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Aussie Psychologist Says Coronavirus Uncertainty Can Have Serious Impacts On Our Mental Health

It’s normal to be pretty stressed.

Volatile, uncertain, complex, freaking really concerning. There are legit many ways we can describe the coronavirus situation right now, and honestly it’s pretty fair to feel stressed about it.

I don’t know about you, but my workplace, newsfeed, home and social interactions all feel a little… emotional.

The world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Literally last month the bushfires sparked international anxiety and grief, now our attention has turned to the invisible threat of the coronavirus. It’s so sad that the tragedy of the bushfires feels so small in the face of the COVID-19 uncertainty.

And this almost constant exposure to newsfeeds and social media means we’re hyper-aware of the challenges that we face right now.

So in the face of all this negativity and stress, we spoke to author of The Positivity Prescription and Founder & CEO of The Positivity Institute, Dr Suzy Green. And we decided to get some tips from the Positive Psychologist on how to handle everything. On top of our already stressful lives, ya know.

Because as we brace for more bad news, now is the ideal time to take charge of your wellbeing.

Count Your Blessings

Dr Suzy: Uncertainty, the flow of bad news and scaremongering, mean that as a society tap into our the in-built “negativity bias” we have as humans. Basically, when faced with an event we view it through a negative lens primarily to ensure we stay safe and survive.

Think about how you reacted the last time your boss asked you to do something unexpected – you most probably weren’t jumping for joy. Positive Psychology encourages us to switch this up, and engage with proactive mood-boosting strategies to reframe how you approach and experience your day-to- day life.

One great way to do this is through the practice of gratitude by counting your blessings daily. Besides toilet paper, hand sanitiser and pasta, there are so many things big and small to be grateful for. Over the course of a week, try writing down three things each evening that you are grateful for or went well for you during the day.

Each ‘thing’ doesn’t have to be as grand as getting a promotion, it could be as simple as trying a new yoga pose, watching a great MAFS recap, or sharing your first sip of your morning coffee with a friend.

While we all hold our breath, I recommend still taking the time to plan and set goals for the future.

Why not set a meaningful goal for the next week or fortnight? It could be as simple as aiming to run for 30 minutes each morning this week at 7am before work or uni. These goals that are specific, measurable, authentic, realistic and time-bound have been shown to be more achievable than holistic New Year’s Resolutions.

They will also give you something positive and achievable to focus on in the short term. Setting a health and wellbeing related goal will also boost your immune functioning, which is crucial in the current situation.

Create A Mindful Ritual

Dr Suzy: Mindfulness is a buzzword. Unlike other ambiguous superfoods, practicing mindfulness works. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, something that the uncertainty and foreboding nature of the coronavirus is making it hard to do.

The best way to build your mindful muscle, is to practice and create a mindful ritual. I speak with many people who say “meditation just isn’t for me”. While the array of free apps have made practicing meditation easier, it isn’t the only mindful ritual you can try.

Over the period of a week, try using the teachings of mindfulness and breathing while going about your day-to-day. For three to five minutes a day, draw attention to your breath while listening to music, brushing your teeth or waiting in line for lunch. Being present can help us stop ruminating, and focus on the nitty-gritty wonders of the everyday.

STOP as you flick from website, to Instagram feed, to casual conversation (all about the coronavirus of course). You are becoming so busy-minded that you are unaware of what is going on inside you. You are most probably consuming this information whilst going about your life, work and study. Burning the candle at all ends is unsustainable.

That’s what we need to stop sometimes. Developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, this technique is as simple as taking a minimum of two minutes to stop what you are doing. Take a couple of deep breaths, holding each for four seconds.

Observing what is happening to you mind and body – can you notice where you are tense. Then proceed with what you were doing with more awareness.

Limit Your Exposure

Dr Suzy: Everywhere we go, we are being told to limit our exposure. I am going to join the chorus and tell you that it’s time to step back. There is a threshold to how much news and information we can consume whilst continuing to flourish.

Although it is great to be informed, negativity is contagious, and that is the unspoken pandemic affecting us all right now. Try limiting your exposure to news about the coronavirus to one reputable source you trust, at most maybe twice a day.

We are living in strange times, that doesn’t mean that your mental health and well-being has to suffer. Now is the time to take charge of your mood and mindset, and become a force of calm for yourself and those around.

A big thanks to our friend Dr Suzy for these important and insightful tips!

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