How I kept my mental clarity, sanity, and well-being in check in the lockdown & why I continue to do that

As a psychologist & health coach, I am always trying new things for my mental & physical health. When your job is helping others in such a meaningful way I feel that we are obligated to take care of ourselves, in the best ways possible.

This lockdown was a real challenge for me since I still had my work and of course my kids. My work entails, therapy sessions either online or face to face. Plus, I work from home, meaning I have my psychologist clinic in my house. With my kids, who were now home all day, every day for a month, it was a challenge. The schools and daycare in Denmark closed for a month due to the Coronavirus meaning everyone was home.

My kids have very different needs due to their different ages, so it was a puzzle. I have a 15-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder (ADD). Meaning he really needs help starting assignments, help with finishing assignments, and overall help with doing the assignments. Basically, he needs my brain extension & motivation. Therefore, this lockdown was probably the worst for him.

Then there is the 9-year-old boy who is very active & needs his share of companionship. Of course, he does, he is very physically active & loves to have someone to share his enthusiasm and playful mind. At least he can study a bit by himself, but his high energy levels need to be met with as well.

Yes, then a 2-year-old girl. Yes, I know, very different ages. I needed like a 6-7 years break between the kids. The 2-year-old girl, she needs help with almost everything & is highly dependent on a grown-up of course. Plus, she is also a very active kid. When I say my kids are very active, I mean like over average active. So, let the party begin!

I am all about a healthy lifestyle and always trying to improve myself, but this lockdown took it to a whole new level. I knew I had to be the very best version of myself not only for my kids but also for my clients. I needed to give my all to them. With the mom shift starting at 6 in the morning and ending at 21.30 in the evening due to different ages I had to keep myself in check. Anyway, the first thing is first, and how?

  1. Exercise! I like to run maybe 3 times a week, but this became necessary. I had to start my day with 30 minutes for myself. Feeling the wind & the sun in my face, being mindful and connecting to the present became my lifeline in the mornings. It became my oxygen so that I could give oxygen to my kids & my clients.

Perfect start of the day, because exercise not only reduces the stress hormone, cortisol but also stimulates the endorphins productions that are our brain´s natural mood elevators and painkillers.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

  • Eat healthily. I cannot afford to have my blood sugar levels rising and falling all the time and me turning into an (h)angry mom due to bad eating habits. I need my patience and clarity, for my kids and my clients. I will never forget this research that I read while I was studying psychology, about the blood glucose and its link to self-control. Meaning that when we eat well & healthy then we restore the glucose at a level that is sufficient and that can improve our self-control. Self-control affects numerous things like attention control, regulating emotions, coping with stress, and being less impulsive for example. All these categories of self-control I needed while working at home with my kids. Plus, I know from research that self-control can be trained. Research indicates that there is a muscle in the brain area that can be trained when you practice self-control.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18453466

  • Sleep & winter bathing! Sleep is so important. If you don’t sleep well, your day already starts off on the wrong foot. Therefore, forcing myself to go to bed early and start the day earlier was the best decision ever. However, I wasn’t sleeping as well as I am used to. Maybe there was a little bit unconscious stress going on. Thus, what to do? My running didn’t help, the magnesium tea helped a little bit but not 100% but what worked was winter bathing! Yes, I went to the cold sea at the end of the day and ohh my lord I slept like a baby! The health benefits of winter bathing (e.g. cold showers) is unbelievable. Let’s take a look:
  • Boosts your immune system – the white blood cells get a boost because the body has to react to conditions that are changing
  • It makes you happy – the cold water affects the endorphins because it is a little bit painful and the endorphins get activated when we are in pain
  • Improves your blood circulation – the blood gets forced up to the surface, so our extremities get warm
  • Increases the libido – boosts testosterone & estrogen production. With an increased libido individual experience more, confidence & self-esteem plus it enhances mood.
  • Calorie burning – in the cold water the heart has to pump faster so the body is working hard to keep everything warm while swimming.
  • Stress reduction – the cold water puts the body in stress both physically & mentally. Numerous studies have found a link between cold water and stress resistance.

https://www.iprshealth.com/news/8-benefits-of-cold-water-swimming/

But hey let’s focus on the sleep benefits finally!

What plays a very important role for a good night’s rest is our body temperature. A study by researchers in France found that their subjects had a better sleep quality if they took a cold shower before bedtime. The subjects both feel asleep faster & their sleep was deeper. I can vouch for this!

https://theweek.com/articles/456128/5-ways-better-nights-sleep

  • Meditation, because I was sleeping like a baby I could wake up earlier cause I managed to get this really deep sleep, quality. That was a chain reaction in a good way. Now I woke up before the 2-year-old and I could do a 10 minutes meditation. Only 10 minutes of mindfulness can really rewire your brain and increase happiness, excitement, problem-solving, and approached motivation according to research.

Many of my clients think that meditation has to be like an hour thing. No, less is more and especially when you are not used to meditating. It is practice and training. A meditation of 10 minutes is realistic and a great start for calming the mind.

  • Get help! I was so lucky that I had a workawayer. Workawayer, what is that you might ask yourself? Many have never heard of that, so I will explain how they have benefitted me. I tried it for the first time when I was writing my final thesis within the psychology apartment. I did a profile on this website: https://www.workaway.info/

Where I wrote a little about myself, that I was finishing my studies and I needed help for a month. Help with the kids and the household. This person that is willing to help you out, (3-5 hours a day) gets accommodation and food instead.

I like this concept way better than the au pair, for several reasons. First, I don’t like to commit to a person for a long time that I have never met or lived with before. Secondly, the workawayers often have some agenda, like my workawayers were coming to Denmark to finish a study or to work. Therefore, they have a life already apart from me. Which is great, I mean I have 3 kids to entertain, I can´t be entertaining them all the time as well.

Anyway, I was so thankful that I had this guy coming and staying with me in this lockdown. His original plan was to only stay with us the family for 2 weeks, but with the lockdown, everything slowed down so the poor guy was here for a longer time.

Getting help and being able to receive help is a very important thing. Doesn’t matter if it is from your family, friends, or whoever. It has taken me years to learn to receive help. Probably one of my most important life lessons, being able to receive help and not feeling guilty about it.

I really hope you can benefit from my experience.

The picture was taken when I was having a near-death experience due to the laundry mountain 🙂

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