Rocks at sea

Keeping calm in chaos

Caitlin McLeod  |  Apr 3, 2020

The world is changing and that can be a terrifying thing—especially since we don’t necessarily know how it’s changing.

With your housing, courses and a bunch of other things suddenly looking really different, losing your day to day to routine can feel like the rug was pulled out from under you. Not to mention how quickly things are changing, making it feel like finding a new sense of normal is impossible.

Finding small moments of calm in the world of chaos isn’t easy. If you’re not someone who particularly enjoys yoga or meditation and are getting a bit tired of all the messaging that tells you to simply breathe deeply and relax… try the following real life, practical tips for managing day to day.

1. Reach out to someone every day

With remote work, online classes and social distancing, it can feel like we are facing this alone, not to mention that it can be scary for anyone struggling with their mental health. It is important to not let social distancing or self-isolation protocols lead us to a period of solitary confinement where we, or anyone care about, are suffering in silence. We need human connection.

Try to challenge yourself to reach out to at least one person a day. This can be a simple “How’s it going?” text or funny meme. Your friends and family will appreciate you checking in on them and it will help ground you with your support networks in case of a bad day.

2. Create routine where you can

There is so much about this situation that is out of our control. You may no longer be coming into work each day, attending class, or going to your favourite gym—whatever it might be, our entire lives have been uprooted.

Try to focus on the small things each day that you can control. What is your morning/ nighttime routine? Is there a part of your day that you can carve out to do schoolwork? A weekly video call with a friend? It doesn’t have to be big and productive! The structure of that tiny part of your day will help you feel more relaxed and comfortable with the other milion things that we don’t have control over right now.

3. Take a social media hiatus

We are being bombarded with information all the time about COVID-19 and the community’s response. It’s hard for us to talk about anything else right now because the situation and our priorities are being dictated by the current COVID-19 climate. However, there are some days where the last thing I need after watching the updates from Dr. Hinshaw is logging into Instagram and seeing 304 memes. Although some of the content has been pretty golden, it's nice to step away from the constant reminders of how my life and everything around it is changing.

If taking a break from social media seems too intense, try checking out our recommendations for wholesome Instagram accounts that will help reduce your COVID-19 content—and your anxiety, too.

4. It’s okay to feel what you are feeling

You are allowed to feel how you feel. Your feelings, anxieties, fears, and hopes are all valid—and there is no right way to respond to a crisis. Wondering why your friend is suddenly obsessing over baking the perfect banana bread or why your partner may be quieter than usual? The current situation is impacting everyone differently, and that’s okay. Just remember not to worry about comparing your reactions to others’.

You matter. Your feelings matter. Don’t let them be dismissed. Don’t shrug off disappointment for missing a concert you were really looking forward to just because someone has it worse. Perspective is important but so is being kind to ourselves.

I recently heard of the power of using yes/and statements in describing your feelings.

  • Yes, you can be grateful for your health and still be upset about having to cancel an upcoming trip
  • Yes, you can try to find the silver lining and want to go back to the way things were

We are complex human beings. Our feelings are allowed to be complex, too.

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published an article that really helped me identify some of my own feelings by labeling the disruption to our current and planned lives as grief.

5. Seek help when you need it

We can’t all be experts. In fact, even the experts don’t have a lot of answers.

If you are unsure about something don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek support. This could be looking for more resources on how to be a remote student, how to support yourself financially if your job situation has changed, or answering some of your questions about continuing to live in residence.

For COVID-19 updates, the university webpages are a good first step:

Don’t hesitate to email your professors, Residence Services, or whoever else might be able to better answer your questions directly, too—but please be patient as it might take longer than normal to respond!

The uncertainty of our current world also can be triggering for many of us. Don’t be afraid to reach out for more specific mental health support as needed, and consider the following resources: