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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Coping through this uncertainty

March 19, 2020

During this time of uncertainty it’s natural that our stress response will kick in. We are likely being bombarded with constant updates from the news, social media, our workplace, and our friends and family.

Our routines along with the expectations placed on us are changing quickly. We may also be in a state of waiting for answers or direction, which can be unsettling. With this heightened state of stress, it’s not surprising that our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours will be affected.

In addition, people who have experienced traumatic medical or other experiences in the past may have some of those feelings, memories, and fears come flooding back.

Here are some common ways that experiencing this stress can effect our body, mind, spirit and emotions.

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tearfulness
  • Frustration
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Desire to use drugs or alcohol
  • Hopelessness

Everyone is different and your response is neither right nor wrong, it’s simply your response. You may be experiencing something that is not listed above and that’s okay. What matters is that we are not helpless in the face of this stress; we can do our best to actively manage it.

Think about what you normally do to manage stress and reflect on how you can adapt that to the current circumstance. If you usually spend time with friends, can you chat on the phone or have a video call? If you usually go to the gym, can you walk or run outside? Or stream an online workout video?

Here are some immediate actions that can be helpful at this time.

Limit news and social media consumption. Stay informed, but be sure to take breaks from the feed and focus on information from reputable sources like the RRC newsletter and Manitoba Health. Is there someone in your feed who is triggering extra anxiety? Don’t be afraid to mute or unfollow them for now.

Remember the basics. Be sure to eat nutritious food, get fresh air, move your body, and get enough sleep. Without those basics, it’s hard to manage stress well.

Connect with others. Telephone, text, or video calls can be a great way to stay in touch. Instead of rehashing all the details, try to focus your conversations on how you are feeling, how you are coping, and mundane everyday matters.

Practice kindness. Everyone around us is likely experiencing heightened stress as well. Be kind, be patient, and leave space for people who are not at their best. We can get through this better if we work together.

Breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths that fill you belly can reverse the stress response and bring some clarity to your thoughts and actions. You can find a helpful video tutorial here.

Reach out for support. Sometimes, in order to be at our best we need to consult a mental health professional. There are several people ready to assist you. Read more here.