• Facing another lockdown, this time at the darkest and coldest time of the year, we might understandably lean into less healthy coping strategies

  • Health coach Tara Jackson offers six self-care tips to help

  • You don't have to do it all alone – if you want professional support, find a therapist here

Given the new lockdown and time of year in the northern hemisphere, it’s understandable if you are feeling pulled into habits and behaviours to help you numb and escape what’s happening. This could be anything from online shopping, over-exercising, working all hours, watching endless TV, to eating, drinking and taking drugs (of any kind).

These habits can give us a momentary buzz and make us escape our current reality, which I know all too well about having spent a good two decades of my life turning to sugar, carbs, alcohol, watching TV and doing anything to avoid feeling what was going on inside. It was always easier to ‘do’ something else rather than face what I was really feeling or allow the emotions to rise, and it got to a point where I feared being left alone with myself with nothing to do.

Eventually all of this numbing led to a number of health problems including debilitating digestive issues, weight that seemed impossible to lose and constant feelings of depression and self-loathing. It was only when I started to actually be present with myself and start to release what I had been holding onto inside, that I started to feel like I could be alone with myself and able to handle what life brought to me without turning to my old numbing behaviours.

Here are a few tips to help you stay present to what is going on and be with yourself in these challenging times.

1. Ground yourself

Connecting to the earth in any way, even if it is the depths of winter, is an anchoring support. You can lie on the ground, or if it’s possible get out into nature and walk on the earth. Try and let your body melt into the holding of the support beneath you, perhaps visualising it come up to meet you.

2. Try and eat the healthy things first

This is called crowding out. So, even if you do feel like eating sweets or pizza, try and give your body a dose of nutrients first. This is not to say you can’t eat the foods you want to, just have the healthy things first and then see how you feel and why you are craving the other foods. What feeling are you really craving? If you still want them, go ahead and have them.

3. Spend a few moments each day in silence with your body

This may seem totally overwhelming but even just two minutes is a start. Your body is always sending you messages and by escaping and numbing them they will only get louder. If you begin to listen to them and stay present to what is going on inside you can support yourself to feel held and calm from the inside out, thus feeling more resilient.

4. Feel and find ways to express your feelings

Following on from spending a moment listening to your body, allow yourself to feel what is coming up. This could be emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration. Let it come up and find a way to express it – this could be through a creative act, journaling it all out, speaking to someone, or even just letting yourself cry or scream. Allowing these feelings to come up releases them from your being will help you to feel better. You may find that you don’t want to turn to numbing habits as there’s less to numb when you actually feel what you need to.

5. Support your chakras

This may not resonate with everyone, but each of the seven main chakras (or energy centres) in the body can be linked to different parts of your life, and by supporting them holistically – especially the ones that link to fears and anxieties given this time, can be a support. For example, you could support your base chakra (usually associated with the colour red), which can help you to feel grounded and more present in yourself, by eating more red foods and more foods that come from the earth; you could have red things around you such as flowers, or wear red clothes. Another practice that can support your base chakra is de-cluttering and getting rid of things you don’t need.

6. Get support 

If you find that you struggle to practice any simple self-care or are just feeling overwhelmed by it all, please do reach out for help from someone you trust. You can also connect with a professional therapist or counsellor here.

Tara is a holistic wellbeing coach and author 

Further reading

Lockdown mental health: accepting your emotions

7 ways to manage relationship conflict in lockdown

3 tips if coronavirus has triggered disordered eating

Why lockdown might be difficult for ex-boarders

Parenting in lockdown: managing changing roles and responsibilities