Over the years, I’ve navigated periods of anxiety/stress by using focus. Prolonged periods of stress, such as we are all experiencing, can see focus impaired or amplify hyper-fixation, as a way to cope (focussing intensely on one thing). Here are some small actions to carve some slow living into life. Any one will add a little breathing space to your days…
- Incorporate activities, study and hobbies in areas that fascinate you, where it’s easier to sustain concentration. This uses the hyper-fixation in a positive way.
- Set reminders for eating and resting, for times when you are deeply focussed.
- Minimise exposure to stimulus that triggers strong feelings of distress (about things you have no control over).
- Have a journal or notebook, to write concerns, fears and anything that is heightening your stress. Then sit with one at a time and decide on some actions to better manage going forward, ease pressure or resolve certain aspects.
- Have clear boundaries surrounding your time and relationships, so you can be open and relaxed.
- Keep plans, systems and projects streamlined, so you can break each part into smaller steps, to reduce overwhelm.
- Always start from a place of accepting reality as it is, as this provides a solid foundation beneath shifting emotions.
- Engage in conversation in a slower manner, so you have time to process and listen. When expressing something complex, break it down into two or three parts, so the other person can respond to each. If you need to explain something in a block, so as not to forget parts, offer the same courtesy to the other person.
- Apply the rule of 2 – a hobby you enjoy with friends, another you enjoy alone, a weekly meal plan, DIY Sundays.
- Have short task lists, stacking tasks you repeat regularly, you can always do more if there’s time.
- Over-simplify initially, when struggling to express emotions, in order to start talking. Then elaborate.
- Take deep, slow breaths when focus wanes or anxiety spikes. Make the exhale longer, to relax yet sharpen awareness.
People tend towards hyper-activity or hypo-activity. I simplify this with my kids, by talking about feeling UP or DOWN. UP is agitated, fidgety, unable to stick with one task to completion. DOWN is a foggy, disjointed thought process and weighted exhaustion. It feels like every single thing requires a mammoth effort. I have activities to bring me down when I’m up (journal, meditate, read), and up when I’m down (clean, walk, garden). They are part of my days.
We all have times where it overwhelms us. Being present helps focus on one thing and one day at a time. Intensity recedes with observation – noticing something reduces its impact on us. Not everything requires action or attention. As we ride the eddies of lockdown fatigue, where possible, let more harmony into life.