Put on your Oxygen Mask!

Thanks to my lovely cousin Fiona in Milan for inspiring me to write this blog post! Fiona thanked me for sharing such great content at this time as she and her family are isolated in Milan trying to tune out of the sound of constant sirens. How utterly terrifying and how privileged am I, to be writing this half in my front door and half in my garden?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost count of the weeks/days on purpose. I’m trying to stay in the moment, not looking back or forward, like most, getting through the days. Lots of us here in Ireland still feel a little removed from the trauma and horror that is going on elsewhere in the world. Yet I think the mood here started to change last week. The initial response on social media to covid 19 almost felt like a call to arms to be productive, to get busy doing and responding. I don’t think we gave ourselves enough space and compassion and it seems there’s more of an acknowledgement of that need now.

I realised myself that every conversation I have now usually involves some exchange of information that is scary. Most decisions we try to make are decisions we cannot be sure of. If, when, maybe, we just don’t know. The things we took for granted like the drudgery of doing weekly shop is now putting us all into high alert. Am I the only one beginning to wonder if I need to change my clothes after shopping too? All the things we have to think about and consider…on it goes! Our minds are taking us to places and territory we are not familiar with. We have an amount of answers but some of this we have to navigate for ourselves and make our best judgements to protect ourselves and our loved ones. As we meet our other demands of work, new ways of working, parenting, caring, providing and so on, all the while our minds are full of the background noise and worry.

I’m not a psychologist or as qualified as all of the wonderful people I get to work with in Anokha Learning. But I’ve overcome many struggles and adjustments. My son has a long term auto immune condition and I have long since adjusted to periods of being somewhat cut off and modifying my life choices. Some of this has only been a privilege, and I will always be thankful for the journey. So I want to share some thoughts and I hope they resonate with you.

First I think we all need to remember to put on our own oxygen masks. No matter how many demands you have placed on your right now please try to tend your own wellbeing and don’t neglect it. Everyone else will suffer if you do, and everything will feel worse and harder for you. Maybe we all need to acknowledge that our minds are overloaded and exhausted. There is so much thinking to be done but also so much to be felt. Everyone is in a different situation with different coping mechanisms. So can we start by being kind and compassionate to ourselves and giving ourselves space to feel and space to rest. If we are generous enough we can extend this compassion to others, even if the panicking or overreacting/controlling is driving us mad. It’s just a response, most likely to fear. Some days will be better than others. Some days we will be more generous with our compassion and some days we won’t have it to give. And on those days I wish you ‘a day’. Just have a day, get through it, do what you can but also try to keep hoping and know that the next day might be better. If you can, I encourage you to be brave. Be brave with yourself. Push yourself a little more with the self care than you would have before and for some of us that means being brave. I’m not talking about becoming Instagram perfect, I’m talking about making yourself a priority sometimes and allowing yourselves some of the things that comfort you.

I have a list below of what has worked for me, things that provide a bit of comfort, self care, inspiration and keep my head above water. I hope there’s something there for you or something that sparks some inspiration.

Keep on top of the basics, there’s a lot of comfort in the daily rituals of hot showers/baths, clean clothes and doing the daily basics. You don’t need a special occasion to wear something special, bright or just not wear the same thing every day!

Anything that involves using your senses can provide a little boost for the mind. Linger a bit longer over that coffee or mint tea smell, bring it outside even if it means putting your coat on over your pj’s. Look at the sky because it’s always moving and changing. Smell some citrus fruits and put a few pieces in your water. If you like essential oils, candles etc, use them now. Play your music and keep the background noise cheerful. Look at beautiful things or just look up to the sky and listen to nature.

Smile. It might not be how you feel but my goodness is it infectious and you might just trick yourself into feeling positive! I really notice these days how much friendlier people in my area are, it’s like we now see how connected we really are by just being human and being in the same situation. We see another human out for a bit of exercise and we are genuinely so happy to smile, nod, wish them well, because we really do want everyone to be well. Sometimes smiling through the pain or worry comes naturally, sometimes it means being brave and tricking your mind – you are sending a positive message out into the world and also to yourself. If someone smiles back you can’t help but feel good.

Give your mind a break. I don’t really like meditation and I actually hate switching off. So I have to make myself. I find sleep stories or meditations great to pop on. I would say I nearly always think to myself, I’ll never switch off, and then I don’t remember when it happened but it did! And it’s like setting a little reset button, it might get me off to sleep at night or at least I have given my mind a break.

Be honest. You don’t have to open the absolute flood gates but it’s ok to be real with people and let them know how you are feeling. We all have different levels of openness and it takes courage for some of us to open up. Allow people to offer you some comfort and compassion by being honest. Most likely they might feel the same or had similar feelings and will be more likely to open up too. This can also apply with your children. We automatically shield them from so much but if we can be honest to a level we know they will feel safe with, chances are they will be more comfortable sharing their own discomfort.

Do anything that lights a spark in you or that just feels lovely. We are so good at looking after everyone else and providing endless ideas of what might make someone else happy. It might be something you haven’t done for years, paint, draw, sew, wear something lovely, dance, pull out a photo album,plant something, listen to a podcast, anything that inspires you. I love taking photos of pretty much anything outside and looking at nature helps me feel grounded – no matter what the world keeps spinning.

I could go on, but I’ll sign off for now. I hope you found this helpful to read, please do let me know. Keep smiling, be brave, put your oxygen mask on everyday that you can. And when you can’t, have a day and try again tomorrow. Thanks for reading – Fiona, Quinn,  Course Director – Anokha Learning

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