The sense of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by all that we are faced with can cause us to feel numb, anxious or off-kilter. Recognise the feeling? If you do, chances are you’re not alone.
Summer in Australia is associated with long, hot days. Swimming pools are a source of relief for weary bodies. Shopping centres and their airconditioning units are lifesavers when trying to escape the heat. And the promise of the “southerly change” to blow in cool air is eagerly anticipated. But these options largely provide physical relief for tired bodies.
These past few months have been characterised by prolonged drought conditions and water-restrictions in Australia. They were followed by catastrophic bushfires, and then, the coronavirus swept the globe. COVID-19 has inflicted damage to the global economy, life and well-being, as well as our sense of mental well-being. As a result, emotions such as anger, fear and anxiety have been triggered in many of us. And now in Australia, society is slowly reopening. But with reopening comes the inevitable anxiety associated with entering the unknown.
The challenge of navigating uncertainty, and the emotions that we are faced with often leave us feeling jerked around. So how then do we remain sufficiently in control to provide a sense of stability for those around us, as well as ensuring that we are able to step out into the world with a degree of peace of mind? Some strategies can be implemented to help you on this journey of regaining a sense of emotional peace and stability.
- Acknowledge and accept that thoughts and feelings such as fear and anxiety are normal.
It is normal to feel afraid, vulnerable and anxious. These are human emotions that are part of our survival instinct in response to the perceived dangers presented by COVID-19 or the drought and summer bushfires. It is not strange or weak to feel anxious or afraid. Acknowledge too that these thoughts are real, but that they are just that, thoughts.
- Identify your triggers.
Often, our anxiety seems to spike around certain events or times of the day. It is important to identify what triggers our anxiety, such as reading stories on social media that cause us to experience fear and anxiety. Once we have identified these triggers, managing the amount of time we are exposed to them, for example, can help us regain a sense of calm and stability.
- Practise deep breathing
This is a simple technique that we can practise in order to help manage emotions such as anxiety. We can do this anywhere and as many times of the day to help restore a calming, rhythmic rate of breathing. The secret is to inhale slowly, to pause, and then to exhale slowly. This helps restore an appropriate rate and level of oxygen within our bodies, and assists us to calm down.
- Take time out
Not only is time out good for us, it’s also good for those around us, as we are able to reconnect with our present environment and those who matter to us in a refocused and mindful manner. Taking time out also to talk about our feelings with a trusted source is another good strategy, and this is where trained counsellors can help us navigate and make sense of our emotions.