It’s hard not to feel anxious right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to come, not to mention stress about your family and the economy and well, it kind of just feels like the whole world is on fire right now. About a week ago I started having trouble sleeping. I felt physically weighed down, unable to breathe. During the day, I would bite through my lip. My hand developed stress eczema which is a totally un-sexy thing to admit to a body of my peers. Still, I convinced myself I was fine, until recently I had my first panic attack in over 3 years and I thought, oh.
So, with the assistance of Dr AnneMarie Tangney, a local GP, I set about writing down a list of things that I could do to help, which I’m now sharing with you. I don’t want to bullshit you, everyone has different ways of coping and these might not be yours. I hope it might help though, or at the very least get you thinking about your mental health and what small steps you can take to help manage during this fucking shit-show of a time.
If you’re not anxious, there’s still a chance your friends are. Reach out (via Zoom lol) and be kind, always.
An obvious one but there’s a bit more nuance to it. Instead of deep breaths, Dr Tangney recommends instead to “take slow regular breaths - remember to take your time to inhale and time to exhale.” It seems simple but it’s always a good reminder; perhaps the easiest and most impactful thing you could do.
Change your bedsheets:
Only now that I’m a semi-functioning adult do I realise the incredible and life-changing power that stems from having clean bedsheets. You can get some laundry done and even if that’s literally all you do in a day, it’s still something. Crawling back into a clean bed is calming and good for your skin. Bonus points if you stuff your duvet full of winter clothes so it feels like a weighted blanket.
Dr Tangney says, “going for a walk or a run can help you get some time away from everyday stresses.” I’m the first to admit that I fucking hate exercise. When your heart rate is already increased, you kinda don’t wanna add to that whole situation. This changed when I realised I don’t have to exercise perfectly, I just should probably move my mortal flesh occasionally. I now do this thing I like to call “shit yoga” where I basically whither around on the floor and attempt a half-assed approach to stretching. Do a solo dance party to any of Carly Rae Jepson’s amazing discography. “Party for One” has never been more of a socially relevant bop.
Clutter can be stressful, and whilst the best advice would be just to like tidy your room or do your dishes, sometimes that’s not always an option when you’re really panicking. Hiding your cups under your bed or chucking your clothes in your wardrobe isn’t great in the long-term but short term it’s fucking fantastic. Much like blocking your ex-boyfriend on every social media platform, sometimes out of sight really is out of mind.
In times of crisis, the urge to reach for a hot beverage has never been more poignant, but remember to be mindful of your caffeine consumption.“Relaxation might be easier if stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol are avoided. Some people also find eating a healthy diet helps them to manage anxiety better,” says Dr Tangney. This is like, probably easier said than done for most students. Coffee, cigarettes and alcohol can be our little pleasures in a world full of pain. But, if you’re feeling a bit shit, consider taking a small step back.
Cooking is truly a wonderful, relaxing hobby. Take your time, carefully chop up some vegetables and try attempting a homemade soup or stew. Something homely can make everything feel just a bit more alright, even if it’s not. Doing something with your hands is a good distraction (see above: masturbation) but also at the end of it you have food, which is always, always a good thing. Make a large batch for all your flatmates, have a group meal. Not to suck my own cock or anything but Critic’s Bone Apple Teeth column has some great ideas for you to get started on your culinary journey.
Don’t study in bed:
Just please, don’t. Separate your study zone and your relaxation zone, it’ll help you work better and sleep better. If you have to, at least shift to the other end of the bed from where you’d traditionally lie down.
Go easy on yourself:
Life is hard right now, don’t make it harder. Forgive yourself if you gain weight. Forgive yourself for watching trashy movies for a full day. You don’t have to use this time to learn a new language, start a side hustle or become a pro TikToker. Getting through the day can be enough. To help this process, maybe avoid the news and just ask your friends to text you if there’s been a big update that you should know about. Reloading the BBC website at 4am isn’t, shockingly, super healthy.
Physical distancing is super important right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on walks by yourself. At the very least, try and go for a stroll around the block everyday. Dunedin has some great quiet tracks around the edges of Ross Creek, try one out. If you’re a better person than me, you might even consider running. But honestly? Even a global pandemic won’t make me take up running. I hate running.
Watch all 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls:
It’s called self care.