Staying where you are. Self Care in times of Lockdown

How are you looking after yourself (mind and body) during lockdown?

Having moved into their studio at Peckham Levels last year, Liz Dean and Lisa Baum set up Space For Me, offering talking therapy to adults in the local area. We touched base with Liz to find out her suggestions for self care whilst we are all staying at home…

The importance of staying where you are.

Through these extraordinary times in which we have been trying to live in, you have probably seen many articles stressing the importance of self-care and routine: try to keep a regular pattern of sleep, eat as sensibly as you can, go out when it’s light and talk to a trusted someone if you feel able.

I totally agree with all this, we need anchors in life to feel supported, comforted and connected to others.

At times I have forgotten to take care of the basics and then noticed myself feeling agitated and annoyed at relatively small things. If this forgetting becomes habitual, we may start feeling disconnected from ourselves and those around us, or overwhelmed and sensing our mood dropping considerably.

The arrival of the virus has brought the way in which we look after ourselves into focus. Our bodies are preoccupied with danger right now.

It’s not just our health and that of others close to us that we are worried about, but also our finances, our future, the condition of the planet and the political turbulence that is unbalancing so many of us. Some things should be, in my opinion, making us feel uncomfortable, such as the inequality that is now harder to look away from. This is a lot, all at once.

We have lost our safe spaces, with the only place left being the home. For some this is a familiar haven and for others a source of increasing tension. For most of us maybe it’s something in-between.

‘Self-care’ is not easy though.

I have noticed this even more through talking with people in my work. People often tell me in a matter-of-fact way that they can’t make time for themselves and many don’t even know what that would look like for them.  What about those working long hours in hospitals and in other caring roles right now – they would probably say that it’s hard to be kind to yourself when you’re on a non-stop shift. 

I remember many years ago when I was starting to learn about meditation and the Zen tradition, I had been complaining about some situation I had found myself in and was looking for an answer. My teacher, who had been listening quietly for some time, looked at me gently and asked, “What would be the compassionate thing to do?” I was left speechless at this and was, quite frankly, disappointed. What did compassion have to do with it? It’s taken quite a few years to see the relevance of this question. Compassion means ‘to suffer with’. Hopefully you have experienced this even in a small way when someone has seen you being in pain and their acknowledgement has helped settle you somehow. What you begin to notice if you do this for yourself is more flexibility inside of you; it’s not that you stop experiencing intense emotions, but rather you gradually stop choosing what is acceptable and what is not. Not letting yourself be as you are is far more painful. 

I also notice how often people quickly minimise their experience, saying things such as: “But there are so many others worse off than me”, and “It’s not that bad, I shouldn’t complain”. These statements could of course have their roots deeper in the past when our concerns may not have been met very well, but the system we are all a part of tells us to get rid of things rather than be with them. “Things”, in particular, being our feelings that tell us that we are alive.

I see my job as doing my best to stay with people as they are.

Sounds simple, but notice how often you move away from your experience, mainly in your body and how the mind takes over with its endless analysing and explaining. Meditation teacher Tara Brach says that our habit and our conditioning is to want life to be different; that the present moment feels uneasy and we are waiting for the next moment that will apparently be better. 

She encourages us to ask: “What’s going on inside me now? Can I be with this and meet this with care? What am I unwilling to feel right now?”

As a result, are we able to make some room for the parts of us that are scared, hurt, agitated, angry?

When we let some of these feeling states land then maybe self-care can become less of a project or an add on, but rather something that we do simply because it helps us.

~ Liz Dean, Space For Me