Wellbeing is more than a nice sounding word, it’s about living a balanced life where stress is not the primary thing driving us to “get through each day” and then collapse into bed each night weary.
Managing stress is however easier than it sounds, as it takes regular choices, creating habits and being consistent to keep things in a healthy balance. And knowing how to readjust when things go pear shaped!
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What stress does to our systems
Hopefully you have begun to create some new habits that are supporting your life during COVID – Read Part one of this wellbeing series here. If you haven’t made any changes yet, other issues may begin to arise – like how to deal with those up and down days, lack of motivation to get things done, or extreme states of stress, worry and feeling overwhelmed.
Stress is like a cup of water – if we keep adding drops in, even one at a time, the cup will eventually overflow and spill over. We all need to empty our ‘stress cup’ regularly or risk falling into overwhelm or burnout.
Physiologically, when our stress cup is getting full and we continue to experience more stress, adrenalin floods the body and we lose our capacity to think clearly, rationally and make calm decisions. The stress can be either real or perceived – the body responds the same way regardless. Suddenly we regress to primal beings and like a rabbit fleeing a fox, will enter one of three hypervigilant states; Flight, Flee or Freeze, all of which mean our usual decision making processes are completely offline. This can result in doing things we wouldn’t usually do – eg: being irritable or angry at others, not sleeping properly, over eating, or doing anything possible to feel safe, more in control or a quick fix such as cheating/ academic dishonesty. This however will lead to further stress and negative outcomes in the future.
Symptoms of stress may include:
- Predominantly negative thoughts focussed around future scenarios (What if I lose my job? What if I fail my course?)
- Tightness in the chest
- A sick churning stomach
- Feelings of overwhelm, panic or irritability
- Restlessness and trouble sleeping
- Not eating properly or binging on stimulants (coffee, chocolate, alcohol, drugs)
- Numbing out in front of TV/ Netflix
- Making poor choices that violate our beliefs about what is right (lying, cheating, stealing)
How do we reduce stress and re-balance ourselves?
The first place to start is with the body;this is our gateway back out of that primal place of reactivity. If you relate to some or several of the symptoms above, it is probably time to step away and get your body back into a healthy, calm and functional state with some calm breathing or a chat with a friend.
Top ways to reduce stress :
- Move your body: Take a walk, or get some exercise to reset your nervous system, oxygenate your body and release good endorphins
- Do some Belly breathing: Simply breathing into the belly slowly for 2 minutes will start to bring your system back into a Rest and Digest mode, where the Parasympathetic nervous system can take over and restore healthy functioning
- Listen to a meditation: Meditation can bring your entire system back into balance, and help restore a sense of calm, peace and perspective. Listen to these Meditations for stress reduction*
- Fill your mind with positive thoughts: Redirecting your focus away from worries to what you can do instead feels much more empowering. Try some of these Positive daily affirmations for Self-care / learning / motivation*
- Get more mindful and practice some self-care: Take a step back, take the pressure off, notice how irrational they may be. Learn more about how to nourish your emotional self and how to bring more self-care into your life*
- Talk to a friend: Social contact is different to what you may be used to right now, but we still need it all the same. Pickup the phone, or facetime a friend or family member so you feel connected, supported and remember you are not alone.
Remember, you are not alone.
We are here for you as you pursue your studies and if you need some personal support to get through this tricky time, consider booking a time to speak with our dedicated Wellbeing coach*. It may also help to tap into your vet nurse community via the ACVN Facebook group*, there are a friendly group of students communicating via facebooksupporting each other each step of the way. Sometimes just chatting to your fellow students can help you realise you are not alone in this.
Most of all, if you are feeling stressed call us and explain what difficulties you are having, the team at ACVN want you to succeed in your studies!
As humans, we all experience stress in life, and the current situation with COVID is intensifying stress for many. Learning to deal with stress is a part of life, so begin nowto look for the ways that work for you; this then becomes the secret to creating a more sustainable sense of wellbeing longer term.