Warding off worry

2 people walking on grass towards sun low in the sky

Are we still talking about COVID?

I'm not too anxious about how many cases there are anymore but I have realised that a lot more of the people I know have now had COVID. What can we do if we find ourselves stressing over the things happening on our door step, in our country or around the world?

Here are some of the things that other students I've spoken to recently have found helpful for them.

  • Direct the anxious energy into action – Identify what things you can control and kindly allow yourself not to worry about things that you cannot control. You can’t control what is happening to the global economy, so it might be more useful to focus on practical ways you can plan for the short-term future (i.e. budgeting, maybe using some extra time to brush up on a skill that may be useful to have in your CV). Or focus on the tasks at hand with work and your degree. There is very little use in me ruminating about what can happen next year when things with the pandemic change so very often. You cannot control the outcome of this pandemic but you can do your own bit by following public health advice such as keeping physical distance and maintaining proper personal hygiene.
  • Schedule blocks of time to catch up on news – I avoid reading and listening to news from unreliable sources. Although my job outside the University is very much concerned with economics and policy, I don’t spend unrestrained time throughout the day constantly engaging with the news. I am critical of the source of news and make sure the things I read and listen to are trustworthy.
  • Stay connected – Physical distancing has made some things a bit trickier in terms of engaging socially but I remind myself that this is temporary. Having been an international student years ago, I’ve appreciated that physical distance is not a barrier to maintaining close and genuine relationships. With advances in technology, I make sure to keep in touch with friends but also remain connected to my professional and academic networks.
  • Engage in solidarity – Being connected does not necessarily mean being in solidarity with others. Having empathy, helping others, practicing compassion and kindness really helps with reducing anxiety and coming out of the fight-and-flight mode that this pandemic can trigger. I'm sure you’ve heard of other similar stories but in the midst of toilet paper hoarding, I’ve seen the kindness of neighbors reaching out and donating toilet paper. I’ve experienced friends dropping off groceries and frozen meals. What was equally helpful was the benefits of paying this kindness forward. Look around you, there may be other students who are doing it tough. Maybe reaching out and letting them know of some of the support services the University still provides?
  • Exercise – You would have heard it before but I cannot stress enough how amazing just going out for a walk is. Just a 30-minute walk once a day is life-changing. 
  • Be mindful of ruminating and negative thoughts – It’s not easy, but when this happens, I actively try to keep my mind to the here and now.

Try and keep the more hopeful and positive stories more salient in your thoughts – maybe keeping a gratitude journal and listing just one thing you are grateful for each day may remind you of all the beautiful people you have in your life. It definitely helps me.

Tagged in phd, mental health, Wellbeing, coronavirus, What messes with your head