In April, the Department for Health and Social Care pledged a £5m grant for mental health services across the country; the impact of quarantine has been rife and hard-hitting, with a number of medical papers acknowledging the significant strains placed on young people and the disadvantaged.
This week coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual, nationwide project aimed at normalising conversation on difficult topics. We spoke to our excellent wellbeing and support teams and collated some of their resources for managing stress while studying through this difficult period.
The 5-4-3-2-1 game
A method of dealing with anxiety, the 5-4-3-2-1 game is a simple resource for grounding yourself during moments of discomfort:
Describe 5 things you can see right now
Describe 4 things you can feel with your sense of touch right now
Describe 3 things you can hear, or your three favourite sounds
Describe 2 things you can smell around you, or that you like to smell
Describe 1 thing you can taste right now, or that you like to taste
The APPLE method
Anxiety UK have devised a simple way of coping with uncertainty or discomfort with the APPLE mnemonic.
A – Acknowledge (the uncertainty, be aware of it, be mindful of it and recognise you can’t do anything about it)
P – Pause (try not to react like you normally do, remind yourself that it’s just the worrying talking)
P – Pull back (from the worries)
L – Let go (of the thought and/or feeling of the anxiety, imagine it floating away in a cloud)
E – Explore (the present moment, shift focus of attention to something else externally e.g. your breathing, on what’s happening around you at that moment using 5-4-3-2-1 etc.)
Use technology the right way!
Our team advises practicing mindfulness with apps such as Headspace, Stop Breathe and Think and Calm. All offer easy, free ways to take a step back for a few moments. But it’s important not to get too far lost in devices, we are reminded: “Limit how much of the news you are consuming – have a time limit to how much you allow yourself each day to see, hear, watch, etc.”
Blurt it Out also recommend an occasional “digital detox”, advising you take the time to unfollow noisy outlets on social media, fill your timeline with positivity and unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and apps that can leave lifefeeling clogged.
Be sure not to lose all contact with family and friends, though; calling a person you trust just to chat can be an important process for shaking off stress when things get too much.
Find something to do – and do it!
Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Procrastination affects us all, but there are a number of ways to minimise its power. Often, the stress starts with how we work – rather than what we are doing. Our team recommends breaking down tasks into manageable chunks.
Start your day with a checklist and make the first couple of items really very simple – brush your teeth, or make breakfast. Rather than punishing yourself for not doing work, the goal is to stay motivated by the sense that you’re always moving forward. Then make the steps bigger.
‘Just 5 Minutes’ is a similar technique for making big, abstract tasks feel more manageable. Tell yourself you are going to sit and study for five minutes. At the end of the five minutes, see how you feel. You have already accomplished your objective and may feel happy to extend that by another ten minutes – an easier feat than sitting down and expecting yourself to work indefinitely.
And remember to breathe!
When we are anxious or threatened, our body breathes faster and harder to prepare for danger. By slowing your breathing down, you can tell your body you are safe and able to relax.
Relaxed breathing is both slower and deeper than normal breathing, and starts lower down in the belly.
Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, and then breathe out at the same pace. Pay attention and ensure that your breaths are smooth and consistent – especially on the exhale. You may want to practice your breathing a few times a day for up to 10 minutes to get back on track.
If you are studying with us and have any mental health concerns, get in touch with our team at CounsellingServicesStaff@candi.ac.uk