At the start of the weekly class I run for gay men everyone writes down a few words to say how they are. For those who came to the Monday meeting at Hop Gardens you’ll know each week was a mix of experiences, but since the lock down the initial check in has been almost entirely expressions of difficult emotions – sadness, fear, confusion, feeling lost, isolated. The following are a few ideas for what might help in this more difficult time.
1. Set a clear structure:
- Keep a clear sleep pattern. And make you bed on waking! Seems a small thing, but starting the day with a sense of a task completed sets the tone of the day. Regular sleep helps your body keep a good chemical balance and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Decide when you start and end work each day. Have a clear boundary to this. And at the end of the working day put away any work related things or turn off notifications.
- Create a structure to the day:. Using a book I got online I set my key aims, create a time line, put in when I will eat, when I will exercise, what tasks I will do. This allows me to then get a clear sense of the shape of the day. When I do this, my day is productive. The days I don’t, I sit at my computer and the day passes, and only at the end do I remember what I had intended to do! Even if you are not working, you can create a shape to your day, how you want to enjoy the time you have. To bring an Orwellian twist to this: “structure is freedom!”
3. Work with your body’s chemistry:
- Sunlight is vital for a healthy circadian rhythm. We need to be exposed to 20 minutes of sunlight in the morning to set this rhythm so that we then fall asleep more easily at night. Cloud and being indoors will cause a lack of sunlight, and an increase in a feeling of fogginess and lethargy. If you can, go out in the sun for 20 minutes in the morning, if this is not possible you can buy a lamp that will give you the light needed. Just make sure you buy one that is 10,000lux and then have on your desk as you work in the morning.
- Spending 120 minutes or more in nature each week reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body by over 50%. Get this by going out for a couple of long walks or shorter daily walks in your local park, or workout outdoors.
- Give yourself a hug! The mammalian care giving system in our body responds to touch by releasing oxytocin. This is the cuddle chemical. Normally it needs another’s touch, but our own touch will also release it. The self care practice below includes some kind touch which if done for some minutes will result in you feeling different. It also includes kind self talk, which will reduce the sense of stress and bring about a sense of care.
- Speak kindly to yourself. As you do this self care practice, notice the tone of your inner voice. See how you can bring in a kind tone, not just now but throughout the day. What term of endearment can you use for yourself? So often we talk to ourselves in a harsh way. Here we’re invited to be kind. As I did it I remembered my grandfather always greeting me with “hello old chap”, and so as I do this practice I’ll say “It’s alright old chap”, with his kind voice, or use another term from my childhood – “sunbeam”….”it’s ok sunbeam, I’m here, it will be ok”. What is your term of endearment: my love, sweetie, lovely……..once you have this, use it in this practice or throughout the day as you talk to yourself.
4. Have fun
- Remember what used to make you happy as a child or teen, things you may have stopped making time for: reading, gardening, long phone chats with a friend, listening to music, dancing in your room! Then see if any of these excite you now and find time for them. LGBT Five rhythms is meeting every Friday online if you want to dance with no worries about how you look in your room with others throwing themselves around in their own unique way then you’ll enjoy this session!