Over the last year, during lockdown, we have all seen and felt a massive impact on our wellness. For many of us, we took for granted how seeing people, taking part in activities, being able to go away on breaks, being able to be creative and see the arts, and be active, enhanced our feeling of ‘wellness’. I’ve recently moved house, and whereas I’m very lucky to have a roof over my head and a secure place to live, the upheaval of moving took and is still taking a real toll on my well-being. At the moment, I rely so much on my home. Probably more than I’ve ever done, that’s for sure. like many others, I now do everything in it. Not just work, but virtual socialising, exercise, hobbies and trying to relax. I don‘t know about you, but I’m finding it really hard to switch off because there is no distinction or different context. Who’s tried to have a holiday during lockdown and stayed at home? It feels like a Busman’s holiday doesn’t it? You might as well have a holiday and stay in the office. Add moving into that mix, and for 6 months I lived from boxes and referred to my home as ’a garage’. Now the other side of the move, we‘re renovating, which is incredible, and I’m very, very lucky and grateful to be able to do that, but I can’t ignore the impact not having a settled home is having on my well-being. With all of that in mind (excuse the pun), we know that wellness is so much more than our diet and fitness routine. Those factors play a huge part, but we need to look outside of those for things that give us resilience, rest, comfort, humour and joy. All of which play a vital role in our health and well-being.
In my other job as a Creative Producer for a charity that works with disadvantaged young people, over the last year many of them who suffer with ill mental health have said to me that lockdown is no different to their day-to-day lives, as they live in lockdown. When working with them I use creativity as a way to support their well-being. Whether it poetry and creative writing, art and craft, fashion, theatre, music, dance or photography, I use the arts with them to provide a form of escapism, as a way of understanding the world around them, as meditation and as a way to ground themselves. They also bring them joy and entertainment. I also do this for myself, in my personal life, and am currently looking for a life drawing class in Cardiff to join (if you know of any let me know). The arts for me are a source of supporting my mental health and resilience. They make me feel well.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram (emilybull.coach), you’ll have a seen a series of posts I shared last year around the power number of 5 to help you when you’re feeling lost and in panic mode. Quite literally, it can help you when you’re having a panic attack. So, what are they? These are tools that I use in my work and they go like this......
Tip number 1
Look at your hand. It’s powerful and it catches things when they are falling. It would catch you if you fell and catches others when they fall. On that hand you have 4 fingers and a thumb, 5 in total. When looking at your fingers and thumb relate each one to something that metaphorically catches you when you‘re down. These could be people, they could be activities, they could be food or hobbies. What helps you recharge your batteries and feel grounded? It doesn’t have to be anything mega, it could be making a cuppa and sitting still to drink it (there’s huge meditative benefits in the art of making tea. If this is your thing, check it out.) Now look at those fingers and really imagine that person / activity / thing. Think about how it feels when you’re doing it, imagine doing it, breath it in. Then move onto the next finger and do the same, and then the next until you’ve done them all. Now, when you’re feeling unsure on a way forward, you’ve had a hard day, or you’re really struggling, look at that hand and work your way through the fingers. If you can, actually do one or more of the activities to give yourself that extra boost. Having said that, just thinking about them and properly immersing yourself in it through your imagination really can help.
Breath in through the nose counting to 5 and out of the mouth counting to 10. Be still.
Tip number 2
This one is good when you’re in panic mode. Learning this discipline can help you manage your breathing and ground yourself. Work your way through the following whilst staying in one place -
Find 5 things you can see
Find 4 things you can touch
Find 3 you can hear
Find 2 things you can smell
Find 1 thing you can taste
Take your time if you need to and don’t force it. You’ll be surprised how much your surroundings have to offer.
My biggest tip is to add something creative to your life. We all take for granted how much creativity plays a role in our lives and many of us fear that we’re not good at it, so therefore we can’t do it. But you don’t need to be in a choir to sing in the shower. You don’t need to be in a band to listen to music, and you don’t need to have paintings in galleries to doodle in your notepad. You could even take on an activity and make something for your home, by which you then have pride in something and make your home comfy and cosy, which gives you added benefits to your well-being. As we all have so much time on our hands and weekends to try new things at home, you could make candles, grow plants on your windowsill, make a macrame wall hanging... whatever you fancy. Whatever it is, you could give it a go and see how it makes you feel. Arts and cultural venues up and down the country are taking their programmes online and boy do they need our help at the moment. Why not suggest going to the theatre from your own home? Me and my family (including @MinnoKitchen) did this at Christmas and it was so good. We had pre-theatre zoom drinks and an interval. We all dressed up and loved every minute. You can stream comedy sets into your living rooms and laugh the night away, and you can see collections of artwork that you’d only dream of seeing in different countries from the comfort of your living room. I know, it’s not the same and it’ll never replace standing in front of a piece of art, but it really does have the same impact.
I don’t know about you, but food plays a HUGE roll in my well-being. In my first blog I shared with you my love affair with food. I love everything about it - shopping for it, planning what to have, cooking it, eating it and sharing it with others. I love trying new things and eating foods from different cultures. Another thing I love, is how it can make you feel. We all know the saying ‘what does your gut say?’, well that saying actually has scientific meaning. Our guts and our brains are directly linked through our nervous system. When we are adrenal glands react and send signals all through our bodies our systems go into panic mode and hold onto sugars so that they have a store of them in case they’re needed to react. This is great when we’re running a race, but not when we’re sat down at work. Our bodies need carbohydrates to level them out and to keep them going. So, ever wondered why you reach for the starchy foods when stressed or feeling low? That’s why! It’s ok to do this, but always remember the rules to your portions - half of your plate should be veggies, a quarter protein, a quarter carbs and a teaspoon of fats, and keep it varied. And let’s face it, at the moment we have a lot of stress going on, so go easy on yourself. Plan food in advance, do a big cook up at weekend if you can (which can be something to do whilst stocking you up for the week so you don’t have to worry about what to eat or reach for the junk food). So, have that pasta pesto, pizza or risotto and add in tonnes of roast veg, leaves, salad and oily fish. Go against everything our parents and carers taught us and play with your food! Cook with your family and make mealtimes for you to sit, chat, be still, and eat.
Finally, be mindful about what you eat. I don’t mean diet here, I mean think about what you’re eating when you’re eating it. When you’re stressed and you reach for that chocolate bar, take it all in. Think about how it looks, how it feels to unwrap, what does it smell like, how does it feel in your mouth. Let it sit in your mouth for a while and be mindful. Take your time. You can do this with any of your food, as the aim is to really think about what you’re eating and how you’re eating it. Afterwards consider how it made you feel. Did it satisfy you? Do you feel better? If not, maybe reaching for something else next time will make you feel better than the bad thing you reached for. Why not try a piece of fruit, a piece of cheese on a wholewheat cracker, or an energy ball with cocoa nibs in? Give it a go and whilst we’re sat at home with time on our hands, fall back in love with food, just like I have.
Follow me on Instagram @emilybull.coach, email me at email@example.com if you’d like any tips, help,
suggestions or would like to discuss 1-2-1 support and group coaching sessions.