Human beings like certainty. We’re hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us. When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed. This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.
A lot of the anxiety is rooted in feeling a loss of control. Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19. We may feel helpless about what will happen or what we can do to prevent further stress. The uncertainty may also trigger uncertainty about other aspects of our lives or remind us of past times when we didn’t feel safe and the immediate future was uncertain.
It’s important to remember that we are not completely helpless in light of current events. If you are struggling, here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty:
Separate what you can and can’t control.
There are things you can do to take control, and it’s helpful to focus on those. This includes even simple, but extremely important and effective things like washing your hands. Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (stay informed but be cognizant that the news can exacerbate your feelings of anxiety).
Do what helps you feel a sense of safety.
This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.
Stay connected and reach out if you need more support.
Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.
Take a walk.
It may seem like a simple activity, but it can work wonders. Walking is known to lower stress levels and improve mood. You don’t even need any fancy equipment. Walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you mentally sharp. It will also leave you feeling refreshed. Exercise helps both your physical and mental health.
Challenge yourself to stay in the present.
Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes, and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them.
Meditate or practice mindfulness.
If you need help with the practice of meditation, you can download apps on your phone that can help you through the process. Meditation has many benefits and spending just a few minutes meditating can bring a feeling of calm and peace.
As we practice social distancing and comply with stay-at-home mandates, there is a threat of isolation and loneliness. Confined to our homes and dealing with anxiety due to the situation, our physical and mental health can suffer. You may not even be aware of it at first. You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, helpless, or sad. You might notice that you are more frustrated with others or want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening. People who already struggle with emotional and mental wellness might feel more depressed or less motivated to carry out daily activities.
Our highest priority is the health and safety of IFSA students, staff, and partners. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and to share updates and important information about program closures and cancellations. Continue to visit our website for important communications and program changes. Together, we’ll get through these uncertain times. Stay safe.