refreshing and encouraging. The exercise below for anxiety comes from her book, 'How to be Human`.

 Anxiety

The state of your body is often a reflection of your emotions and thoughts etc, vice versa. If you manage to let go of tension by general exercise you will notice that not just your muscles loosen up but also your thoughts and emotions. This is a two step  distraction technique.

Step 1. Hunch your shoulders, look down, frown and walk slowly, even shuffle. Shorten your breathing. Notice the influence it has on your thoughts and emotions. Don't spent too long on this I don't want to make you feel worse!
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Step 2. Stand upright, shoulders straight, chest out, walk confidently and smile (no-one can see you, just try it!).

Feel the difference? You can't always snap out of anxiety or deep depression but you can certainly try to lift your spirits by experimenting with your posture.

Another techinque I have used with clients who are feeling anxious about an aspect of their lives, especially with those who are frozen with fear about 'doing the right thing!'.

 Being in the here and now

Sit quietly, and allow yourself to sense the emotions, accept them as they surface. Have a dialogue with that emotion, ask, "what are you trying to tell me? Reply to that part of you as a nurturing parent would to a child, "I hear your anxiety, and am hear to help you". Hear their reply, thank it again and ask, "Is there anything else you need?" Allow this dialogue to continue for a while. Often the anxiety is about an event that hasn't even happened yet and therefore you may need to reassure the anxious self that you will be there every step of the way. When it looks like the anxious self is settled, thank him/her and reassure them that you will be there for them any time they need to reach out again.

Guided meditations are also helpful if you can learn to engage the anxious self in some relaxation. You may need to do the 'here and now' technique first and as a reward settle him/her down with a favourite beverage and then some relaxtion time. There are numerous organisations on-line who offer free practises of meditation, Bramah Kumaris for example, and for a small fee, institutes such as the Udemy academy offer short classes in techniques.

Distracting yourself from procrastinating

This sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact it is a techinque used by psychologists and hypnotherpists to engage their clients into achieving what they are most fearful of. For perfectionists, that fear is most likely failure. And for others, the anxiousness is maybe the feeling of overwhelment of the task at hand. Generally the advice for taking on a large task is to break it down into smaller tasks, then step by step, do whatever is required. But, if you dread taking it on in the first place you have to come up with a strategy for achieving your goal, i.e. getting the job done.

Ask yourself the first two questions and then based on the answers engage with point 3:

1. What is the importance of achieving this task? It could be purely asthetic - like getting the ceiling on the bedroom painted or getting a quote written up and sent to a client.
2. Rate it on a scale of 1-5, 1 being not so urgent, and 5 being very urgent. For me, the quote would be more important as without the quote I won´t get the client, and in the longer term I won´t get paid.
3. Visualise yourself starting the task, gathering all the tools and material you will require, then imagine yourself conducting all the processes towards completion.
4. What will completing the task look like, how will you feel and behave after achieving this task.
5. What will the final outcome be if you complete the task. What will that look like, how will you feel, behave etc.

The final points, points 4 and 5, are crucial steps. At these two stages you are engaging with your future self. Seeing yourself starting, taking actions and completing the task, will most likely make you feel happy and satisfied.

Achievement

 Create a treat programme along with a daily routine

I strongly believe, that just like our dogs and cats, we humans are all motivated more if we have a treat lined up. Also, by creating a structure to your day will help you through the challenge of getting stuff done; you know what I mean, the kind of activities that you have been busy avoiding for far too long. If I have an important email to send out that involves a quote, pictures, and general explantory texts I give myself plenty of time and when I feel most awake. For me, that is normally before 10am in the morning. Firstly, I set my alarm for 7am, have my first treat of the day, a cup of coffee. And then settle down to my computer. I will fail most miserably at the first post if I allow myself the luxury of looking at my social media pages. So I don't open them up until I have completed the email quote etc. For that same reason I also place my mobile phone as far from my pc as possible, I don't check any non urgent emails either. The quietness of the early morning is an inspiration for me to start work. I appreciate you may be different to me. I know some friends that don't start work before 10am as they literally can't concentrate that early in the morning. So my question to you is, when are you most productive?

If the quote is taking longer than usual, maybe because I can't source all the prices from suppliers or all the images, I will break off after about 1.5 hours, probably for about 30 mins. During this time I will have some breakfast, maybe check any facebook messages from overnight. And then get started again. Once I have completed the quote I will reward myself with a second coffee and a nice hot shower!

Making a list of weekly tasks may seem a bit mundane but better the tasks are written down than you (conveniently!) forgetting about them. For me, having a list in front of me, in my own handwriting, means I am committed in some way of tackling what is on the list.

A daily practise for nourishing your mind, body and spirit

Zen monks in their day to day lives perform a series of rituals that help them to:

- maintain a focus, in the here and now
- engage with their personal environment
- relate to the other monks
- engage with their minds and bodies during activities such as exercise, meditation and general leisure pursuits

I am not suggesting we should all become Zen Monks but what I would like you to take from the following practises is a new perspective on how to engage your mind, body and spirit as you go about your daily lives. To cover every part of a working day will fill up many many pages. I am only going to cover the main aspects of a day, from waking up, to the first meal, first exercise, first mind activity of the day, to the final few minutes before going to sleep. Everything else in between is a repeat of an earlier meal, activity etc.

These are just suggestions that I find helpful, you don't have to do all of them, or any of them, I just want to give you some basic ideas for how to engage daily with your mind, body and spirit.

Upon waking -  I allow a few minutes to give thanks to the new day, and then once out of bed perform five minutes of stretches for my arms, back and shoulders, legs etc. I focus on the here and now as I peform each stretch, feeling the stretch of the back fully as I go down, and then feel the release as I go back up. If my mind wanders I gently bring it back to the here and now.

First treat - mine is a coffee, followed by a hot shower. I make this a self awareness exercise. I feel the warmth of the drink as I swallow and smell the coffee!!'; and as I shower, I feel the warm water , followed by the soap against my skin.  I personally could stay there alday as I just love the sensation of the warmth of the water and the smell of the fresh soap gel. But time to get out!!

First activity - out of respect for my partner or other users I wash down the surfaces where the soap and water has rested. I love this gesture. I don't think anyone relishes stepping into a shower that has evidence of the previous user. The same applies to the use of the toilet and sink. Both can be cleaned in a very short space of time.

Second activity - making the bed. I do this as early as possible as I love the comfort of knowing that the bed is ready for me when I most need it again.

First meal - I love breakfast, some people don't participate in eating until about lunchtime, but I can't survive that long without eating. I consider eating when I am hungry is taking care of my essential needs. I am not suggesting that you have to count the number of chews before swallowing - although this ritual is used in meditation retreats. But I would suggest is that you are mindful of what you are eating. I know, like me, some of you have the habit of checking your facebook messages whilst eating a meal. Nothing really wrong with that, but do I remember what I have eaten? Of course not. But being mindful of the flavours and textures, and of course giving thanks for where the food came from doesn't hurt either. Cleaning up the breakfast table is the final ritual before starting work. I love the feeling that the table is clean and ready for the next meal of the day.

Work activity - as my computer has all my social media options I do have to be strict with myself, and not indulge in those options until later in the day. I might check client messages from our work facebook page, along with client emails. Being totally engaged with work when you have a dog isn't easy, and those of you with pets or young children will know how they can be distracting. For that reason, not aforementioned, we take our dog for a walk before our breakfast, then give her a small snack. And before settling down to work we make sure she has a bone to chew on. This is her comforter, and with any luck she will have a morning nap.

Spirit-relaxing

Exercise - at least three times a week we set aside 30 minutes for more active exercise than the general stretches upon waking. Again, we aim to be mindful of what the exercise is doing for our body, rather than watching the clock to see when it is time to stop.

The day continues pretty much in the same pattern - more work activities, walking the dog before our lunch, taking lunch - sensing that the food is nourishing our bodies and then, after feeling well digested, we clear the table. This is followed by more work activities or study period up until about 5pm. And at least one tea break in between.

One point to make before we discuss the evening events, and the bedtime ritual. Engaging with my partner when he has a lot to deal with in his working day, has to be an agreed effort. If I am on my phone during our time together, which is mostly at meal times and always in the evenings, I feel it is disrespectful to him that I would rather engage with someone else, who isn't physically in the room, than give him my full attention. I also thank him heartily if he has cooked the evening meal. 

We try to end the working day before dinner time, around 6.30. By then our dog is laying flat out asleep which gives us time to catch up on our working day. I may do some kind of meditation or have a nap befoe dinner, but that is sometimes a luxury if work is busy. But when I have time I feel it is a good practice to indulge- especially as it does help me to switch off from the working day. After dinner we may watch some tv news and comment as most couples do, or engage with a shared interest programme. I personally try not to engage with news items (mostly bad news these days) a few hours before going to bed, and for that reason I won't engage with social media close to retiring. I feel the news and the active engagement on facebook disturbs my sleep pattern. Again, this is me taking care of my mind and body.

A quick word about social media before I sign off here - I have personally chosen to leave some facebook shared interest pages as the content became agressive, petty and just a waste of energy. I have now chosen interests that really nourish me, e.g. creative fan pages that excite my artistic self.

I often aim to retire to bed before 11pm. Quality sleep is of great importance for my mind and body. I have such a busy mind during the day and by 10.30pm I am very ready to switch off my brain. I give thanks for my day as  l lay my head on the pillow and generally after ten minutes I have drifted into my own dream land.

So that is my day, again they are just suggestions, if you can take at least one useful tip from this I will feel this article has been beneficial.

Please keep us informed of your progress with your own strategies for staying positive and healthy in this current climate. You can write to me via emai, paul@naturaljokiflow.com or via facebook messenger, under the banner, Natural Joki Flow.


Self isolation in Algarve

 

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