Keeping the good things going
18 AUG 2020
There are some of people who are not meeting eased restrictions and social interactions with the same enthusiasm as others. Many people have become accustomed to a quiet social calendar and are enjoying staying close to home. Its important to reflect on our experiences during COVID and understand what things we took for granted and what benefited our mental wellbeing that we would like to keep.
Curating your spare time
The first step is knowing what it is that you would like to hold on to.
Ellie Carr is Lifeline WA’s Clinical Governance Executive Manager with over 20 years’ experience as a mental health nurse and is a self-proclaimed introvert. She was genuinely surprised that during isolation it was face-to-face contact that she really missed and has taken that into consideration now that restrictions are easing. Being honest with herself about the importance of taking time to recharge her batteries and not over committing to things was important for her to stay mentally balanced.
Picking out the things that you have enjoyed and want to continue can be difficult. Ellie suggests taking 15 minutes in a quiet comfortable space and looking over your own experiences during COVID-19 but concentrating on only what you can control. “If you find that difficult, try consider what surprised you during isolation or what your regrets / wishes were?” she says. This may help prompt you to understand what you would like to change and what you would like to stay the same. It might look similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs but based around self-care needs and mental wellbeing instead.
For example, I know that I will not be able to be a good friend if I am tired and anxious so I would prioritise an early night to destress myself over catching up with my friends. I try not to feel guilty about this because it means that I can give them quality time and the best version of myself when we do see each other. For Ellie, this means that she prioritises family time on the weekends, allowing time for special family activities as well as spontaneous catchups. She also limits mid-week catchups to only one friend during the week. Check out Beyond Blue’s collection of resources for help on mindfulness and self-care.
Setting new boundaries to keep
We know that this can be hard to explain to loved ones as everyone has differing boundaries, priorities, and self-care needs but this conversation is important.
Ellie says the key is to approach it from a place of respect and kindness. She suggests trying to ‘own it’ by being upfront and honest. Start the conversation with “I really want to see you because you are important to me, but I really need to take tonight for myself to recharge”.
Ellie recalls a sense of being immensely ‘time wealthy’ if other people cancelled their meetings with her, even social ones. Now she plans this deliberately and suggests you try scheduling time to do something just for yourself. This way you can sometimes avoid having to cancel plans and have this conversation.
Check out this article, which focuses on what healthy boundaries are and how to set them, why healthy boundaries are important for self-care, and how to explain boundaries to adults and children.
This article from Black Dog Institute about mental wellbeing, which may also be useful in helping you define what your mental wellness looks like.
By focusing on what we can change, what we have learned and being honest about what we need to keep mentally healthy, we can hopefully continue some of the positives that have come from slowing down during COVID 19.
If you are finding it hard to have these open conversations with loved ones remember that Lifeline WA is always here to listen should you need support. 13 11 14 | 24/7.
Written by Karen McGlynn
Image Credit: Photo by alexandra lammerink on Unsplash