Kay Hutchison is the author of My Life in 37 Therapies. She had a crisis in her life, followed by a period of several years in which she had to make a fresh start to reset both her personal and working life as well as improving her mental and physical wellbeing. She documented this time and her experiences with 37 different therapies in her memoir (out now as an audiobook on Audible or Spotify). Kay shares the invaluable lessons she learned which could help with the pressures of a constantly changing world…
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that somehow, in the midst of this pandemic, we managed to simply swap the old chaos of 2019 with a new kind of chaos in 2020. With the welcome silver linings we experience in our environment and the myriad of choices online, there seems to be no long-term strategic plan. So, we move forward week by week, day by day with holes in the data and disagreements within the scientific community. Sadly, we are left to feel a general underlying, low-level anxiety as the unintended consequences become all too apparent.
In the middle of this perfect quiet storm, we’re told we should keep fit, eat well, do this, do that and do the other. Of course, we know it will work wonders for our health and lighten our mood. But it’s all too much. The internet is totally alight with options for this or that class, or this week’s new celebrity event to help you through. It’s wonderful, this help is on tap. But to be honest I think there’s way too much, it’s excessive. We are back to ‘overfunctioning’ again. We don’t have the time to try everything, to fit everything in, to keep everyone happy and still keep ourselves sane.
So, my message today is to stop trying. As Louise Hay says ‘let yourself out of jail’, be gentle with yourself at times like this. Give yourself a break. We’re all different, so whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, super fit or not, you should do what’s right for you to help you move forward. In fact, just stop. Don’t get caught up in this new form chaos. Take some time to clear a path that you can follow within the reality that is your life.
Here are a few quick suggestions to help you counter the chaos and simplify…
Get yourself a glass of water. Sit on your own if you can (and if it’s impossible to have time to yourself then simply listen to the most calming music you can find – no lyrics). Empty out your thoughts and just focus on you. Take gentle sips. Breathe gently, filling your lungs at a measured pace until you feel totally relaxed and centered. If your thoughts wander anxiously, don’t worry, it’s fine, just gently bring them back to your breathing.
Sit down with a pen and paper and write down a simple activity you can enjoy at home to help you switch off. Pick a regular time each day to do the activity and decide how much time you have available – add a little more – you deserve it. Make a date with yourself and keep it.
Think about Social Media and the News and the time you spend chasing after the same information. Just cut it right back, take a day off completely, or even two if you can. Yes, it’s an unprecedented time and we need to keep up but you don’t need to follow every twist and turn. Reduce what’s bad for you and use the time for more positive thinking.
Shopping lists – of course you might need (and deserve) the odd treat but make the lion’s share of the food that you buy fresh fruit and vegetables if you can. If you’re a keen cook or baker, then why not get back to basics. It’s always better than shop-bought and you know exactly what’s going into what you’re eating. Remember too, we’re simply not using up as much energy right now, so try to be guided by your natural hunger and only eat when you need to. If you need to snack, choose carrots or dried fruits, seeds or nuts to keep you going. Your body will respond to good nourishing foods by giving you more energy and making you feel lighter and brighter in mood.
We all need to tend to our thoughts – ‘the mind can be a tyrannical master’ as one of my yoga teachers said – but carefully guided, the mind can also have the most profound effect on our physical health, reducing ailments and stress. There are many great philosophers and writers who do guided meditations today, but one of the best in my view is Ekhart Tolle. You can tell he is a kind-hearted man, avuncular and understanding. But he also knows how to communicate ideas and is down to earth in his approach. He knows how to help others calm their racing minds and has a great sense of humour. Find someone whose voice you like listening to, who can take you inside and help relax your thoughts. It’s possibly one of the greatest ways to bring you back to yourself and find a place of calm.
The more you simplify, the more you look after yourself, the more your health will naturally improve and the more your mind will be able to deal with the challenges we will undoubtedly face in the months ahead.
Kay Hutchison is the author of My Life in 37 Therapies, Published by Red Door Books.
The audiobook narrated by Kay is also out this month on all major platforms. For information on mental health issues and the Covid epidemic seeNami.org/covid-19 The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an organisation that’s set up to provide help and assistance to everyone in the US.