In the past couple of years, we’ve faced a lot in Australia. There have been fires, floods, and plague (you know I mean COVID!) and more recently a bumper flu season. We’re watching a war unfold in Europe, high petrol prices and even higher diesel prices, housing shortages, labour shortages and sky-rocketing costs of living. Whichever way you look at it, it’s been a lot to take.
So, what do we do when we feel like the world is crowding in on us? How do we change the way we think about things, to give ourselves a small break and let our reserves of resilience build back up? Here are a few ideas that largely start with you, some acknowledgement and lots of self-compassion.
Reframe your narrative
The great Maya Angelou famously said “If you don’t like something, change it. And if you can’t change it, change your attitude.” If it’s a bleak situation that has no silver lining, sometimes you have to dig pretty hard to find it. Whether it’s a lesson learned, or a little more understanding about a friend’s point of view, or time to focus on something you’ve always wanted to do, reframing your narrative is a powerful way to look at events or reactions in a different way.
Understand what you can control and accept what you can’t.
Knowing the difference between the things you can change and the things you can’t, can be a huge benefit to your coping skills. For example, you can’t control the pandemic, or the uncertainty you feel around it. But you can control how prepared your household is when it does visit. You can’t control petrol prices, or the despair you may feel about how you’ll afford to fill your tank this week. But you can choose to carpool with a friend to an event or walk to the shops rather than drive.
Brain spill (sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?!)
Not nearly as gruesome as it sounds, this is the idea of journaling your thoughts. We are a Booktown so it’s no surprise that we are also a town of budding writers. Forget writing a novel for the world. Instead focus on writing for yourself. Jotting down any concerns that are worrying you can help free up your brain to then concentrate on other, more positive things. Journaling can help you reframe ideas or focus on those small, amazing moments in your life that might otherwise pass by in a blur.
Do something relaxing
Set yourself the goal of taking some time for you. Even taking a walk out of town through nature or sitting quietly in your living room for 5 minutes to focus on your breathing. This small act of calming your nervous system will literally reduce perceived stress.
Turn off the news and enforce a blanket ban on your social media
Doom scrolling - or the excessive amounts of screen time we devote to absorbing negative news - became widespread during our lockdowns. But now is the time to put down those phones, tune out from the news and notice other things happening around us. If you’re convinced you need social media to engage with friends, set yourself a timer or use Microsoft and Apple’s ‘focus’ feature to limit your time. If you are a news-junkie, try reading something different. ABC News has a wonderful ‘good news’ section filled with amazing and positive stories. Even better, most of these stories are regionally based.
Learn a new skill or try something new
When was the last time you invested time or energy in yourself? Just the simple act of trying something new, can actually make us feel more confident, capable and motivated. And we could all benefit from a little more of that.
Reach out to friends or professional support
There’s no two ways about it. More social support helps build our resilience and the quality of those relationships is the largest known determinant on our health - even more than smoking or obesity. While important at every stage in life, studies show that social relationships are especially protective for older adults. This is why the activities led through Attitude: Ageing Well in Clunes are so significant.
Whatever you opt to do this winter, opt to focus a little bit on yourself and your own resilience. Of all the tasks on your to do list, focusing on yourself will bring you the best return - and frankly, you deserve it!
Author: Lana de Kort