During these unusual times, you may have noticed in yourself and others, an unfamiliar increase in anxiety. Heightened anxiety is a natural response of the human brain working in the way it has evolved to do so - which is, to be on alert for danger or threat. A worldwide pandemic certainly fits the bill as far as our brains are concerned!
Although we are right to be cautious and conscientious in keeping ourselves and our community safe, the level of threat is nothing like our primitive ancestors would have dealt with when faced with the appearance of say, a sabre-toothed tiger. Our brains may perceive a range of situations as life-threatening, even if they necessarily aren’t, and so our bodies respond, ready to fight, flee or freeze.
In COVID times, we may be living with that uneasy feeling of danger, meaning our bodies are in a heightened state. Other threats or worries that come along are then likely to have a bigger impact, because the threshold for tipping over into anxiety, is reached more quickly.
There are some practical ways to self-manage this natural reaction, to increase the threshold of our tolerance for these feelings as well as our personal resilience.
Here are some tips on how to manage personal wellbeing during such times:
1. Distress tolerance – remind yourself that uncomfortable feelings are part of life. They do not last. The paradox is that sometimes the more we try to rid our lives of these feelings, the greater the hold they have over us. Learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings because what we resist, persists.
2. Optimism – remember to pay attention to what is going well. What are the benefits that have come out of our current situation? Virtually no situation is all bad or all good. Consciously searching for the positive can change not only our mindset but our feelings as well.
3. Self-compassion rather than self-criticism – sometimes we speak to ourselves in ways that we would not talk to a loved one. Just as we are likely to respond better to understanding and compassion than we would to criticism and ridicule from another person, the same goes for the way we speak to ourselves. If you are currently stressed and struggling, practice speaking kindly to yourself.
1. Relationships – positive relationships have been found to be the key to a long, happy life. Now is a great time to really nurture those relationships, whether it be face to face or remotely. Harvard’s longest study of adult life found that social connection is essential.
2. Self-nurturing – build in time for doing things which you find life-giving. Notice your environment, get creative, slow-down, listen to music – the options are endless.
3. Physical care – increasingly evidence is showing that eating well, exercising and getting good sleep all make a difference to how we manage stressful times. Pay some attention to these, and reap the rewards!
The wellbeing team and I are available to students, providing them with a safe space to seek the necessary support, guidance, tools and coping mechanisms to navigate all sorts of challenges that life can throw our way.
Head of Wellbeing
T: 08 8276 0395