Lisa Westgate is my people. She is a rockstar who genuinely cares for people after having been through some serious stuff herself. She is an expert in her field, and I am so pleased she is in my circle. Some great advice here for all of us, especially at this time in our history! – Bek
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that these are unique times. Please know that it’s okay to feel angry or upset or unstable or like somebody has just put you in some sort of spinning ride at a theme park and switched it on well before you are ready. However you are feeling at this time is valid, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
We also need to appreciate that Australia has really not had a break since September last year. The bushfires meant many of us did not get a break between 2019 and 2020. Even if we had time off work allocated to ‘Holidays’, many of us did not get a chance for an emotional break. Many of us have been in a heightened emotional crisis response state for over six months. We need to recognize in that context of ongoing crisis, sometimes things start falling apart and our mental health can suffer. It is NOT a sign of weakness it’s a sign of humanity.
My intention with this piece is to give you some simple processes, tools, and ideas to put into action in the coming weeks and months. Use these as a resource that you can come back to on multiple occasions when you need reminders.
Here is a simple breathing technique used in many industries including military and law enforcement globally. The cycle is 4-6-8-7. This breathing pattern is a variation of pranayama based yogic breathing championed by Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 and ‘Box’ or ‘Tactical’ breathing which follows a 4-4-4-4 pattern. Begin by exhaling all the air in your lungs then take a deep breath in for the count of four, hold that breath in your lungs for the count of six, exhale that breath for the count of eight and then hold no breath for the count of seven, repeat this cycle four times. The reported effects of this practice twice a day for several months is a lowering of blood pressure, heart rate, and other positive physiological changes. Although, you may notice that even doing that now has helped put you at ease. Now that you have this tool, use it regularly and everything suggested after will be easier to manage.
This word is thrown around a lot. What does it actually mean and how can you implement that in the real world?
For some, balance can be about scheduling and planning. Having structure and allocating time for all activities creates a sense of control for those that enjoy systems. For others, listening to your gut, tuning into your body is the way to go. Too much structure can create undue pressure. If you are working from home and also have family members home too, just do the best you can. This may mean changing your work hours to suit family activities or temporarily rearranging some furniture to give yourself a workspace. You may not have the room to this and run your business or do your work from the kitchen table. You can’t make time or save time, but you can decide how to use time. Most importantly, in my opinion, is to give yourself points for trying and remember all anyone can ever do it give it their best shot.
Boundaries can get a bad rap. Think about boundaries as an opportunity to keep things in, rather than cast them out. Understand you are only one person; you can only do so much. Healthy boundaries assist in keeping you under your ‘overwhelm threshold’. Overwhelm is a typical feeling in our current situation. A simple way to practice safe boundaries is the simple two-letter word ‘No’. Saying no to added workload, pressures from kids and perhaps expectations of your partner lets people know where your boundaries are. It also, importantly, reaffirms them for yourself. Stay true to your boundaries and avoid burnout.
Part of setting healthy boundaries is that you create an opportunity for budgeting. Not necessarily in the financial sense, but in the time and energy sense. Acknowledge you have a finite amount of energy allocated for each day, especially under these crisis management conditions. When we are running on amygdala-based drivers like fight, flight or freeze, your capacity is limited. Be sure to budget and utilise your energy in the most ‘bang for your buck’ way. This means being judicious in who and what you give your energy to, be conscious of how much energy you are allocating to a particular person or activity. Save some for your loved ones and for yourself. Use boundaries to enforce your energy budget.
Take them. Give yourself one. If you are working from home, in particular, you have the ability to structure your day as you wish. This is a double-edged sword. Many will find it difficult to establish and maintain a routine that facilitates proper breaks, both physical and mental.
There is a concept referred to as ‘active resting’. I learnt this years ago and it profoundly changed my ‘spare’ time. The idea is to develop some deliberate insight into your own ‘happiness strategies’, the activities that add to your energetic fuel tank. For example, spending time in nature, cooking, reading a mind-expanding book, any activity in which you ‘lose time’. These activities do more than just give you a break away from work or home duties, they provide your conscious mind with a distraction, allowing your subconscious mind to process emotions and feelings in the background. Like your computer running a scan in the background while you play solitaire. Write these down and allocate time for them in your energy budget.
Active resting is completely different in outcome and intention to bingeing on Netflix, which also has a place.
The importance of kindness cannot be overemphasised in current times (and always). Kindness, gratitude, and contribution are at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum to fear, anxiety and individualism. To a great extent, they act as somewhat of an antidote to these base emotions. If you find yourself overwhelmed by media, either traditional or social, people in your life that are catastrophizing, and the general state of the world, take note. Breathe, create balance, say No, switch off, step outside, breathe again, be kind to yourself and consider how lucky we are to have connection via modern technology, clean air (getting cleaner) and fresh water and find a way to help someone else. Perhaps share this article with them. Be well and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.
Since outgrowing PTSD post a decade long Ambulance career, Lisa Westgate founded Freedom Mindset Training. She shares her expertise in areas of mental health, self-care and Neuro-Linguistic Programming both Live and online.
Lisa is a regular guest presenter and has a successful working relationship with Victoria Police and other organisations particularly related to her passion for frontline mental health care.
Lisa is a contributing author in the Amazon Number 1 Bestseller, ‘Changemakers: IWD edition’. Changemakers and her e-book “3 Keys to Outgrow Trauma: an alternative perspective from lived experience” are available via her website.
Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org