These are tough and unprecedented times for many of us. A great number of teachers are learning how to use technology to teach online and also trying to find and develop their new virtual identities. Both the work and the learning curve have been steep. Whereas some might be in their element and beyond excited about the new challenges, others may be less so – feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the whole process. Some others are concerned about losing their jobs or maybe someone close might have already lost their job. Many of us are quarantined, which can be stressful. Many more are feeling isolated and missing their coffee from their favourite coffee shop. Things are different and they have become different without much warning and this has an impact on people, their wellbeing, and teaching and learning.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety can be defined as feelings of apprehension and tension consciously perceived as subjective, with or associated with an activation of the automatic nervous system. Some might feel intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations in addition to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and tiredness.
Anxiety, fear and panic are usually associated with thoughts involving themes of threat or danger. These thoughts take the form of “if” or “what if” beliefs. To our luck, these feelings are often fluid and are bound to change. The next tips should help you make those changes happen more quickly. So, let’s have a look at what we can do minimise anxious feelings in these unprecedented times.
The situation now is new, and that can be scary in many ways and on many levels. It is okay to feel scared; it is normal. If you are feeling something different than fear, try to name this feeling or emotion you have now. You don’t need to diminish your feelings, but you can certainly normalise them by changing the frame of reference.
Positive reframing or normalising of problems is one of the many possible ways of feeling empowered to take control of our lives. Simply acknowledge that you are going through a rough period and this will (soon) be over. When this time comes, finding a solution to the problem will be much easier.
When we are anxious and stressed our breathing becomes shallow. By learning or remembering to use abdominal breathing, we can feel the body relaxing quickly.
For instructions on how to do proper abdominal breathing, watch this video.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
First introduced by Aaron Beck, CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are interconnected and that changing one can change the others. Sounds trendy, right? But CBT is highly effective and has also been studied for many decades. Here are some suggestions to help tackle anxiety based on the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
This technique is a good way to understand your moods and thoughts. You can journal about the time, the source, the mood itself, its intensity and also how you reacted to it. By journaling, you can identify thought patterns and find a way to deal with them.
Silver linings (CBT)
I am sure you have heard someone saying that every cloud has a silver lining. At first, it might be difficult to find anything positive about the current situation, but let me help you to see some possibilities.
When was the last time you sat down and really smelled the aroma of a cup of coffee? Or cooked your favourite dish without looking at the clock? Or baked your grandma’s secret recipe bread?
What about that online course you have been meaning to give a go but never had the time?
Do you have children? Take the time to be with them and start family projects, tell them your family history, teach them to cook or learn yourself by watching videos.
What about your friends? Try calling them from your couch instead of on the go while eating or driving. Catch up – I mean a real good long chat. Simply reconnect with people (virtually!)
When you see the positive in difficult situations and connect with people (online in this case), a calming hormone called oxytocin will make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
Random acts of kindness
In sunny California sometime in 1982, Anne Herbert wrote “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a placemat. Later her initial sentence gave birth to a book with the same title with her co-author Margaret Paloma Pavel. Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty comes with a beautiful foreword by Desmond Tutu.
A random act of kindness is an action to offer kindness to others. The good news is that research has found some evidence linking the acts of kindness and wellbeing. Some people find that their own problems seem less severe when they help others. The positive feeling of helping someone can also improve your mood.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a website with many free and downloadable resources including bingo, posters and calendars dull of acts of kindness.
News and the good stuff
In an attempt to help the population, media outlets have been talking about COVID-19 non-stop. In some countries, government leaders have been going on live TV daily. In addition to this, there are also social media posts about what is happening at the moment. This information overload may cause or intensify anxiety, so it might be a good idea to limit the time you spend looking for this kind of information.
Apart from limiting the time on news, you can also look for positive and feel-good types of content. To help you with that, I created a collaborative board with cute animal videos, music playlist, virtual exhibitions, colouring pages and more. It is a safe and happy place for us, and it is open for contribution, so just add your suggestion.
As teachers, we are very used to making learning outcomes visible, sometimes even tangible. This usually happens because of external factors such as government and school policy, parents’ requirements and companies’ needs. We often see ourselves as the ones that help students go from A to Z. At the moment, our very anxiety-high surroundings may prevent us from going from A to Z.
Perhaps instead of imagining that you are not doing a good job, or even feeling anxious for not being able to lead students from A to Z as planned, consider being one of the individuals who will take students from anxiety to wellbeing. We know that you are trying to adapt to this new circumstance in the best way you can and so do your students. Feel comfortable with the possibility that this term, we might need to go from A to B, or even just get by, and that is fine.
If you have any Ed-Tech questions or would like to talk more about anxiety and how to minimise it, reach out! Find me on LinkedIn.