Now Isn't Forever: 5 ways to combat the Winter Blues

There's no denying these are strange times; it feels like, at any moment, we're either going to wake up from this dream to March 2020.

It is rational for anyone to be concerned about how our lives have changed so suddenly so quickly, let alone be feeling anxious or glum. So, before we get into some tips about ways of combatting anxiety during this second lockdown, take it as a given that if you're feeling anxious at the moment, this is totally valid and normal. Go easy on yourself and give yourself time!

1. Reframe the narrative.

Does the world feel a bit weird right now? If so, the time is ripe to refocus your attention inwards. Doing one thing for yourself a day can lead to a greatly improved outlook. It doesn't have to be grandiose. You don't have to write the next Game of Thrones this time around!

Set your sights on a long-avoided task, reorganise your approach and try creating something you've always wanted to (perhaps slightly more manageable than writing the next Game of Thrones). Approaching this time with the mindset of feeling 'stuck inside' will only cause you unnecessary stress. Slow your thoughts and focus on what's right for you and brings you some solace.

2. Be wary of resetting your life to Factory Settings.

Confront unhealthy habits where necessary but try to maintain some semblance of your routine from the old days. If you're working from home, it can be tempting to fall into a passive lifestyle which can be an anxiety trigger that spirals into negative thoughts.

Try, where possible, to wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat, shower, exercise, and get out of those damn PJs! Do your laundry on Sundays as usual (or Monday morning if that's your thing). Not only will sticking to a routine help keep you active and less likely to spiral out of control, but it will also mean you're more prepared to readjust to the world when we return to it.

If you feel the first lockdown completely threw your old routine out of whack, then invest in curating a new routine on your own terms. One that puts your health and well-being first.


3. Limit your news intake

It's a good idea to stay informed but avoid refreshing BBC News App every 10 seconds. It's important to stay up to date on what is happening at the moment, however, following up every single news story and ever-developing-development can trigger anxious thoughts.

With more space away from work and social occasions, there is more time to fall into excessive Googling of updates and/or symptoms. Try limiting your news intake to shorter chunks, twice a day, no more than an hour a day, say. If you need to resort to Google to check up on that cough, use credible websites.


4. Tidy your room.

You know what, Mary Kondo might be right after all: tidying can be a form of therapy. With all the uncertainty happening outside your home, try and keep the inside organised, predictable and dull. We can all learn a lot from dull. Setting up specifically allocated areas for daily tasks can be a helpful way to structure your day. It might seem awfully fun to eat in bed and work in on the sofa, but try and eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk.

Boundaries are annoying, the rule-breaker in us wants to transgress them, but without limits, our routines can quickly become muddled, and the day starts to feel terribly long. A cluttered space can soon make you feel uneasy and claustrophobic, so channel your inner Delores Umbridge and insist: 'I will have order!'


5. Embrace the power of rituals.

Use this time to tap into the power of rituals and do something special for yourself. Something as simple as starting a journal can be revelatory as it is transformative. Get some paper and honour your thoughts and feelings and come back to them later. Make a habit of this. Take a walk at a specific time. Call a mate (after one of your more manageable and less often news chunks) to put the world to rights with. Start a small epic you can tinker way at every day, (maybe you have time for your Games Of Thrones manuscript after all!). Having something special and unique to you, whether a person or passion project will help you look forward to each new day.


Aaaand Breathe. 

One simple yet effective ritual is breathing. 'Breathing isn't a ritual; it's an essential process!' I hear you, but we can get stuck in habits that exacerbate our anxiety. Try relearning how to breathe.

Focus and take a slow deep breath. Inhale, focusing on the sensation of your breath, how your lungs fill with air as you breathe in. Pay attention to this sensation as you continue breathing in a pattern that is regular and calm, a pattern that is mindful, not mind-full. Expel and release your anxiety over what's to come, and return to the here and now, to you in the present. You're safe; you got this.

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