It may feel like a lot of things are up in the air right now: the economy, the rise of COVID-19 cases, plans for returning to work, changes to the upcoming semester and much more. Persistent uncertainty and rapid changes can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated and exhausted. Here are a few strategies you can practice to help you regain a sense of control, take care of your mental health and cope with what’s to come (whatever that may be).
In the era of physical distancing, relationships can be one of the first things to take a hit. Remember to make time for friends, join online meet-ups with your colleagues, seek out clubs or groups to join, cook with your family members or housemates and check in regularly with your mentors. It’s also important to set boundaries around activities you are (and aren’t) comfortable with. For instance, it’s okay to say no to going out for dinner with friends at a restaurant. If you’re worried about missing out on a social occasion, suggest doing something with friends that you’re more comfortable with, like a physically distanced walk in the park or a bike ride around town. Setting boundaries (and sticking to them) can help ease anxiety and make hanging out with others more enjoyable.
Tackle the things you’ve been avoiding
One helpful strategy in reducing stress is to address any of the important things you’ve been avoiding — you know, the stuff that has been on your to-do list for awhile that you keep putting off to next week, next month or next year. These items can often increase stress, lower your sense of self-efficacy and contribute to burnout. Begin addressing these items by breaking them down into smaller goals. Create tasks that you can achieve in short 5- to 15-minute bursts.
Most importantly, be specific about what you want to accomplish. For instance, creating a spreadsheet of important dates or downloading the PowerPoint template for a presentation are both manageable milestones that you can achieve in a short amount of time that can contribute to larger goals like finishing your thesis or dissertation.
Whenever we are struggling with chronic anxiety, stress, burnout or depression, we may avoid doing the things that help us thrive. This type of avoidance can make us feel worse over time because we’re missing out on all of the things that give us pleasure, meaning or joy.
In order to break this cycle, it’s important to identity and engage in activities that are meaningful to you. This could be any activity that aligns with your core values, feels good or brings a sense of accomplishment. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some ideas to help get you started:
Things are changing, and many of these changes are out of our control. This may leave you feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Practice patience with yourself and others. Lean into self-compassion and self-care. It can also be helpful to know that whatever emotions you’re experiencing right now are valid and normal. If you’re struggling to feel grounded or mindful in the present moment, there are a number of free Health and Wellness resources available to help. Here are just a few:
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is here to help. Business and after hours support is available by calling 303-492-2277. In case of a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.