Deal with emotions – when circumstances are out of your control, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by fear and negative emotions. You may think that bottling up how you feel, trying to put on a brave face, or forcing yourself to be positive will provide the best outcome. No! We need to acknowledge emotions and give ourselves space to process change. Journaling is great for this as is walking and being out in nature.
Take action – taking action helps you move towards acceptance and helps you to not feel completely powerless. It also means dealing head-on with our natural urge to want to avoid things and not actually get on with things that need dealing with. It’s all about refocusing the mind on taking action over the aspects that are within your control. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and isolated learning and studying online, you can look for support, make sure you’re prepared for online formats and platforms and reach out to others. This is a great exercise to do with fellow students too: stating the issue or problem and working out together all the things that are within our control.
Identify uncertainty triggers – a lot of uncertainty tends to be self-generated, through excessive worrying or a pessimistic outlook, for example. However, some uncertainty can be generated by external sources, especially at times like this. Reading media stories that focus on worst-case scenarios, spending time on social media amid rumours and half-truths, or simply communicating with anxious friends and colleagues can all fuel our own fears and uncertainties.
Manage your triggers – once you’ve identified them, the next step is to manage them. That means creating your own boundaries through setting up better smartphone notifications, deciding when and how you will consume news and other information and creating an environment that prioritises your wellbeing. Even better, replace triggers with positive, informative and inspiring podcasts, talks and articles. Chat with friends about helpful ways to manage uncertainty and stress triggers.
Reflect more – on your responses, how you feel, how a day went, how a meeting went – get better at assessing situations accurately. This is one of the hallmarks of optimism and helps you to better separate emotions from facts. Yet we don’t spend nearly enough time reflecting or even giving ourselves that space to reflect. That’s why journaling is so very helpful. Probably one of the best things you could be doing right now is make the time to journal – considering these types of questions.
Move – physical movement every single day helps with moving yourself mentally and emotionally too. Try to get as much physical movement as possible into your life (perhaps try walking during online tutorials?). Yoga, walking, being outside, stretching and any kind of movement also encourages stronger body-mind connection and builds awareness.
Cultivate presence – one thing that is within our control every single second of every single day is breathing. Yet we don’t do it well and we underestimate its huge positive benefit. Get into the habit of strong, deep breathing and regular mindfulness practice. It calms your parasympathetic system and means you are always responding from a calmer place and brining your attention and focus back to the present moment.
Have a great morning routine – yes, linked with optimism but a really lovely proactive habit to encourage. This has to mean a stronger focus on wellbeing, setting intentions, hydration and nutrition, movement and reflection BEFORE heading out into the stressors of the day. A strong morning routine is like your steel armor setting you up for the day and something entirely within your control.
Whatever it is, begin it – we are all prone to procrastination and possibly even more so at the moment. Yet if you can just take the first step towards what is in front of you – whether that’s a big project, learning new skills, prioritizing wellbeing or getting to grips with technology, if you can just take that first smallest step: doing some research, reaching out for support, finding that online yoga class, planning an initial outline, you a) immediately feel better and b) are much more likely to take that next step.