We are all in uncertain times, not just with covid 19, but politically and financially.
With all crisis comes an opportunity. The word ‘crisis’ means both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ in the Chinese language.
As you know my background is in architecture but I have also trained with some of the best personal change experts in the world over the last 15 years; I have spent more on these than I would like to admit to my wife lol.
A bit of background on me: to give you a deeper understanding of me and an insight into how you can use this time for the positive.
Firstly: I love my life now, but it wasn’t always the case.
I suffered major depression for most of my life, from a very young age until my 30’s. I don’t know ‘why’ I was having depressing thoughts and when I started looking for the ‘Why’ it made me worse.
It wasn’t until I started to look for ways to help myself and open up about it, did I start to improve.
Contrary to belief there is no such thing a negative emotion: all emotions have a positive intent, i.e. fear is fight or flight, ultimately to keep you safe; your brain then builds a strategy for that scenario which keeps you out of that situation in the future. However, sometimes these useful strategies can become detrimental later in life.
The old metaphor where the woman cut the ends off the meatloaf before cooking it when asked why she did it, She did it because her mum did it. It was only after asking her mum ‘why?’ – she discovered the reason was that the meatloaf didn’t fit into her tray.
I was still cutting off the ends of my meatloaf because of some unknown reason my brain had concocted; that no longer applied.
When these ‘negative’ states come up it is your unconscious telling you vital information. That is why you should relish them; it’s your unconscious telling you how to grow and become a better version of yourself.
That’s why we have downs and ‘negative’ emotions; our brain is telling us to take action.
I suffered from major depression most of my life because I wasn’t listening and acting upon the messages my brain was trying to tell me. So it started telling those messages to me more & more powerfully, making me feel worse and worse until I started taking actions to improve myself.
The saying is, everything is either growing or dying.
When I was getting worse with depression I wasn’t growing, therefore it was sending me towards death.
We need to realise that everything is energy and even negative energy can be used for good; so turn the negative energy into action. Feeling anxious or afraid? Understand what you are afraid of, put measures into place to mitigate these fears, and accept that the worry is no longer doing you any good. You have taken action. The fear has done its job so it is now time to release it and your tray is now big enough. I will go into how to do this in more detail in a later blog post.
Most people think asking for help is weakness, that showing weakness is, well… weak. But the reverse is actually true. It takes a strong person to admit to it; and admitting, getting help and taking action makes you stronger.
I admit in early March, I was stressed and worried about the whole coronavirus; some of my family and myself are potentially in the high-risk category. Being relatively newly self-employed added a financial stressor to the mix.
In life we all have down moments, it’s more than a coincidence…. its like an arrow being pulled back, waiting to be aimed and released.
So this is how I dealt with the stress and turned it into a positive:
TURN OFF THE NEWS – When someone is stressed, worried or in bad form, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens can be reduced, as negative states release the hormone corticosteroid and it can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. The news is fear-driven and it can be addictive; this can be stressful or fearful for some people and just-makes-it-worse.
If you feel the need to watch; restrict it the official government briefings.
A little story: there were 52 beautiful islands in a tropical area. The staple diet was fish, caught daily. Life was wonderful. However, unfortunately, once a year, there was a shark attack and everybody was afraid to go into the sea for about a week.
Then TV was invented. Every night the news reported that there was a shark attack; on average one attack per week in one of the islands. Result? People were scared to go in the sea all year round. The number of attacks didn’t rise; but people’s awareness did.
GET A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP – Good sleep is vital for a quality life; this is when our body recovers and repairs itself.
Having a good structure and routine during the day is vital. Get up early and be active, laying about will only make things harder.
As someone with young kids who didn’t sleep much, I went months without a good nights sleep and it had a detrimental effect on all areas of my life.
I couldn’t concentrate, I had little energy; I craved sugary food; my motivation plummeted and I got sick more often. The importance of sleep and a healthy routine is essential for us.
We need structure and a purpose in our life to feel happy & fulfilled, without it, we can start to feel down and potentially slip into depressive thinking.
If you have been struggling to get good quality sleep during this time, start getting up early and go to bed at a good time. As counterintuitive as this may sound. The idea is; have you ever been that tired that you could barely keep your eyes open? And as your head hit the pillow you were out for the count? This trains your body to get to sleep quickly and as soon as this is the norm, then you slowly add in half an hour every few days until you get the optimum sleeping length, typically 7-9hrs.
EAT HEALTHY – You would only put high-performance fuel in a high-performance racing car; yet you expect your body to run well on poor quality fuel? If you want your body to run properly and fight off sickness quicker, start feeding your body more quality foods.
Reducing processed foods (anything that has gone through a process in a factory – so, ready-made meals, packets of food, sausages / burgers), cutting out as much sugary foods as possible, (tip don’t buy them in the first place) and getting more fresh food into you. Take in a few vitamins, buy some slow-release vitamin C & D (speak to a medical expert for advice) as they help with your immune system and help give you more energy.
We all have more time to cook; learn new recipes & reduce food waste.
EXERCISE – the more you exercise regularly the better your body operates. If you don’t currently exercise, start slowly; but do exert yourself a bit.
If you stay in your comfort zone (this goes with all areas of life) you will only improve slowly and hit a plateau very quickly.
Give yourself permission not to be good at it.
When I started to train for a marathon, I had to stop and walk after ¾ of a mile. Within 6-7 months I was running around 18 miles without needing to stop (unfortunately an injury meant I couldn’t continue).
Have faith that your fitness levels will improve over time; because it will. It may seem slow at the start but it will build quickly when you are persistent. Give yourself goals or targets to help you stay motivated.
BREATHING – yep I hear you, ‘Martin I have been breathing all my life and if I stopped I wouldn’t be reading this!!’
But are you deep breathing?
Most smokers don’t realize this; when they say smoking relaxes them, it isn’t just the cigarette that is working.
Withdrawals can make smokers anxious; taking more nicotine removes this – like a hangover cure i.e. smoking actually makes you anxious.
But importantly; when you smoke, you are taking deep breaths. This is very relaxing and helps remove stress. Take deep breaths (but don’t smoke lol!).
I recently viewed a video from a doctor in England telling us to take 6 deep breaths and a cough at the end; discharging anything that you cough up, to help with coronavirus symptoms.
Any yogis out there will also appreciate the benefits of breathing exercises.
I have downloaded Wim Hof free app (known as ‘The Iceman’). He does a guided deep breathing exercise; which oxygenates your blood, leaving you feeling energized. The app is called the Wim Hof Method WHM. Give it a try.
And remember… allow yourself the time to get things ‘right’. Life is about the journey. And that often-used phrase – ‘Be Kind’ needs to start with yourself, no one is perfect so don’t expect yourself to be.