Life can be hard, exhausting, and overwhelming, particularly when faced with the challenges (and opportunities) presented by new parenthood or the journey towards it. In moments of distress, it can be difficult to think of things that will help us feel a bit better.
When we take some time out to feel better, we can reduce stress, bolster immunity, lower blood pressure, improve concentration, increase positive feelings towards self and others. It can also create a feeling of calm (even if it’s temporary) and energise us for the day ahead.
We’re not aiming for a complete resolution or a profoundly positive outlook, merely a moment of reflection, compassion or pause.
Take a deep breath and consider: “What can I realistically do now, even for 5 minutes, to pick up my mood or lessen my anxiety?”
You may like to try one of the suggestions below.
• Text or call a friend or loved one. Tell them how you are feeling, ask how they are, make a plan to catch-up or send a funny emoji to say you are thinking of them. Kindness, reaching out and connection to your ‘village’ can help you feel better.
• Go outside. Look up, take another breath, observe your surrounds. What do you see/ hear/smell, or what can you touch? If you can’t immediately access nature, try a quick visualisation of where you would like to go – how does it look or smell, sound or feel?
• Play your favourite song. Sing the lyrics out loud or hum if you need to be quiet – both actions stimulate our nervous system-regulating vagus nerve. Remember where you first heard the song – where were you? What do you like about it? Can you play it again?
• Do something creative. Can you draw, start a journal, finger paint or cook your favourite food? If your to-do list feels overwhelming, consider if you can do some household tasks in a different way, or think of a new initiative for work and jot down some thoughts. This activates the more creative and compassionate side of the brain.
• Move. Take five minutes to move in a way that feels good for you – that may mean a walk, dance, run (even for a short time), a salsa move or moving your hips around in a Figure-8. Notice how you feel when you stop. Has your mood shifted? Can you organise another burst of movement somewhere else in your day?
• Rest. You may be able to find a moment to put your feet up, listen to a podcast, watch something easy-going on TV or place your phone away for a little bit. Try to let your surrounds be as they are and embrace a quiet moment – however long it lasts.
• Do some mindfulness meditation. There are plentiful resources available via phone applications (Calm, Insight Timer and Waking Up are three on the App Store) however, mindfulness meditation can be as simple as you wish. Taking some time for conscious breathing, staying in the present, noticing your surrounds, having a warm shower or bath and enjoying the smells of the shampoo or bath gel all bring mindfulness to our day.
• Gratitude. Make a list of three things you are grateful for, either in the morning or before bed. This may help enhance mood or positivity. If you find yourself getting stuck in a negative thought and it won’t go away, sometimes getting up and distracting yourself can work e.g. make a cup of tea, go outside, run cold water on your hands/wrists, tell yourself, “that’s not helpful right now, what else can I think of or do?”
• Soothing touch can be a very regulating experience for our nervous system. Reach out to a loved one, cuddle a pet. You may also like to try self- touch including a massage or bringing awareness into an area of your body that feels tense and take some slow mindful breaths. Kristen Neff also has a lovely self compassion exercise. https://self-compassion. org/exercise-4-supportive-touch/
• Take a pause. If you’ve tried one of the ideas above, reflect on what felt good and what didn’t.
Is there anything else you can add to your essential ‘Feel better list’? What do you need to remove or change? What can you try and do in the week ahead to improve your mood or reduce anxious feelings?
Gidget Foundation Australia is here if you need additional professional support, or someone to talk to. Please call us on 1300 851 758.