It’s cold and dark at the moment and can feel even more difficult to motivate ourselves in the midst of winter. It’s feels like it’s time to hibernate and withdraw, and literally lock down.
If you feel like this, the chances are you are responding to the natural world around you, and also to the fact that your freedom is curtailed during a national lockdown. The chances are your stress levels are raised more than usual, for a whole variety of reasons. This can wreak havoc with our levels of anxiety and depression.
So if we can’t change the season, or the reality around us, what can we do to make ourselves feel better?
Well, it turns out, quite a lot. We can complete our stress cycle, rather than stopping in the middle of it. What does this mean? When we feel anxious, cortisol and adrenaline course through our bloodstream which stimulates our flight, fight or freeze response. We have little control over this prehistoric biological system designed to save us from peril. But we do have control over whether we stay there or not. We can complete the cycle to return to a rest, relax and digest state where cortisol and adrenaline dissipate.
And these are some of the ways to do this;
- Run or move in any way. The fastest way to release tension having been primed to run away from the woolly mammoth.
- Laugh. It’s a release!
- Cry. Ditto. If you have trouble accessing these emotions, use music, films, tv to help.
- Sleep. It literally regulates your emotional state.
- Affection. Maybe difficult for some now, but if you are able to (within the guidelines), a 20 second hug is the prescription.
- Breathe. Look on the internet for breathing exercises, you can do them anywhere and no one will know!
- Visualise and imagine a better outcome. Your brain does not know the difference, even if you do… proven on brain scans.
- Positive social interaction. Even zoom and phone calls work.
The good news is you do not have to do all of these to complete the stress cycle. If you struggle with sleep for example, don’t worry, pick a different strategy. Experiment, be curious around what works best for you.
If you want to learn more, try reading Burnout: The secret to solving the stress cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski