Need help dealing with uncertainty? Here are 3 quick tips


Need help dealing with uncertainty?  Here are 3 quick tips

One thing Coronavirus has shown us is how quickly circumstances can change. With our lives being disrupted we have had to learn how to adapt. There are a few particular strategies that can help us manage the stress and uncertainty effectively and remain optimistic during this time.

Here are 3 tips we can do to assist us to manage uncertainty and help us adapt:

1.     Recognise what we can and cannot control
With the government implementing new rules and changing the way we would normally go about our day to day lives, we need to realise that these new rules are out of our control. However, we can control our own response to make the most of the situation.  For example, I can still exercise every day.

2.     Keep making plans
We may have not dealt with uncertainty on this scale before, but we have dealt with uncertainty to some extent previously. If we survived that, we can overcome this. Continue to make plans and new goals that you want to achieve. These plans allow us to have something to look forward to and help us avoid getting caught in the trap of avoidance.  For example, write down something you are working towards right now.

3.     Focus on the best of what can be
The tough situations can often be an opportunity to look for a silver lining. If we fall into the trap of focusing purely on the negatives it becomes a downward spiral. In not only this situation but any stressful time for that matter, focusing on the positives can really help.  For example, “I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things in life more than I did before”.

These tips may not prevent Coronavirus, however, they can assist you in limiting and preventing the negative effects of this challenging time on your mental fitness.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build mental fitness in your home, school, workplace, or community, visit our website at www.appli.edu.au.  We also offer digital wellbeing programs, online courses, training programs, and consulting services for individuals and organisations. 

Boost Your Wellbeing: Building Mental Fitness Habits

Boost Your Wellbeing: Building Mental Fitness Habits

During times of unprecedented uncertainty, adults and children can feel much higher levels of stress, fear, anxiety and our mood can regularly be much lower than usual. I think the word ‘resilience’ is often overused in the 21st Century. Still, we all need tips on how to stay mentally fit to help us all try to navigate the next months and beyond.

If you haven’t already, add these activities to your DAILY routine, commit for 3 weeks!

Structure your Monday to Friday as much as possible 

Have set times to do things every day. It can be helpful put a schedule up on the fridge for the whole family to view each day. This can help ensure each member of the family has a formal structure no matter what age. Having a basic daily routine and sticking to it is key to keep order in our weekly lives and helps us adapt. Weekends can be much more flexible but Monday to Friday stick to your routine!

Boost your Mood 

Get rid of some of those negative emotions. This can be done more easily than you think. For example, you can build it into your daily schedule. At the same time every day, ask the family to get together. Then, designate one person the responsibility to boost the mood of the rest of the family. This can be done in countless, creative ways: playing music, telling jokes, dancing, exercising, sharing online clips, connecting with other friends and family through Facetime, Skype or Zoom, playing cards, board games, or charades…the list is endless. The important thing is to have a laugh!

Practice Acceptance 

Write down what you can and can’t change during this crisis and focus as much as possible on what you can control. For example, you can’t change the news feed and what is happening everywhere else, so don’t watch this too much. Research shows that a child who sees something bad on TV in the morning can carry this mood with them for 5– 8 hours! Another example is you can’t go out for dinner, but you can have a picnic in the garden. Focus on what you CAN do within your own circle of influence. This will give you all more feelings of empowerment.

Gratitude 

Every day I feel incredibly grateful that I am not sick with Covid-19, that I have food in the house, a place to live, a family for support and that I live in the lucky country. I say this regularly to my family and friends to ensure we focus on the importance of the simple things in life. Many others around the world aren’t as lucky as us. Ask your family to share what they are grateful for and have conversations regularly.

Give 

Help others as much as possible. This is a big predictor of mental fitness. If someone is struggling, take time to sit down or call them to give support. We will all have low times during this crisis so supporting each other and keeping our relationships strong is crucial.

I hope these few simple tips help a little. The key is not just reading them and being aware. The real value is actually practising them every day. It takes 3 weeks to create a habit!

Finally remember, “this too shall pass”.

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

If you’ve been thinking that the world has become consumed with the Coronavirus, you’re right. A recent article states that “Coronavirus” was mentioned in the media more than 18,000,000 in one day.  Everywhere you turn, someone or something is talking about the virus.  It is clear that this issue is one of global concern, worrying governments, schools, workplaces and families around the world.  Governments and organisations are taking extraordinary cautions that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes in order to reduce the potential negative impact of the virus.  We are beginning to see schools and businesses close, instructing students and employees to conduct their work virtually.  Some countries and states are in total lockdown with the exception of pharmacies and groceries stores.  Even travel has been restricted to and from several countries around the world, changing plans of travellers and affecting industries many countries like Australia rely on.

For many people watching this situation unfold, thinking about the possible physical and financial impacts is causing significant stress and worry.  Some have even started to panic, hoarding the essentials that all households rely on. While it is important to take this situation seriously, it is equally important that we all continue to stay calm, support those around us and look after our own physical and mental wellbeing.  In this article, we will give you some strategies that can help you stay more mentally fit during these challenging times.

1. Reduce the Time You Spend Watching News and Engaging in Social Media

It’s important to stay informed about the current situation.  However, spending too much time reading about the negative can incite fear, chronic stress, anxiety and poor health. Research shows that watching bad news can significantly increase the tendency to catastrophise a personal worry, even if it’s not related to the content of the news story.  Research from a 2001 study examined how 9/11 coverage impacted viewers.  In some, it was enough to trigger PTSD symptoms.  Interestingly, the severity of symptoms was correlated with the amount of time people spent watching television. 

If you have children in the home, be particularly mindful about what is on the tv while they are home.  Children’s developing brains do not have the ability to reason the same way as adults.  One study suggests that just five minutes of distressing news daily (i.e. disturbing stories, images, or videos) may lead children to struggle with fear, anxiety, aggression, sleep problems, and behavioural difficulties. 

What You Can Do

Develop healthy boundaries with media and technology.  Limit your access to social media and other apps through features such as Apple Screen Time on your mobile phone.  You can even set a time limit for each day so that you can unplug from the 24-hour news cycle.  Also apply these tools for any family sharing plans to keep your family safe and healthy online.

If you have children in the home, be sure to talk to them about the messages they are hearing in the media.  Assure them that they are safe, and it will be ok.  Turn the tv off when they are in the room and engage in a positive activity instead.

2. Understand the Negativity Bias

Negative emotions have allowed us to survive as a species. They protect us from danger and still remain an important part of our evolution. However, this evolutionary mechanism in our brains, known as the Negativity Bias, makes us pay more attention to the negative experiences or things in our life than the positive. 

There’s a good reason for this. For survival, our ancestors had to be attuned to those things that were life-threatening (predators). Paying too much attention to the positive things around them (that did not pose a risk) made no sense when survival was a day-to-day proposition. 

Fortunately, life is much safer in the 21st century. However, the Negativity Bias is still alive and well in the primitive part of our brain. Our brains are, in fact, hardwired to ‘Velcro’ the negatives and ‘Teflon’ the positives. This can cause problems for us by creating an unhealthy positive-to-negative emotional ratio, particularly during times of stress.  

What You Can Do

Examine your thoughts and think about how they are making you feel.  Sometimes, we experience Automatic Negative Thoughts (we call these ANTs).  It is important to remember that your thoughts are not facts and sometimes we all tell ourselves things that may not be true.  Watch out for thinking traps and try to change them when you can.  One common thinking trap you or someone you know may be experiencing is something called catastrophising.  Catastrophising has two parts, the first is predicting a negative outcome.  The second part is jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe. Catastrophising can make people feel helpless and cause rumination. 

You can help balance the negativity bias by first spotting you ANTs and challenging them in a realistic way.  When you have this thought, ask yourself (or the other person with the ANT) a few challenging questions:

  • How much do you believe in this thought? 
  • What is the evidence for and against this thought? Could you convince a jury that your negative interpretation is the best or only valid one? 
  • How many times in the past have you had this kind of thought? Have you ever been wrong? 
  • If the thought is true, are there some things you can do to improve the situation? 
  • THE KEY QUESTION!! Is this thought helping me?

Promote healthy thinking by catching your own ANTs and helping those around spot and challenge theirs. 

3. Think About Who’s on Your Team

Isolation is, well, isolating.  With isolation becoming more frequent, people are beginning to express the challenges that they are experiencing from connecting less with others.  Being isolated for medical reasons, or even working from home can make people feel flat and lonely.  It is no surprise that this change is having a big impact on people around the globe.  Research suggests that our relationships are one of the biggest predictors of physical and psychological wellbeing across all ages.  During this unusual time, it may be important for all of us to find new ways to stay connected and support our families, friends, co-workers and communities.  

What You Can Do

It can be helpful to think about who in your life you can reach out to when you need some support, a laugh, or just looking for a chat.  You can create a list of people to ring or video chat to have on hand when you need a bit of a mood boost.  To get your list started, you may want to ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Who could you turn to for help with daily chores or work tasks if you were sick?
  • Who makes you feel energised when you spend time with them?
  • Who is someone that can give you information to help you understand a situation?
  • Who makes you feel good about yourself?
  • Who is someone you can count on to listen to you when you need to talk?
  • Who is someone to have a good time with? 

You can schedule a time to connect with the people in your life and set a reminder on your calendar.  It can be as simple as a quick text, a phone call, a video chat or even sending a card or letter.  Remember, if you’re feeling a bit lonely there’s a good chance that others are as well.  

Stay Calm and Healthy

The tips above may not prevent Coronavirus, but we hope that they provide you with a few ideas on how you can stay mentally healthy during this challenging time.  Just like physical fitness, your mental fitness requires regular practice and good habits.  Practising the tips above regularly can help you stay mentally fit and bounce back more successfully when things are tough.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build mental fitness in your home, school, workplace or community, visit our website at www.appli.edu.au.  We also offer digital wellbeing programs, online courses, training programs and consulting services for individuals and organisations.