Everyone is adjusting to the rapidly changing landscape of our lives. Familiar routines are changing radically, and it is only natural to be affected, fearful and anxious for ourselves and others, whatever your personal circumstances. For many, the daily business of school and life outside will be at least partly replaced with greater personal isolation at home; so finding an alternative routine within the limitations that there are, will be essential. For high potential learners, who can often be hypersensitive and aware of the far reaching implications, this can cause particular challenges.  These young people will be acutely aware of any anxiety we are feeling, so it is important for the adults around them to model the behaviours and attitudes to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Here are some ways that you can look after yourself and those in your immediate family and neighbourhood community.

Head, Body and Heart Routines to Help Positive Self-Care:

1)   It is all too easy when everything is unpredictable, to look too far ahead and get into catastrophic thinking. Bring yourself back into the present and press pause. Focus on your breathing:

  • Breathe in for a count of 3,
  • hold for 4,
  • breathe out for 5.
  • Bring your attention constantly onto your breathing.

If you do this whenever you need to and at least twice a day this will become a really helpful routine. This really helps to calm and ground your thinking.

2)  Start your day with journaling. Carrying too many anxious thoughts around in your mind can build and intensify anxiety.

  • Have a dedicated notebook or file and take at least 5 mins to write these thoughts down.
  • Read what you’ve written and decide: Is this under my influence? If it is not, then choose to park the thought. If it is under your influence, make a plan and seek help for how to take action.
  • Close the file or notebook when you are finished. This act of writing these thoughts is surprisingly cathartic.

3)  Establish a daily schedule. Moving from most people’s regular routine of the school day to days which could be more unstructured can be a challenge. Why not take the schedule one day at a time to begin with? Perhaps make a difference between weekdays and the weekend. When thinking about a schedule:

  • Why not decide to get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time?
  • Divide the day into Morning, Afternoon and Evening and include a range of activities that help you feel productive, healthy, relaxed and connected to others.
  • Connection to others becomes more difficult so make sure you take opportunities to be in touch with others.
  • Living with others can reduce isolation but intensify tension. Getting family members/house mates to discuss a daily schedule may be a way to ensure a balance of alone and together time and enable everyone to acclimatise to the new temporary norm.

4)  Keep a connection with your work. How often have you started with the thought: “If I had the time, I would…”

  • Is there an opportunity to get some of those longer term plans done and hobbies pursued?
  • Researching and reading articles linked to your interests could stimulate new thinking and enjoyment.
  • Universities and the Gresham Institute have some wonderful talks recorded and free to access online for older learners, and free courses to access through platforms like FutureLearn, OpenLearn, Coursera, MOOC.
  • If you allocate a fixed amount of time to this kind of activity each week day, it will keep your mind focused on something productive that will benefit you in the longer term when normal routines return.

5)  Set yourself some goals.

  • Look beyond the current situation to a time when normal routines return. Visualise yourself being back at school or work, being out and about in the world with more freedom. Form this picture in your mind and revisit it regularly.
  • Ask yourself what you would like to be different for you when that time returns? From those ideas set yourself some goals in terms of your head, body, heart.
  • Perhaps you want to feel fitter, healthier, more relaxed; or more on top of some aspect of your studies/work; or more connected with friends and family; or better at playing the guitar…

When you have decided what you want, decide on some daily actions and routines that will lead you to that goal and build them into your daily schedule.

6)  Keeping physically active is a really important choice to make when you are at home and in a more restricted routine. 

7)   Regularly reach out and connect with others to talk things through and where it’s possible, take a lead in keeping spirits up by phone, social media and video links.  

  • What about using meeting platform websites like Zoom or Skype to socialise? Perhaps have an external focus like a book group or film review of something you have watched on Netflix. This could be a weekly event and would be a purposeful activity to add to your schedule.
  • If you normally attend a group for exercise, meditation, music making – could you ask if that could somehow be organised online by the teacher/trainer. Having to log in to an online event for which you have to prepare could provide a welcome focus.

8)  Acts of kindness help everyone to feel better about the world. Why not spread kindness through helping family, neighbours and the wider community?  

  • Could you shop for someone who is self-isolating? (people over 70 in particular)? Remember, do not make contact – you need to stand 3 meters away when dropping things off and don’t enter their home.
  • See if any elderly neighbours or people living alone nearby would appreciate a phone call each day (no visiting).
  • Perhaps there are groups in your area who are coordinating voluntary efforts to support those who are vulnerable in the community. Check your local area for such groups.

9)   Limit your exposure to the news, information and debate about the coronavirus to avoid being overwhelmed by the cumulative effect of this news.  

  • Strike the balance of keeping informed and constantly responding to the news. Decide when you want to catch up on news and then decide to do something else to look after yourself. Possibly do something physical and practical to allow your emotions to settle.
  • If you are unduly affected by the impact of the situation, please talk to someone and seek help. Young Minds and Childline are both excellent sources of help and the NHS Moodzone has a good 6-minute video on dealing with anxiety (Anxiety Control Training).

10)  One more strategy to help maintain a positive outlook is the Gratitude Game. This can be done alone or with others and if written down provides a record of good things that come out of this situation.
Talk about and write down:

  • One thing you have done to make people happy.
  • One thing someone has done to make you happy.
  • One thing you have learned today.

And finally, none of these suggestions ignore the fact that these are difficult times, but what they might do is shift your perspective to allow yourself to focus on each day, and to notice things in the moment that may have passed you by.

There are always opportunities to make a different and better choice, even in the most difficult and trying of circumstance…

Remember, you are important and so choose to take very good care of yourself.