practising gratitude is important, now more so than ever
It seems like all we are exposed to these days is content relating to COVID-19. And if you are anything like me, you may have caught yourself wandering into thoughts of panic as a result of the unknown outcome of the shutdown. It may be important to mention at this point that I battle with anxiety in my normal day-to-day life. And at a time like this I have to remain very conscious and aware of how I am feeling to avoid slipping into a full blown panic attack because I know that they do far more harm than anything else. You see, I am in a situation which I believe would cause anyone some sort of added stress, however even with anxiety I have been using a few techniques to help my brain refrain from sliding into a frenzied state of despair.
Last year my husband and I decided to shift our lives into a different gear and move to Thailand. We had both found ourselves in environments which weren’t fulfilling and which, amongst other things, led us both to getting burnout. I have, for as long as I can remember, always over-thought, obsessed and felt concerned and stressed about, well, almost everything. So I am no stranger to anxiety and panic attacks which meant that for me, burnout and adrenal fatigue kind of made sense. But this is not what I want to write about today.
So my husband and I planned to create a different life for ourselves at a slightly slower and more relaxed pace. Where we could enjoy a higher quality of life at a lower cost to our health- both mental and physical. He arrived in Thailand on January 3rd this year. While I had several things to wrap up back in Johannesburg, I only joined him on March 7th. The longest two months of our lives, but we did it :) We both have work lined up, to begin in the new school year, which is May/ June in Thailand. We were fortunate enough to have saved enough money to live until our new positions were planned to start, with some subsequential income from my husband tutoring English at a language school.
However, as we are all aware, 2020 has not turned out according to anyone’s plans. So here I sit, in Thailand with no income and uncertainty about how and when, we will begin to earn an income again. This is on top of the usual stress which anyone who has recently moved abroad, including unknown visa situations. Nevertheless, and very much to my own surprise, so far I have managed to keep the doom at bay and have not slid into panic. Not yet, at least :)
I’ve found that for me, now more so than ever, it is important to practise gratitude as there is truly so much to be grateful for. To be honest, even as I am writing this, I feel blown away by how fortunate we have been during this whole pandemic. We have a roof over our heads, food to eat everyday, a comfortable bed to sleep in, electricity, running water, access to the internet, and so far, our health. It is easy to feel as though we have been done-in by circumstance and to feel hopeless and powerless. Particularly in times of crisis, like the one the world is facing now.
Taking a few minutes everyday or when you catch yourself edging towards fearful thoughts, I find it very beneficial to write down what you are grateful for. Doing this helps provide some perspective as to where you actually are in the bigger scheme of things. Our brains generally like to focus on the worst in most situations, and that can make our reality much more scary than it actually is. But we can help ourselves see things more accurately by using tools to show our brains that there is actually a lot of good too, even when things feel hopeless.
I have found that practicing gratitude during this uncertain time has been a saving grace for me. There are many ways to do your practise. I usually do one of three things:
Mental notes- I generally do this when lying in bed, either just when I wake up or before I go to sleep. I go through everything I am grateful for.
Written lists- Either in your journal or a notepad, I like to keep a “things that keep me up at night” notepad by my bed so when something is keeping me up I can jot it down. I find this helps me sleep and helps to pull me out of nervous spins in the middle of the night.
Presently- I recently discovered the Presently App. It’s a really simple way of jotting down day-to-day things that you are grateful for. It literally takes a short or as long as you want and it tracks your gratitude over calendar days. I honestly use it for convenience as I find I usually have my phone near me. Oh, it also sends you daily reminders which can be nice too.
Sometimes, something has happened during the day which makes me feel grateful for a specific thing, but if not I then go through a list which generally goes something like this- my family, my husband, my living situation, my education, my body, my mind etc. These are just some broad categories though. I find it best to go into detail as this gives me a deeper appreciation for all the seemingly small things. But those are a good place to start if you’re new to the practise.
I often find that simply thinking of a few things to be grateful for keeps me calm. I remind myself that there is still love in the world. That life is more than keeping busy. That as long as you are surviving, because there are plenty of people who are not, you are actually doing great. This period is definitely uncomfortable for most of us. But if your biggest concern is being uncomfortable, you surely have a lot to be grateful for.