The past few months have taken a toll on all of us. We are social beings, and while technology has kept us connected, it is no substitute for direct contact with people. As discussions and debates continue about safety and the prospect of returning to school, many children are consumed by a sense of anxiety and grief that they do not understand. While we have no control over events, we can control how we respond to this situation.
Managing your own wellbeing
It is completely understandable to feel worried or stressed during these difficult times. We have all been thrown into the equivalent of a science fiction movie – with social distancing restrictions on our movement and personal freedom. Our personal life and our work life have been impacted significantly. The lifting or easing of lockdown restrictions is proving difficult with some gripped by re-entry anxiety, others are coping with illness, grief and even the death of a loved one, and have begun gathering in groups and travelling once again due to an eagerness to resume a pre-COVID way of life.
Hunt the Good Stuff
Consider what positives there may have been during lockdown – time with family, exercise, time in nature, learning new skills, kindness, and solidarity as well as a slower pace of life. All of us found a level of resilience that we were not even aware that we had! These factors can help to mitigate against the potentially adverse psychological impact of the pandemic.
Dealing with the uncertainty of the situation is one of the primary sources of stress. The role of the teacher may feel like it has altered radically, as we are being asked to teach and support children in very different ways, whether via online method or whilst maintaining physical distancing. The following tips from Carol Vivyan are designed to help you deal with and tolerate uncertainty, which is so pervasive in these COVID times. Just remember the acronym APPLE!
A for AWARE – Notice the need for certainty as it arises in your mind
P for PAUSE – Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Just pause, and breathe
P for PULL BACK – Tell yourself that this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful or necessary.
L for LET GO – Let go of the thought or feeling about needing certainty. Tell yourself it is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think! Thoughts are not statements of fact. They will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You could even try to imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
E for EXPLORE – You can explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, we are OK. Notice your breathing, and the sensations of breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around you and actively notice what you see, hear, touch, and smell right now. Then, shift your focus of attention to something else – maybe carry on what you were doing before you noticed the worrying thought, or do something else, mindfully, with your full attention.
Coping with Stress
The return to the classroom will bring about ups and downs, meltdowns and other challenges so tolerance, compassion and kindness is needed. Feeling irritable, angry, uncertain, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed or trouble sleeping or concentrating as well as lacking motivation are all signs of stress. While you may not be able to prevent stress, naming and recognising how you are feeling is the first step in building resilience and helping you cope.
Some of us are more inclined towards coping better with crises and setbacks on account of our more naturally optimistic disposition, while others have to work to think positively.
- Practice self-care – find what works for you and make it part of your routine, e.g., exercise, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness and avoiding excessive alcohol or drug use
- Give yourself a break – a daily dose of the activities you enjoy will help boost the positive emotion & reduce stress. Consider reading, scented baths, dancing, baking or painting as well as identifying what tasks you can postpone or eliminate
- Find ways to focus – these circumstances are hard for everyone so set goals for the future to increase motivation
- Stay connected – virtually or in person, as health guidelines permit. Seek help if you’re feeling down and reach out to others who may need support – helping others boosts our own wellbeing
- Limit your media consumption - Set limits on your media consumption and phone use and cut through misinformation by checking out news with trusted and verifiable sources
- Focus on what you can control - Try to catch any negative cycles of thinking – interrupt the negative thoughts and replace them with an alternative, positive perspective.
- Get into nature - spending time close to or immersed in nature can restore your vitality and reduce your stress levels. Take photos so you can revisit
- Practice gratitude - take some time at the end of each day to make a gratitude list - think about three things you’re grateful for and why and write them down.
The second part of this blog deals with how to best help your students with the transition back to school - find out more here.
If you would like to learn more about Teaching Hope & Optimism, the next term of our wellbeing courses starts on 12th of October.