We’ve all been on an incredibly emotional journey this past few weeks. Feelings of worry, anxiousness, unease and uncertainty abound.
We’re now well in to lockdown mode and never has a word had so much meaning. Being ‘locked’ up is now intrinsically linked with feelings of being ‘down’ as we adjust to the new world of curfews, social distancing and self-isolating.
With so many businesses unsure about how they can stay afloat, employees losing their jobs, over a million people applying for universal credit (over ten times more than normal) over just two weeks, wherever we turn our attentions; inside our homes or out, life feels uncertain.
And for expectant parents and those with recent additions to the family these feelings can be significantly magnified. During the peri-natal period - the bit when you're expecting and when you've given birth, we as mums are evolutionary pre-disposed to being acutely sensitive to any perceived threats in order to be primed protect our off-spring. It's a natural instinct to react to feelings of insecurity and uncertainty. So as we are in the midst of this 'unprecedented' global pandemic it is not surprising that those of you already in a lockdown situation may be feeling the pressure tenfold.
At Tiggy and Bo we know first hand the detrimental effects that outside pressures we cannot control can place on mums-to-be and new mums especially. Amy Murray Jones created the company after becoming a mum to twins and struggling to cope with her new responsibilities. With two new humans to care for and a drastically major life change, she suffered a bout of post-natal depression. To regain some CONTROL back into her life, Amy developed products that would not just help make life with her babies easier but with designs she created that were unique to her own style and taste, so that she didn’t just ‘get by’ but could enjoy her time as a mother with confidence.
So we've been taking a close look at what individuals and companies have had to offer over the last few weeks in the form of tips and advice for coping in your situation, alongside our own tips, and we think these really helpful in helping you get perspective, balance and a sense of control into your life.
We’ve divided them into 6 key pillars so that you can weave these into your daily life and apply them to your own individual needs:
1. UNDERSTAND THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
The first pillar is establishing what is in and out of your control will help identify a positive path you can follow. We can’t control lots of things such as when this situation will end, how the economy will change or what the consequences will be therefore, we should remove these from the focus of our attention and concentrate on what we can have control over, such as what we eat, read, watch, listen to and how we behave.
There are lots of images on social media that help highlight this and The Counseling Teacher illustrated it really well - see image above - by clearly dividing up these factors.
Action: is the news stressing you out? Turn off your radio/TV/phone news feed for a block of time. I've now stopped listening to the news bulletins especially when my children are around, they've found it really distressing when they've accidentally overheard death toll figures or the threat to the elderly.
Do you find yourself comparing how you're coping to others on social media, does it make you feel uneasy, like you're not 'smashing it' like others seem to be?! The simple solution is to place the power button in your own hands and unfollow or mute influencers, companies and even friends who make you feel bad, worried or have negative feelings. Press click and follow more of what makes you feel good: interiors ideas, memes that make you laugh, museums and galleries who post pics of lovely things. I enjoy following @metmuseum on instragram, who post close up images of paintings from their collection.
You can control when and who you speak with. Plan to speak to a friend or family member outside of your household at least once a day and remember those in isolation who would love to hear from you. Check in with your health care provider regularly, they will be monitoring how you are feeling and they are a good sounding board to any of your specific concerns during this time.
Treat yourself to getting enough ZZZZZZs each night. We need 8 hours a day to keep our minds healthy so it can work at optimum levels – make sure you get yours in by going to bed at a decent time.
2. MENTAL HEALTH
JOURNAL: It’s all a bit crazy out there, how can it not impact our mental health?! Treat your mental health like you would your physical health. Take time out to consider how you’re feeling – write down a daily account or mark out of 10 how positive you’re feeling today. As well as writing when you're feeling down, write about the good days too – it's a good to be able to refer to this when you need a lift, and to reassure yourself that the good days follow bad.
READ: Dig out that book that’s been on your shelf and unread for years. Reading before bed is good for you but find some time during the day when you can grab 20 minutes. Reading takes yur mind away from the present and gives perspective on life beyond our four walls. The World Health Organisation have officially said in their guide to coping with the situation, to read regularly.
MEDITATE: It’s been tried and tested for hundreds of years so there is a form of meditation out there to suit you. If you're a novice, guided meditations on Youtube are good place to start. They talk you through a series of images in your mind or place focus on breathing techniques which calm and regulate your breathing.
CALMING THE KIDS: The great thing about meditation is that you can meditate from 5 minutes to an hour or more. There are sessions aimed at children, for stress, relaxing during pregnancy and aiding sleep. I’ve been doing 5 minute meditations with the kids every few days which is the right amount of time for my children’s attention spans! And it works, we are all noticeably calmer afterwards. There’s plenty of apps out there too, Calm and Headspace being two of the more popular ones. Comedian Jimmy Carr said in an interview that he enjoys doing Sam Harris’ stuff.
GET POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS: Part of what makes us human is being acknowledged, listened to and reassured. We need affirmation regularly, this is why it feels good when we say 'Good Morning' to a passer by or are asked, 'How are you?' when you pick up your morning coffee. These all play in to us being acknowledged as present, as relevant and as part of a community with opinions, thoughts and feelings. With lockdown on 'full' these former seemingly unimportant daily 'strokes' are something we are all missing right now. So, it's important we seek these elsewhere.
Aside from a good virtual chinwag with a pal or two there are other ways we can receive positive vibes. Texting friends and family and striking up a chat about how we are coping and what we're up to, writing an email to your aunty, talking to the checkout superviser when you get your grocery essentials, are all positive ways to listen and be listened to.
On-line, try the peri-natal charity Pandas UK's Instagram site @pandas_uk is a fantastic place to go for daily affirmations and positive vibes. They're a charity supporting peri-natal women (so focussing on women who are pregnant or have given birth) through mental health and well being. Pandas also offers a helpline if you need someone to talk to about how you are feeling.
*PANDAS UK is a leading UK charity supporting families suffering from perinatal mental illnesses. Free Helpline from uk mobiles and landline -0808 1961 776. 11-10pm
3. SOCIAL INTERACTION
Make a point to have a daily call with someone outside of your household. Your family and friends or a long lost relative. If you can get on Facetime, Zoom, Houseparty etc. Seeing someone's face is good for us in all sorts of ways. Joining in on online parties, choirs, events - when it suits us - is also great for lifting the spirits. Last week I put my lippy on and a party dress and had a virtual chat with some of my fave pals. Afterwards my husband said he could visibly see a lift in my demeanour and when can I do it again!!
If you need to zone out but retaining a positive link to the outside world. Check out ITVs This Morning programme. I've been lucky enough to work as a producer for this show and it absolutely hits the spot when it comes to making us feel good during times of adversity. I love it when viewers send in their funny images and stories from the homefront and there's advice from experts to help you through a whole host of issues and problems. Check it out.
4. EXERCISE + DIET
EXERCISE: – Never have we been more keen to leap out the door like a dog hearing the words ‘walkies!’ Whether you’re exercising round the park or taking your children for round the block plan what you do before you head out the door this adds a sense of an event for your mindset.
Build in a simple daily exercise schedule. Aerobic exercise releases feel-good endorphins so planning a morning 20 minute aerobics routine will set you up for the day. Online vids, or running up and down the stairs, will get oxygen pumping to your brain. We’ve been doing themed online classes with our kids and they’re just as good for adults too (my kids can just about stomach 20 minutes before they start messing around). Joe Wicks is obviously the number one name for this type of thing - even though he did punch himself in the face in one session! But there are lots of others out there too. Type in ‘Kids workout’ and it comes up with lots of great suggestions.
Look for some exercise workouts that will support you. Pregnancy yoga, post-natal physio exercises - there's a wealth of them online. If your health care provider has suggested any, take a look at them.
With kids? When it comes to toddlers we know it's essential to get them outside and running around. If your park is shut or too busy, try walking round the block and counting the blossom, insects, cars and flowers. It’s a small distraction that kids really get into it from 2 to 10 years. It's a great way of getting your kids to look in different directions and especially up. We counted 22 blossom trees on our daily walk round the block. My kids got really into it and they started noticing things in the sky, trees and rooftops.
Take some chalk on your walk and get creative on the pavement, you can play hopscotch, draw a rainbow or write your name.
DIET: Creating a meal plan for you and your family may help limit how often you reach for the fridge when you need some comfort food! But it also helps you positively plan some dishes you will look forward to preparing and eating. The whole process of creating a meal and eating it can be a pleasurable experience and something to look forward to.
Tip: Plan your meals in advance and schedule yourselves something special to eat every now and again. Preparing, chopping, presenting your food nicely and setting the table is part of a ritual that is proven to help your overall well being .
Stick to a schedule of eating 3 healthy meals a day and note when you're eating through comfort or boredom.
5. ME TIME GOLDEN HOUR
This one is sooooo mega important: Build in AN HOUR OF TIME FOR YOURSELF EACH DAY. If you've got kids that nap, why not use this time to have a lie down yourself or read an uplifting book or your favourite magazine. If you’re expecting / have a baby to care for, run a bath an hour after they’ve gone to bed, light a candle put on a face mask and focus on relaxing each part of your body and enjoy the peace and quiet. Other easy ideas include: starting a craft project such as sewing or knitting. Sketching and colouring in are really therapeutic and satisfying.
6. ROUTINE BUILDING
The final but fundamental pillar is tailoring a ROUTINE to you, however loose. This will motivate you to go to bed and get out of it at a decent hour and creates a frame around which other daily activities can be put into place. Gok Wan has published his simple daily routine on instagram which involves when he eats, cooks and when he DJs for his 'Isolation Nation' set.
Your routine may be as simple as getting yourself and your dependents washed and dressed before a certain time each day. When you prepare and make lunch, allocating a specified time for doing chores and of course, creating that golden hour that's just for yourself.
Factor in the fundamentals like eating and house work. You will honestly feel a sense of achievement each time you’ve done them.
So by creating your daily pillars you'll be well equipped to deal with the days and weeks ahead with the tools you need to not just survive but thrive. Together we'll get through this.