A wise lion once said ‘Remember who you are’.During these unsettling and uncertain times, some of us struggle monumentally with not only our much needed routine being thrown out of array but also our sense of self. Lockdown can create dissociative states where many of us feel as though we can go through somewhat of an identity crisis. People often unconsciously define themselves by their tribe - we are naturally dependent on the help of others to validate us as individuals and help us thrive - so when connection is cut, we can feel lost and question our worth. This can happen to individuals throughout major phases of their life, especially as they grow older and perhaps change their circle or job, but it has never happened on the mass scale that COVID-19 has created. Human beings have a natural reward system (dopamine receptors) and we like to feed it. We receive a dopamine ‘fix’ from day to day activities such as eating nutritious foods, exercise, working towards goals, engaging in meaningful conversation, going outdoors, having sex and even receiving hugs. When we are cooped up inside, some of these vital activities are harder to implement, and when we have a lack of good stimulation and reward, we tend to turn to quick-fix vices such as alcohol, sugary, high-carb foods, nicotine, drugs, porn, the list goes on. These ‘fixes’ are nothing but counterproductive as they manipulate your dopamine receptors in a tremendously negative way. To help you battle the disassociation and keep your reward system in check in the healthiest way possible, we have come up with a few tips that will increase your awareness and help you work towards a more improved state of wellbeing and peace.
1. Be aware of your emotionsThis may seem rather vague and somewhat obvious, however it is not the easiest task to be aware of your emotions as and when they arise as they aren’t conscious. Emotions are controlled by a primitive part of our brain called the limbic system. As this part of the brain is thought to have evolved rather early within human history, it is no surprise that feelings such as anger, sadness and happiness are difficult to control because they are responses we used to survive. However, the aim is to manage the negative emotions instead of letting them control you. As you’re confronted with an unwanted feeling, simply bring your conscious mind into the experience. Let your body feel and release the emotion whilst reminding yourself that feelings aren’t always rational, and can often be associated with negative memories. Note down and identify what emotions you are presented with as this can help you bring logic into the process and understand that you aren’t what you are feeling. During an anxious period, this is vital.
2. WriteAbout your feelings, creative thoughts, anything, whatever is on your mind. Similar to being aware of your emotions and identifying them, writing can help process and understand thought not only in the present moment, but in hindsight. Any scholar, philosopher or psychologist will tell you that writing is absolutely one of the best ways to think, innovate ideas and understand yourself. Keep a diary, write notes on your phone, whichever way suits you best, just try and implement it into your day. From personal experience, I may be biased but I believe that writing and creative expression can not only be helpful, but somewhat enlightening.
3. Get creativeThere will most likely be some kind of creative activity that you told yourself you would pick up during lockdown, but have you? Research scientists suggest that people who engage in some form of creativity everyday tend to be more open-minded, positive, curious, energetic and motivated. When we engage in creative activities, our mind enters a ‘flow state’, where we become hyper focused and absorbed in what we are doing. These flows can boost our mental wellbeing and even slow down the heart rate. Focus on what gives you pleasure, and do more of it. Find a way to express yourself and watch your progression.
4. Meaningful connectionsWith the rise of digital interactions, the increase in loneliness has been monumental. Meaningful social connections are absolutely vital to your mental wellbeing, in fact, I would argue whether lack of meaning and loss of connection are undoubtedly the main causes of unhappiness/anxiety/depression. During a time in which you may feel lost and it is hard to understand your purpose, reach out to the people that love you. Have genuine and deep conversations, whether that be about your feelings, thoughts, ideas, society, nature…the topics are endless. The point is to get to the depth, where you are engaged - a space with no judgment, where you feel nourished and nurtured - that’s where you feel truly bonded to another individual.
5. Eat wellEating a balanced diet is a huge factor in maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing. Selenium, folic acid and tryptophan are substances which have been implicated in keeping a stable mood. Tryptophan is needed to release serotonin and melatonin, but relies on vitamin D for production, so also be sure to incorporate vitamin D into your diet. Omega-3s are also incredibly important - they have been shown to improve brain performance due to their effect in regulating our serotonin levels. Magnesium is also associated with better sleep so including foods rich in this mineral can be helpful.
6. ExerciseWe all know how important a sufficient amount of exercise is in our overall physical and mental health. It triggers the release of tryptophan in our bloodstream which increases serotonin and melatonin production, whilst giving us a rush of endorphins and a natural release of dopamine. Exercise can also bring you into a meditative or flow state, where you can detach yourself from triggering thoughts and focus on your body and breath. Frequent exercise will not only improve mood but elevate levels of energy, focus, and performance.
7. MeditationLike exercise, meditation helps to increase serotonin levels while decreasing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Meditation also brings your attention to your body, and is helpful when practiced regularly in understanding and detaching yourself from triggering thoughts/feelings. Meditation can elevate your level of critical thinking and lead you to make more conscious and rational decisions in daily life.
As always, we wish you the best, and hope that this information will bring you a little closer to an improved, healthier and happier version of yourself. Remember, you are not your feelings.
POW Team x