I don’t think I’ve ever properly suffered with anxiety – stress is more my thing, though I’m sure the two are somehow linked – but the current coronavirus situation is enough to make anyone as tense and panic-ridden as a hedgehog on a highway.
So there are a few things that I’ve started doing, almost religiously, to safeguard my mental health and attempt to get a good, solid night’s sleep. Good quality sleep is said to be absolutely vital for your overall wellbeing and I must say that I feel much more invigorated since I started going to bed at what would normally be my dinner time.
Yes, it makes me feel as though I’ve suddenly aged by thirty years in the space of a fortnight, especially as I go to bed with a hot water bottle strapped to my chest to “ward off any chills”, but the payoff is that I wake up at 6.30am feeling moderately okay rather than how I usually wake up, which is moody and pessimistic and feeling as though someone has used my head as a gong.
(I don’t actually wake up at six thirty – my youngest does. He’s three and still has no sense of what’s polite when it comes to wakeup times. He’s like a bloody rooster. Except he crows “it’s morning? It’s morning?” rather than “cockadoodledoo”.)
OK, my tips for feeling altogether calmer and less panicked during the coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to stretch on for a good while yet. Realistically. I’m no expert, but all the signs are pointing towards this being a longterm event rather than a short and sharp shock and so I feel it’s perhaps sensible to adopt some semi-permanent lifestyle changes rather than reactionary quick fixes.
My first change is not reading the news all day. It’s tempting to. I go to open my news apps every time I pick up my phone, so I’m also trying not to pick up my phone as much. Difficult, considering my job, but I try. One thing I definitely don’t do is read the news just before bed. Good grief. Recipe for disaster, that is.
Another offshoot change is to only read news from one source, eg the BBC, and a source that doesn’t heavily promote a comments section. If the comments section is something that pops up at the end of the piece, you can’t help but click on it, and the last thing you need at the moment is to fill your head with the thoughts and opinions of a thousand armchair experts. Some of the commenters may well be experts, but wait for them to get themselves quoted in an article and listen to them then. Perhaps.
So, no news before bed and only one slot a day reserved for reading the news at all – I do 5.30pm, when the PM addresses the nation. Which sometimes feels as though I’ve tuned into CBeebies by mistake, but such is the political state of the country/world we live in.
I’ve started reading before I go to sleep – currently on the new Hilary Mantel*, so my mind is filled with Tudor politics and beheadings and frail children all night, but it still counts as escapism.
And then before bed, I do my Epsom Salts trick, which isn’t a trick at all, but feels magical all the same. The important thing to note about this tip is that – unless you’re a billionaire – you need to get yourself a load of no-frills cheap-ass salts. I buy them in huge 10kg tubs from Amazon (see here* and here*) and so my highly effective slumber-bath treatments cost me around 20-50p per soak – if I used the equivalent amount of luxury salts, each bath would cost me about thirty to forty quid.
Because the key is quantity, here; you need a good two cupfuls of salts to really see a difference and knock yourself into a relaxation coma. If you use the pricey salts, in those little pots, you’d be throwing in a whole pot at a time. Crazy times. Buy the big tubs, save yourself a fortune, have the best night’s sleep of your life.
(Disclaimer: can’t guarantee the best night’s sleep, I’m sure that these salts work differently on everyone. I mean, I can take Benilyn Original cough mixture and it’s as though someone has given me four valium, so I’m probably susceptible.)
I also add a few drops of Frankincense essential oil (Aromatherapy Associates do a nice one*, but it’s quite widely available) to de-stress and ground myself. Bloody love a bit of frankincense, me – I’m like one of the three kings, the amount I use.
I did a video on all of these tips – you’re welcome! – and now that most of us are working from home, you have no excuse not to watch it. Ramp that volume up and let yourselves be soothes with my dulcet tones.