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How to stay sane in isolation. Wellbeing Coach and Director of ZenMuma, Jackie Heffer-Cooke, offers an expert guide on how to cope. Most of the ideas you will love, but you may not like all you read… Be strong and #digdeep

So here we are. Somewhere deep inside we knew this Black Mirror episode could become reality and in a world that is so squashed and squeezed it’s happened. Life changed overnight, and we are pretty much in lockdown – with our family – those we love the most. But also – with our family – those who drive us crazy the most with all their pointy pokes and brazen honesty. 

So, how do you keep yourself sane in times of social isolation crisis?

Here is a guide that may or may not help. None of it is my idea but comes from thousands of years of teachings in meditation, and yoga, and psychology, and philosophy. I’ve just hacked it into a sizeable chunk to read. Be warned, some ideas you will like more than others…

  1. Breathe. I know I am starting with the obvious one, but it is true! I have just spent the last 10 days at least pretty much living in the stress response. Probably you have too. When that happens, we are in what’s called the Sympathetic Nervous System, and that’s the nervous system that isn’t kind to the bodies systems – including the immune system and the respiratory system – that’s two systems we need to be supporting right now. When you breathe deeply with a full lung breath the body believes it is relaxing, ‘chilling’ (even when it’s not) so it sends in the parasympathetic nervous system and with it the feel good hormones, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and gives your immune and respiratory system a boost! So, stop and breathe. Make time for it. I mean, we do actually have a lot of time right now…
  2. Exercise. As above. Exercise releases endorphins and serotonins and keeps us in the super important powerhouse the PNS. Plus, the fresh air gives our lungs a boost, and the sun and freedom will cheer us up! We are allowed out for exercise once a day, make the most of it!
  3. Community. Find your tribe and tap into them. I know our family has just experienced a group WhatsApp chat for the first time ever, and tomorrow I am doing my first Instagram and Facebook Live on ZenMuma! There are loads of great local PE, Pilates and Yoga teachers offering online classes, source out what you like and use it as a connective tool to others. 
  4. Practise Mindfulness more than ever before. In the words of the great Dr Seuss book ‘oh the places you go’ 

“And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

If we think too much about the future right now we will feel anxious, because we don’t have the answers, we don’t know the road, and if you let your mind go off wandering down those corridors you may take yourself to some dark places. Pull Back. We just don’t know what any outcomes are yet, we are out of control of it, we are merely humans trying to figure it all out. So, keep coming back to the present moment and use any way to do that you can. When you are out for your exercise enjoy it; the feeling of the air on your skin, when you are eating enjoy it; the taste of the food in your mouth, when you are laughing be in it; allow yourself some humour and some love. 

  1. You might not like this one. Maybe, just for a while, stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a relaxant, but it is also a depressant. We just don’t need it right now. Anxiety is not a good mixer with alcohol. Short term it may cause rows, long term it may make you feel miserable. #digdeep and stop. For now. Until things get easier. 
  2. Get a great routine. Human beings’ brains like routine, we find it comforting. Particularly children. Get up for breakfast and eat together. Discuss how you feel without judgement. Discuss ‘what to do today’. Try and get a mix of arts, crafts, exercise, reading, music, chat. Keep a bedtime routine as much as possible and stick with it. It’s very grounding. 
  3. Get creative. They say Shakespeare wrote King Lear whilst in lockdown during the plague. Think! All the things you could do!!
  4. Put ‘out of office’ on. Just because you may be working from home does not mean you are constantly working from home. Have strict rules for yourself, when you work, and when you don’t. And stick to them! 
  5. Find your ‘break-out’ space. Just as we are social creatures, we need our own space too. When things get on top of you, you need to be able to tell your loved ones that you need time-out. Then take it. Listen to music, chat to your friends online, breathe, meditate, whatever works for you – but have your ‘go-to’. 
  6. Love. Don’t forget to love. You LOVE your family. You want them to be safe, and happy, and to feel loved. Affirm that to yourself, and them, often. Then, affirm that love back to yourself too. We will all lose our cool occasionally. Take a deep breath, take your time out, do the thing that calms you down and makes you happy, and be kind to yourself. Give yourself a cuddle when you need it too. It’s the best practise possible. 

Founder of the online ‘resource for calm’ ZenMuma Jackie Heffer-Cooke is offering FREE yoga from her ZenGarden. Tune in to ZenMuma FaceBook and Instagram and join in!

Thank you to ZenMuma Jackie for writing this guest blog for us. If you would like to know more about ZenMuma, head over to their website here. ZenMuma will be joining us at The Norfolk Bump & Beyond Baby and Toddler Fair at The Norfolk Showground on Sunday 20th September!