Using 'Anchors' as coping mechanisms
The power of strong anchors in our lives
If you are struggling at the moment, and I know many people are, I hope that this article can help in a small way. Over the years, and actually quite a lot recently, I've been asked what I do to cope when I feel like I'm finding things difficult. So I have reviewed this article that I originally wrote during the pandemic.
What is an anchor?
It’s something that is related to safety, stability and strength (think of an anchor on a boat, except it’s holding you in place). It’s about hope and happiness for the future. An anchor is something you can hold onto when you feel overwhelmed. It makes you feel calmer and more confident.
There are lots of small things that I consider my anchors. These are things I incorporate into my day to keep me grounded and better equipped to cope with challenging situations. I’ve made a list (I love a list!) and none of them take much time for me to do so they don’t feel like a chore. If you're looking for some strong anchors I fully appreciate that mine might not work for you or it might be that you do these or something similar already. But have a read, take what you like and leave the rest.
As a side note, my intention is never to preach, I’m always figuring things out myself and definitely have my off days. I just thought I'd share what works for me.
Here are my personal anchors
Structure & routine
I get up at the same time each day (and not much later on the weekend). I wake up with a Lumie alarm clock which simulates the sun rising with a gradual light encouraging me to wake up easily. It really works as I’m not a natural morning person who springs out of bed at 6am! I go to bed at roughly the same time every night too. I have a loose weekly timetable/plan which sets out when I'm going to do certain chores, exercise, work, what to eat for dinner etc. Although there is always some wiggle room. I try to plan everything in my diary at the weekend for the week ahead. Having it on paper definitely helps me to see it in black and white. Now, I'm not saying I have a one hundred percent success rate but it's pretty good.
I am consistent whenever possible but I try not to beat myself up about the times where I’m not. Being consistent develops a routine and builds momentum. It helps to form habits. I really try to celebrate the small wins, the tiny positive changes and successes each day.
Stationery & lists
I love stationery and always have a nice notebook and coloured pens on the go. I love making lists and these things help me to feel organised and track progress. My notebook is always in a convenient place so that I can grab it as and when I need to. If I’ve completed something but forgotten to put it on my list I will deliberately add it to the bottom and tick it off straight away! Progress is progress!
A tidy house = A tidy mind
I like a tidy organised home. It certainly contributes to having a clear mind. I don’t like too much mess, in fact I can feel myself getting a bit agitated if it's untidy. I plan when I’m going to clean, do the washing and ironing etc and generally try to keep on top of everything. I’ve previously written about creating a ‘Hygge’ home which is the Danish trend of having a home full of comfort and cosiness. I light candles most evenings, sometimes light the fire, have cushions, blankets, low level lighting all of which create a welcoming, comfortable and relaxing place to live in. I never turn on the 'big' light! I try to keep most areas in my home like this, especially the lounge and bedrooms. My bedroom is then a sanctuary to retreat to at the end of the day. I have building work happening at the moment and and the house upstairs is feeling cluttered I am really trying to keep it as tidy as possible because a messy bedroom affects my sleep.
Reading before sleep
I try to do this most nights. I love to read and even though I might only get through five pages it’s a great way to relax and wind down before going to sleep. Unless it’s something that might increase your heart rate like a tense psychological thriller or Fifty Shades of Grey! This forms part of my bedtime routine and contributes to a restful nights sleep.
I also think about what I’m grateful for at bedtime. This might sound corny but it really does focus my mind on all of the good things that have happened that day no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. When we are exposed to lots of negativity I find this practice really helpful. I used to buy a gratitude journal but I know just write it in a notebook by my bed. It might include having been able to catch up with a friend, or that I saw a robin in the garden (I love robins) or simply that the sun shone.
Breathing mindfully & guided meditation
I know that I don’t breathe properly all of the time, I think most people are the same. But I use breathing techniques to calm and relax when I need to. I’ve shared some of them previously on my website and social media. Here’s another technique I sometimes use – breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4, breathe out for 5. When your out breath is longer than your in breath your brain has the ability to switch off the stress hormone. I haven't mastered meditating on my own. I need to listen to someone’s voice and sometimes listen to a short one before going to bed. There are lots of apps online that offer great guided meditation and some alarm clocks have this function so that there is no need to take your phone to bed.
Getting outside/exercise every day
I get outside every day to walk, no matter the weather. I always dread going out when it's raining but as soon as I am out I love it. I often listen to podcasts whilst out but sometimes I just take in my surroundings. I also go to the gym and occasionally swim. There have been times in the past where I haven’t got outside or exercised regularly and it certainly affected my mood. The power of being outside is amazing. I find that setting challenges and goals really help in being active and during the pandemic I took part in several online challenges to encourage activity. I'd forgotten about the fact I did these and remember having the focus of a challenge and loving it. So I'm going to look into doing this again. Although, I'm going to keep it simple. I don't want to add too much into my week.
Time on my own
Everyone is different but this is a must for me. I need time on my own to clear my mind, it’s a time for me to reflect, plan or to simply be. Even if it’s ten minutes to walk around the block or to sit on the sofa or in a coffee house. I’m a better person if I’ve had this time. Have you heard the saying r ‘Busyness is an anaesthetic’? I truly believe this is the case. If we fill all of our time then as a result we aren’t truly experiencing what is important to us. I know I have been guilty of this in the past.
Helping others and staying connected
I really do feel that one of my main purposes in life is to help others. That’s probably why I’ve chosen the jobs that I have and settled on a career in wellbeing over the last fifteen years. I love my job and feel I'm well suited. I also relish meeting up with family and close friends. I try to make an effort to keep in touch with everyone. Connection, talking and sharing is really important.
Looking after my skin
I’ve always had a good daily skincare routine and make time every day to look after it. I try to set a side thirty minutes a week to give myself a mini facial and apply a hair mask. I continue to body brush and turn the water to cold at the end of my shower. But a shorter version could quite easily be done one morning or one evening before going to bed which I have also done. I love some facial massage or gua sha in from of the TV in the evenings. Multi tasking and all that! But this isn't just about looking after my skin, it's so much more. All of these things have a positive affect on how I feel and form a relaxing ritual.
Having a favourite coffee mug
This might sound insignificant but I only drink coffee once a day and using the same mug makes it feel like an indulgent occasion. I try to choose a time to have it when I know I’ve got at least ten minutes to myself and sometimes I’ll drink it outside.
All of these help me to be the best that I can and to feel as positive as I can. They equip me to cope with day to day life and are even more important during times of stress and uncertainty.
What are your anchors? I’d love to know what works for you or what you might start to do?