How to be kind to yourself in lockdown

Everything in lockdown is magnified – so feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness can be incredibly overwhelming.

With so much to think about – from worrying about family and friends getting sick to concerns over job stability – there’s a lot going through our minds all the time.

What’s more, ‘lockdown guilt’ is rife. Not only are people feeling bad for not being as productive as they’d hoped, but they’re also feeling guilty for being sad in general.

It’s important now, more than ever, to give our minds and bodies a break.

Experts have shed light on things we can do, both psychologically and physically, to be kinder to ourselves.

Try to take the pressure off
Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-CEO of My Online Therapy, says it’s easy to set high expectations when we have more time on our hands.

She says: ‘We might feel the pressure to be especially productive or creative. But the reality is that we’re living through incredibly uncertain and stressful times.

‘The last thing we want to be doing is putting any more pressure on ourselves. Be mindful if you’re putting yourself under a lot of pressure and be compassionate with yourself.

‘It’s only natural that you’re going to have ups and downs during such an uncertain time. On down days, be extra gentle with yourself.’

Dr Elena says it might helpful to think of this time as a ‘holiday’ from the expectations of daily life.

Stop comparing

Lockdown has seen a rise in comparison culture – from constantly seeing incredible bakes on Instagram to noticing how immaculate a friend’s house looks on Zoom.

Dr Elena says social media can breed anxieties surrounding ‘not being good enough’ or ‘not doing enough’.

She adds: ‘The things we like to showcase on social media tend to be the best aspects of life, and the version of ourselves that we deem most “perfect”.

‘Even in the midst of everything that’s happening now, we’re seeing this with people posting their daily workouts and delicious food. When we present unrealistic images as real life the inevitable consequence is that we spur on feelings of inadequacy.

‘Remind yourself that what people showcase on social media is not necessarily “real life” and actively manage the types of accounts you follow.’

Rebecca also advises to only follow accounts that make you feel good about yourself.

She adds: ‘When we are unhappy, it’s due to the perception in our minds of what we believe should be happening in our life not matching the current reality.

‘This causes people to feel unhappy and can also lead to adding pressure and judgment towards ourselves for not having a certain way of life, living a certain way, looking a certain way or acting in a way we believe we should.’

Deleting or limiting social media can have a more positive effect on self-esteem and could be something to consider.

Ask yourself a better (more positive) question
Hypnosis trainer Rebecca Lockwood says an easy way to be kind to yourself is to adjust to a more positive way of thinking – focusing on the good things rather than the bad ones.

She says: ‘When life is not matching the perception you have in your mind of how it should be this can cause negative inner chatter. Things like “I am just not going to be able to do this” leaves people feeling negative and as though there are no options.

‘Instead, reframe this as a question, instead of “I am just not going to be able to do this” ask yourself “How can I do this?” – this opens up your thinking at the conscious and subconscious level.

‘When we ask ourselves better questions we open up our thinking to find new resources and new ways to behave instead of limiting ourselves.’

Tap into gratitude
Practicing gratitude simply means thinking about the things in life that you’re happy about and grateful for. If you’re struggling, Rebecca says the best way is to start small.

She adds: ‘For instance, being able to feel the wind on your skin, being able to hear the clock ticking, being able to hear the trees blowing in the wind outside — the simplest things that we have in life, it doesn’t have to be anything massive. It can be, but even the simplest things can really tap into how grateful you are for the things that you have in your life.

‘Once you really tap into that gratitude, it will naturally attract more things in your life that you are satisfied with, that you feel grateful for, and it will help you feel better.’

Prioritise your sleep

Dr Vishal Shah, GP and Medical Director at Thriva, says that getting enough sleep is fundamental to feeling better. This is because a good night’s sleep helps an individual feel energised and alert the next day, rather than sluggish.

‘Avoiding using your phone or watching TV at least an hour before bed can make a big difference to how well you sleep,’ he advises. ‘Also, try to avoid stressors, like reading the news, before bed – and make sure your bedroom is cool and dark.’

Ultimately, sleep helps the body to recover from physical and mental exertion – which is why we feel a lot better after a restful night.

Take breaks from the news and social media
Of course, we all need to stay informed at the moment, but an overload of news – especially negative news – can make us feel incredibly anxious.

Dr Shah adds: ‘Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can cause feelings of anxiety and fear, so avoid checking the news constantly and stick to reliable news outlets.’