Is anyone feeling the chill in the air these days? Noticing an increasing amount of pumpkins? Guys, it is officially autumn. The equinox happened and everything. In honour of our love of self care here on Ethical Unicorn my good friend Angelica has written a guest post for us today full of tips for wellbeing in these colder months. Angelica is a professional psychological wellbeing practitioner and all round guru, so if I were you I would check out her Instagram and get following, her regular tips are ridiculously helpful and so easy to implement. I am also lucky enough to call Angelica a real life friend, and she is one of the best people I know, so go show her some love!
Below is her autumn advice…
The weather is changing, autumn is coming and the nights are getting longer and colder. At this time of year, it’s quite common to struggle with things like motivation and tiredness. I’ve summarised 5 simple tips that will help you generally, but might be especially important to think about when the weather changes. These tips are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
The Cognitive Behavioural model recognises that our situation, our thoughts, emotions, physical symptoms and behaviours are all connected to each other. This is really important to recognise as we can get into a ‘vicious cycle’. An example would be, if we have a hard day, we might start to think negatively. Then we start to feel low which leads to a lack of energy, feeling lethargic and maybe even achey. This impacts our motivation and then we tend to withdraw or avoid things we’d normally enjoy. In the short term we might feel relieved we didn’t do the activity we didn’t feel like but in the long term it makes us feel worse as we lose that sense of enjoyment or achievement and our original thoughts are reinforced. I started with situation and thoughts but this works in the same way when we start from any area of the cycle.
What’s good about this is what we can turn this around into a ‘virtuous cycle’. The parts we can control of this cycle are our thoughts and behaviours (plus sometimes we can also have some control over our situation), so when we make changes in these areas, the other areas of the cycle are impacted.
Below are some cognitive and behavioural techniques that will help you to have a virtuous cycle:
1. Thought balancing is a technique where you intentionally CHOOSE to be more positive or more ‘balanced’ in our thinking. Remember that any one event can be interpreted in so many different ways and sometimes we automatically jump to a conclusions that may be based on our mood at the time or any other biases that we have. First we need to ‘catch’ ourselves when we’re thinking negatively. It helps to label your thinking styles, for example, we tend to overgeneralise, (“things never go as I plan”), fortune tell (“I’ll never get that job”), use black and white thinking, (“it wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be so I failed”), disqualify the positive (“that doesn’t count I had help”), imagine that we know what others are thinking (“she doesn’t like me”) and use should and musts (“I should do this..”). All of these thinking styles have one thing in common… They are biased to the behaver and are based on little to no evidence. Next time you catch yourself feeling down and anxious, label your thought and challenge yourself; how true is this? Is there another way I could think about this? What would I say to my best friend? So be more positive, it’s more realistic and feels better!
2. Sleep! Make sure you get enough. This doesn’t necessarily mean 8 hours which is a reflection of the national average. People tend to need between 5-9 hours of sleep so this can vary greatly. Find what works for you and make sure you are giving yourself enough time to rest. If you are struggling with sleep, it is likely that a natural bed-sleep connection your mind automatically makes when you sleep well has been weakened as you may start to associate your bed with lying awake and being frustrated. To get this back don’t do anything in bed apart from sleep. If you can’t sleep after 15-30 minutes, whether that’s because you’re trying to fall asleep or you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, get out of bed (yes really)! Research shows that if you get out of bed and do something else you will fall asleep quicker. Prepare what you will do before and go into a dimly lit room and do something relaxing which might be doing a puzzle or re-reading a book. Eventually you’ll start to feel ‘sleepy-tired’ and when you do, go back to bed. Repeat as needed! This is a difficult technique but helps a lot with your bed-sleep connection and also helps stop a racing mind.
3. Balance your life. This can be such a difficult thing to do. In the business of life sometimes we forget to do what we would really like to do or what’s important to us. A simple tip to help create a balance is to list your ‘core values’. Think about what these are, they could be things like faith, relationships, physical fitness, friends, fun, career, etc. Rank out of 10 how important each value is to you, where 0 is not important and 10 is the most important something could be. Now think about the last few weeks and how you’ve lived out your life. How consistently have you lived out your life in accordance to your values? Give another rank out of 10 for this where 0 is that you haven’t been living constantly with your value and 10 is that you have been living completely consistent with it. Where you have low scores the second time round, try and increase your activity around that value. Planning ahead is key here as otherwise even with the best intentions things are missed!
4. Shake it off! If you can’t do anything about it then… Shake it off! Most of the time we worry about things we can’t control. Often it is based on the tiniest bit of uncertainty and is very unlikely. If it isn’t enough to tell yourself to shake it off then go and do something else and be INTENTIONAL about changing your focus of attention on the new activity.
5. Get motivated! So you’ve got your vision, your big goal, your new resolution.. how do you make it happen? Start somewhere small, when we make our goals big (this of course is a great thing), but then never break them down, we are likely to never start them or feel overwhelmed. Just like a new years resolution we never keep. Break it down and figure out where you’ll start. Try using SMART goals:
Then you’ll know where to start and when you’ve achieved the goal which gives you that sense of achievement. A SMART goal could be something like, write on new project for an hour twice a week. Don’t forget to later schedule what days those will be and have fun! Also be mindful that motivation comes AFTER action not before. Most people wait to FEEL motivated before doing something but actually motivation comes after you start.
And there you go guys! How ridiculously useful are these? I hope they help you out, and remember to go follow Angelica for more help and advice.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.