What are Anchors and how can they act as a coping mechanism during these current times?
The power of strong anchors
If any of you are struggling at the moment I hope that this article can help in a small way. I’ve been asked by some of my clients and friends what I do to cope during these challenging times. My intention isn’t to preach, I’m still figuring things out myself and have my off days. But these enquiries have made me think more about what keeps me sane. There are lots of small things that I consider my anchors – things I incorporate into my day to keep me grounded and able to cope. 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. I fully appreciate that they 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.
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.
My twelve 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! (However, even without this alarm I would still set an alarm to wake up relatively early). I go to bed at roughly the same time every night too. I have a loose weekly timetable/plan which sets out when to complete chores, exercise, work etc (although there is always room for movement). I’ve had this plan in my head for a long time but have only recently put it down on paper which has helped me to feel on top of everything.
Consistency – 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! 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 there’s too much of it. 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 try to keep most areas in my home like this, especially the lounge and bedrooms. I feel my bedroom is then a sanctuary to retreat to at the end of the day. Over the Christmas holidays the house was getting cluttered, especially my bedroom, and I really do think that it was affecting my sleep as a result.
Reading before sleep – I 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.
Gratitude Journal – 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 so much seems so negative and out of our control at the moment this practice is really useful. It might include having been able to catch up with a friend on the phone, or that home learning went by without any hiccups 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 also attend a guided meditation class each week which I find really effective. I haven’t yet mastered meditating on my own. I need to listen to someone’s voice. There are lots of apps online that offer great guided meditation.
Getting outside/exercise every day – I get outside every day to walk. Even if it’s for 20 minutes and even if it’s raining. I often listen to podcasts whilst out but sometimes I just take in my surroundings. I also exercise at home several times a week. 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’m currently doing a fifty day challenge where I’ve set myself a daily goal relating to being active. I’ll build on this once I’ve reached the end of the fifty days. I need the focus of a challenge and I’m loving it.
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 in my bedroom. I’m a better person if I’ve had this time. I heard a saying recently ‘Busyness is an anaesthetic’. I truly believe this. If we fill all of our time then as a result we aren’t truly experiencing what is important to us.
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 as a Holistic Therapist over the last twelve years. I’m quite a sociable person and in normal circumstances I am meeting up with friends and family on a regular basis. As that isn’t possible at the moment I make an effort to keep in touch with everyone. Connection is really important.
Looking after my skin – I’ve always had a good daily skincare routine and since last March when we were all plunged into the first lockdown I put some time aside on a Sunday morning to give myself a facial, apply a hair mask, body brushing etc. This has a really positive affect on how I feel and it’s become a relaxing ritual. But it could quite easily be done one morning or one evening before going to bed which I have also done. At the moment in the evenings you’ll often find me in front of the TV giving myself a facial massage. Multi tasking and all that!
Having a favourite coffee mug – This might sound insignificant but I only drink coffee once a day and using the same mug (I have two that I’ve been bought by dear friends) 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. It’s as close as I’ll get to having a coffee in a coffee house at the moment!
All of these help me to be the best that I can and to feel as positive as I can during these current times. However, my coping mechanisms don’t stop there. Intertwined with these anchors are positive actions that I do to help see me through day to day life and encourage positive change. I’ll share these in my next article.
What are your anchors? I’d love to know what works for you or what you might start to do?