Looking After Yourself in Times of Uncertainty
You cannot pour from an empty cup!
How we react to stress…
When we are faced with a threat, we become stressed and our body experiences a surge of adrenaline, which is great as it gives us the much-needed energy to react to increase our chances of survival. Our responses can usually be categorised into the following: (Examples of how we may react if a hungry tiger is stood in front of us).
punch the tiger, or use a weapon to keep the tiger away
run, very fast away from the tiger
stand still or hide and hope the tiger cannot see you
These reactions require our brains to focus on sending important messages to our heart and muscles, and will place extra effort on alerting our emotion centre (called the amygdala) of our brain to continuously inform us that there is a danger. This means that our ability to do things like use our memory, think logically, think rationally, plan ahead, consider how other people may be feeling or what they are thinking are all compromised.
You probably notice that when you are stressed, you do not act in ways you normally would do. Therefore if you are stressed it can make it really difficult to care for someone who is also stressed.
In such cases, it would be useful to try and calm yourself or try to remove your perception of a threat so you can calm others, for example looking after yourself first, and then you have the resources to support others better. It can be really difficult to calm yourself when you are unsure about whether something is a threat or not, or when the threat cannot be removed or we have no control over it. During these times of uncertainty our perception of a potential threat can be heightened, and can be unhelpful when trying to manage our usual lives and others.
What can we do to calm our brains down a bit?
Prepare to self-care…
Self-care is key to calming ourselves so we have the resources (brainpower) to care and support o others. Try to implement structure, routine, and consistency to your life as well as those you care for. For self-care to be effective, it needs to be sustainable and practical for your lifestyle.
Suggestions to self-care:
Mindfulness: The three main principles of mindfulness are:
»» Being in the present moment, for example focusing on the right here, right now and not the future or past.
»» Noticing and increasing your awareness of what is going on.
»» Placing no judgment on our experience, for example, no labelling of things we notice as good nor bad, right or wrong, they are just what they are.
There are many Mindfulness apps that you can access. Mindfulness practice does not have to take long, you can do it anywhere at any time for however long, even just 30 seconds.
Breathe: Slowing down your breathing can really help ground you and slow things down. Try imagining blowing up a balloon in your stomach and slowly releasing it.
Be your own best friend: If your best friend came to you upset and struggling what would you say to them? Write this down and pin it in a place you regularly look. This is how you need to speak to yourself when you are struggling. Give yourself a break; be kind, you are doing your best in a difficult time.
Doing something meaningful to you: Think of an activity you enjoy, it can be anything. What is it about the activity that you value? For example, if you enjoy going out for a coffee with your friends,
you may value connection with others.