We are living with uncertainty at the moment, but there are many ways to feel better mentally and physically, writes local counsellor Sarah Barr.

The main focus at the minute with my clients, myself, my friends, my family and probably the majority of people is how can we care for our emotional and mental wellbeing through self-isolation.

1. Routine:
Go to sleep and wake up around the same time, write a daily plan in the morning. Write down your jobs, tasks or goals for the week ahead.

2. Dress:
Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes. Have a long bath, give yourself a facial or a manicure.

3. Walk:
Get out at least once a day, go for a walk within the 2km radius from your house. Or sit in the garden surrounding yourself with nature. Fresh air will boost your mood and energy levels.

4. Exercise:
Try to do some exercise each day, even if it’s only for a short period. Just get your body moving. There is loads of free yoga classes and exercise classes online at the moment.

5. Connect:
We can’t physically see or hug all of our family and friends at the minute, however we can still stay connected through phone calls, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Viber, Email or Zoom. Although we are further apart in person, we are closer together in spirit.

6. Diet:
If like me, the fidge has became your new best friend and you’re starting to realise that your eating habits are not as good as you would like.

We all know that staying hydrated and eating healthy improves our overall wellness. So to help motivate you, why not set yourself the challenge of cooking something new and different.

7. Self-care:
Create an evening unwind session for yourself. Take 20-40 minutes in the evening to reflect and relax.

In your journal/notebook

1. Write down a thought that is fear based and causing you worry/anxiety.
2. Ask what factual evidence have you got to say this thought is real? Or it will happen? Chances are it is an irrational, fear based thought.
3. Create a more realistic or alternative thought, a thought that is more likely to happen.
4. What evidence have you got to say this will happen?

1. List 2 things you’re grateful for and give reasons why.
2. Remind yourself of these throughout the following day (they will help you feel grounded).
3. Remind yourself that you are safe. That you’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.
4. Ground yourself (exercise below).

The below grounding exercise be helpful if you’re having a panic attack or feel one coming on. We can only think one thought at a time, so the idea of this is to use your 5 senses to help you focus on what is happening around you and ask yourself to list:

• 5 things you see
• 4 things you hear
• 3 things you touch
• 2 things you smell
• 1 thing you taste

Finish by listening to relaxing music or a guided breathing exercise on YouTube or Headspace/Calm app.

8. Don’t personalise:
We will all have moments of confusion, sadness, anxiety, frustration and doubt. We are living with uncertainty at the moment. Stress levels are going to be high and tolerance low at times.

This is okay. We are processing and trying to figure it all out. Our feelings, the good and the bad are valid.

So please try and give each other a break, a moment to process and self-regulate their emotions. Take time, create a space where you can retreat too and work through your feelings.

Everyone is trying their best and we need to be gentle with others and with ourselves.

9. Lower expectations:
It is okay if you’re not on top of home schooling, or if you haven’t learned a new skill or spring cleaned your home yet.

Please try not to compare to others on social media or in WhatsApp groups. What is important right now, is to go easy on yourself and lower your expectations.

Plus we are in self-isolation, so you can have a pyjama day, eat easter eggs and watch Disney + (free for the first week) and no-one will know!

10. Plan:
I love a plan. I am always short-term planning. It helps me to feel in control and secure. Which is so important right now. We don’t have much control over what is happening in the world, however we can still feel in control and secure.

Create a plan. Is there something that you would like to learn, improve or change?

Make a list and get started.

Focus on something that will challenge, inspire and motivate you.
Ideas include doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, starting an online course, painting, upcycling pieces of furniture, writing, gardening, reading, knitting or cooking.

Find something that will keep you busy and yor mind focused.

11. Limit social media:
If the media coverage is overwhelming and heightening your anxiety, it may be useful to allocate set times throughout the day to catch up on news and updates. Too much time on social media, googling things and excessive exposure to media coverage may increase your anxiety.

This is an unsettling time for us, therefore it’s important to remember the facts and only listen or follow reliable news sources.

12. Have fun:
Replace your outdoor time with kitchen dance parties or yoga in the sitting room. Start planning a holiday. Do your research and create your perfect itinerary. Release your inner child and get down on the floor and play.

13. Self-Soothe:
Research has shown that doing repetitive movements, in tasks like knitting, coloring, painting or sewing is effective at self-soothing and helping us to self-regulate our emotions in stressful times. Another natural antidote to anxiety and worry is laughter. Watch your favourite comedy or call the friend who makes you laugh so hard that you end up crying happy tears.

14. Day by day:
All we can do right now,is take each day as it comes. To try and stay mindful and in the moment.

Remind yourself this is temporary.

Focus on what you can control and not on what you can’t. Be proactive.

15. Help:
Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. There is so many people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in amazing ways. Try to counter-balance the heavy information with hopeful information.

Finally help yourself. If you need help or support right now, it is available. I am offering counselling sessions via a video/phone call and below are national support lines you can call for support:

24/7 Suicide Helpline: 1800 247 247
Aware Support Line: 1800 80 48 48
Pieta House: 1800 247 247
Samaritans: 116 123

Take care ~ Sarah Barr.