World Mental Health Day: Top Tips for Life-after-lockdown Anxiety

To celebrate World Mental Health Day today, we speak to Student Support Officer and qualified counsellor Katherine Ahluwalia for her tips on dealing with back-to-normality anxiety.

Returning to normal after lockdown was something most of us eagerly awaited, but such a big change will affect the nervous system and our feelings.

The lifting of lockdown restrictions and the subsequent return to normality could trigger heightened levels of stress and anxiety for many people and it is important that during the coming months we take time to look after our mental health.

These four simple steps should help to ease you in slowly to your new surroundings:

  1. Be kind to yourself.  Sometimes it is difficult for us to predict how we might react to change. It may take a little longer than anticipated to adjust, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
  2. Take the time to do things that might help you cope with stress or anxiety. This might be journaling, meditating, exercise such as running, yoga, cooking, baking, listening to music. If you’re not sure then you could the opportunity to explore different activities to discover which ones work best for you, and you could attempt to schedule in as little as 15 minutes every day to dedicate to this.
  3. Allow yourself to feel. People will say things like “be positive,” “there are other people in worse situations then you,” “be grateful for what you have” and while this may be true, it doesn’t take away from how you may be feeling. Allow yourself time to process and heal and accept that your fears and worries mean something.
  4. Create a worry list. This might sound strange but it can actually be helpful to schedule out worries like you might do with meetings or tasks. If you feel as though there are lots of things worrying you, then make a list and schedule ‘worry time’. I suggest blocking out a start and end time for worrying. Writing things down also helps to get them out of your head, stop you ruminating about them, and makes them seem less big.

Switch off auto-pilot and calm back-to-normal nerves 

Jo Daw, Student Support Coordinator, is also a qualified Mindfulness practitioner. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment. Here she talks us through five ways to help us relax when things feel overwhelming.

  1. Notice that your feet touch the floor when you get up from your chair. Feel them making contact with the ground.
  2. Take time for a cup of tea (or preferred) beverage. Take time away from your work, even for five minutes to enjoy the drink and rest.
  3. Each time you notice an hour has gone by, spend one minute concentrating on and noticing your breathing.
  4. Try to talk a walk outside at least once a day. Take time to notice how the leaves on the trees move in the breeze, listen to birdsong. Feel the pavement beneath your feet as you walk.
  5. Focus on the here and now. This can help reduce thinking too far ahead (and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet), or thinking about the past (and dwelling on things you cannot change).

At the University of Kent we aim to build a supportive community environment and we are committed to helping you get the most out of the challenges and opportunities university study brings. We all need resources to improve our wellbeing and help us find ways to be more content and feel like we’re coping, even in stressful moments. Click here for more information on our wellbeing and mental health services.

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