The last 18 months have been a rollercoaster. There's no denying that whatever our personal circumstances, whatever our living arrangements, our job, our responsibilities, we've all felt the strain of what's been going on around us. It's taken a toll on our mental health, as well as perhaps our physical health too. And with everything finally opening up again and getting back to some kind of normality, maybe you're surprised to still be feeling a bit off.
Firstly, cut yourself some slack! You've made it through the past 18 months of uncertainty, worry and stress. Even though things are starting to feel a teensy tiny bit more normal, all of that uncertainty and worry is still there. If the past year and a half have taught us anything it's that we don't know what's around the corner.
If you've got kids you'll have found yourself flitting between suddenly having them at home all the time; trying to keep them calm and happy in the midst of everything going on, trying to keep them fed (surely they don't eat this much at school?!), trying to keep them learning and everything ticking over, to suddenly having them back at school full time, navigating masks and social distancing, to the Summer holidays meaning the house is full of noise and activity 24/7 once again! Phew!
The changing weather too can have a profound effect on our mood. We might be used to a bit of rain here in the Lakes but there seems to have been a real Autumnal turn to the weather of late that's making me for one feel like withdrawing under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.
So let's talk about what you can do to take a bit of time out and start turning of your time, attention and energy back to yourself.
Whether that means a healthy salad, a hearty meal, a feast with friends or an indulgent snack, remember that you need to nourish your body in order to function and to take care of yourself and others. Turn cooking into a family activity or take time to learn new recipes. Try learning a new slow cooker or one-pot dish if life's a bit hectic right now!
It's so exciting that the world is opening back up again, but for many of us it can feel a little daunting too. After 18 months of cautious solitude or distance, meeting up with people again can be as draining as it is exciting. Take your time. It's ok to take a step back and recharge your batteries. Why not schedule a night in. Not the usual whirlwind of an evening where you cook dinner, get the kids bathed and to bed and crash out in front of the telly with a glass of wine, but an evening to yourself. Order take out, heat up left overs or turn cooking into a fun activity, then, when the jobs are done and the kids are in bed, opt for a book instead of a film and curl up with a cup of tea. Light some candles, get your cosy blankets out and chill out.
We're so lucky in this part of the world to have some amazing scenery right on our doorstep, but wherever you are, getting out of the house for just a little bit every day will do wonders for your mental health. Breathe in the fresh air, drink in the landscape and enjoy the peace and quiet. Whether it's a dog walk or a day-long hike, take time to notice your surroundings.
You don't need to be a yogi master, just take time each day to focus on the here and now. Stop looking at the world through your screen or your camera lens and take each moment as it comes. Start by setting aside just a few minutes a day to focus on your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? And before long it will happen naturally. Taking up a simple hobby or practice such as colouring can also help your mind calm and empty of distractions, making it easier for you to focus on your surroundings. Try these Lake District colouring pages.
Do you find yourself mulling over the day in your head when you're driving home from work or in the shower? Journaling can help you rationalise your day and let go of gripes and grievances that might otherwise start to bubble and fester unhealthily below the surface.
Whether you feel ready to venture back out into the world fully again just yet, or are taking things slowly, it's important to stay connected to the people we love, and who love us. Set aside time to phone a friend, video call your mum or text your sister.
S t r e t c h!
Whether you're a runner or more of a couch potato, it's important to keep moving. Take the dogs for a walk, bundle the baby into the pram, put on some music and dance along or practice some mindful yoga. Try and keep it varied and interesting!
Look after your body
As well as nourishing your insides, it's important to look after the outside of your body too. The change in weather can have a big impact on your skin so look for moisturising or barrier products such as this dry skin balm or this skin repair balm. And don't forget about your hands! Treat them to this aloe-vera infused (and ahh-mazing smelling) sanitiser, top up on the hand cream, or try this hard working hands soap if working with your hands has left them in need of some TLC. For aching muscles try this bath soak (complete with adorably vintage wooden scoop), or for fellow retail workers and anyone else on their feet all day, this weary feet soak is a life saver!