Have you been working out every day at home and not overindulging in beige food (and wine…)? Good for you.  But if you haven’t that’s ok too.

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If you have a Facebook or Instagram account - or even just an Internet connection - you’ll no doubt be getting inundated with posts about what you “should” be doing right now. It’s impossible to escape the pressures of proper pandemic etiquette and opinions on how we should be spending our time in isolation

‘How to workout at home’

‘5 healthy alternatives to these home baking classics’

‘Now is the PERFECT time to start the side hustle you’ve been dreaming of’

’10 books to add to your reading list right now’

‘How to have a party on Zoom this weekend’

‘Healthy meal ideas using pantry staples’

‘How to be your most productive self at home’

Sound familiar? Now don’t get us wrong, if these articles are your vibe that’s totally fine and credit to you - but there’s also a large group (maybe even majority) out there not feeling it.

For years therapists have notoriously been against using the word “should”, encouraging patients to cut the word from their vocabulary. Why? Because subconsciously when we use or hear the word it comes with feeling judgment, failure, guilt and unrealistic expectations, which can be detrimental to our mental health. And now, with everything going in the world, we tend to agree.

The middle of unprecedented global pandemic is definitely not the right time to be imposing (or feel imposed on) rules and expectations.

While all of the advice circulating the World Wide Web right now probably has the best of intentions – inspiration, self-care, boredom busting (etc. etc.) - it can actually have the total opposite effect. It can make us feel pressured to be productive, creative or just “normal” when we’re feeling anything but.

If you’ve been finding all the messaging overwhelming, want to turn off the negative “should” voice in your head or perhaps you’re a “should-er” to those around you without realising, read on for our tips…

Practice positive validation

Next time you feel yourself reluctantly succumbing to online pressure, replace it with supportive internal dialogue. There’s real value in patting yourself (and your friends) on the back. Studies show that talking to yourself in an uplifting tone can help to alleviate stress and boost your overall health. Try practicing daily positive affirmations – reciting or journalising these can transform your disposition and set the tone for the day ahead. Positive affirmations are phrases or mantras that you habitually repeat to yourself. They can be generic like “I am beautiful” or unique to you like “I will not exercise today if I don’t want to”.

Check yourself

Notice when you use the word should - It's even better if you can do this with someone else. When done with someone else you can help point out to each other when the word comes up.

Understand “should” vs need

In times of stress, what you think you “should” be doing might not necessarily be what you need. Case in point: you think you should exercise for mental health but what your body might need today is a day of rest. Don’t feel guilty having a lazy day on the couch binge watching Netflix or taking an afternoon nap – next time reap the rewards that come with taking it easy.

Focus on the benefits

Most of the content online does boast serious benefits for your wellbeing. We know exercise, diet and socialising is essential for our mental health so try to change the messaging around it. Instead of telling yourself you “should” be doing more of something, try to focus on how you can benefit from that particular thing.

For instance, instead of saying “I should do more yoga,” remind yourself of how you feel after doing yoga: “I feel great when I do yoga a few times each week.”

Replace “should” with “want”

Try the sentence again, this time replace it with the word “want”. Do you still want to catch-up with your friends on Zoom? Do you still want to do get up early and exercise? Or do some baking today? If the answer is yes, then go ahead but if it’s a no then don’t do it. Simple as that!

Stay away from all-or-nothing thinking

All-or-nothing thinking often goes hand in hand with should-thinking. We’re willing to bet that a lot of the people posting about home exercise or productivity at home are also putting unrealistic expectations on themselves. While goals are great, “I will exercise every day for 31 days straight” or “I won’t drink any alcohol for four weeks” are big feats in themselves let alone during times of heightened stress. It’s critical to manage your expectations by setting small achievable goals and celebrating your wins even if they’re small.

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