11 tips to keeping your emotions in check during these trying times

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Wasn’t 2021 supposed to be better than 2020? Weren’t we supposed to kick this year off on a good footing with all the hopes that come with the new year?

Then why are many of us still feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety?

Well, simply put, we are still in a global pandemic. South Africa is still in a lockdown, and there is still so much uncertainty. On top of that, our social media feeds are now being inundated with heartbreaking messages of family, friends and acquaintances who have tragically passed away.

Just the other day, I saw someone referring to social media as the death roll call and the reality of the enormous weight of sadness that seems to be lingering, set in.

It’s been over 280 days since South Africa went into lockdown. For many, that is over 280 days of not earning a salary… and 280 days of not being helped by the government. This is the tragic reality that many are facing in South Africa right now. Hunger and unemployment are soaring, and our beautiful country is facing a national crisis that we may never recover from; extreme poverty that we have never seen before.

Our unemployment rate was shocking before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, but that number has almost doubled since the 26 March 2020. It has been estimated that there are over 10 million citizens who are actively looking for a job but can’t find one right now. South Africa has also just been ranked as the world’s most miserable economy after Venezuela and Argentina.

‪This lockdown can make us feel like our emotions are all over the place and what is happening in the world can start to feel very overwhelming. But we must not forget that there is always hope!

And even though I cannot fix your sadness, or the poverty level or rising unemployment, I can offer a few tips to keeping your emotions in check during these trying times. You don’t have to do all these things every day, but practice doing some of the things on some days… practice self-care; fill your cup, and then you can help others fill theirs.

So here are my 11 tips to keeping your emotions in check, during lockdown:

  • Make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning. If you set that as a goal, then you’ve already achieved one thing straight after you wake up. Winning!
  • Meditate, or just take a moment to yourself. Sit with your thoughts, figure out how you feel and then try to keep the crazy/sad/angry ones in check. Find your reasons to be grateful. My first cup of coffee is when I usually do this. I just sit and take in how I am feeling, be thankful for what I have and try to assess how to tackle my day.
  • Have some sort of plan/routine. I am still working so this is pretty easy BUT I do get stuck behind my desk and tend to forget to get up and do things, so I literally put calendar entries to get me moving or eating lunch… or even playing PlayStation.
  • Get out of your pyjamas. It’s easy to stay in the most comfortable clothes possible, but it also gives you purpose to actually get dressed. I’ve been working from home for 5 years now, and this always helps me get work-ready. It also makes you look less like a slob, which in turns makes you feel better.
  • Eat healthily. I mean, snack and get your chocolates on but be mindful of balancing your food. It’s a proven fact that healthy eating means healthy mind so get your greens on, yo!
  • Speak to people!!! This is super important. I am on several WhatsApp groups with friends and family and am doing video calls daily to them. It’s like food for the soul to connect with the people you love, even while stuck in your house!
  • Get some sun! Vitamin D is crucial not only for bone health but for proper brain development and functioning. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, so get your ass into the sun at least once a day!
  • Exercise, even if that is just a few pushups and jumping jacks! Exercise is well known to stimulate the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable. The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk. Further, depending on the activity, people may benefit from calming exercises, be energised, and get outside or interact with others, all of which are known to improve mood and general health.
  • Stop reading the news so much. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”. News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression and hinders your creativity and ability from thinking deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.
  • Get off social media. Yup, same thing! Research shows that limiting your exposure to social media reduces anxiety and depression. Ironic that you’re reading this on social media but just take a break… get off Facebook or Twitter or Insta… and spend some time in the real world, maybe soaking up the sun?

And here’s an extra tip… don’t feel bad to take a duvet day. Stay in bed. Go to the park. Turn your phone off. Watch movies. Read a book. Play Playstation. Don’t exercise. Don’t make your bed. Do whatever you need too, in order to fill your soul and feel good again. Mental health and wellness is so incredibly important, not just during lockdown but every day.

At times it can feel like we’re going through this alone, but we are not. We are all in this together – separated in our houses – but all together, and that’s how we get through this… together!

The next couple of weeks and months are going to be really, really tough. I think we’re all going to have to be more thoughtful of each other, practice more kindness and love each other a little louder.

Wishing you only good things!

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