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Candid advice from the Well-Being at Stanford team
We will continue to prove ourselves capable of compassion and resilience. Please take whatever steps you need to stay healthy, safe, and connected to each other.
What we're feeling right now
- We’re feeling many, sometimes competing, emotions at once.
It’s completely normal to feel anything in response to and in the midst of all the challenges this year has brought us. Our community is feeling overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, sad, anxious, stressed, numb, apathetic, and perhaps even relieved or hopeful. Much has changed in this turbulent year, so we expect that our internal worlds may also feel unsettled or a little shaken. Since people are in such different places physically, emotionally, financially, etc., there really is no normal way to cope or react to something abnormal. Whatever you’re feeling right now is okay and completely natural. Give these feelings space, even the difficult ones.
- We’re grieving and practicing acceptance.
Most of our community is experiencing the seemingly unrelenting challenge of managing changes in many aspects of our lives. While we try to move forward during such uncertain times, remember that the process is accompanied by grief and acceptance. These are essentials parts of the healing process that often occur simultaneously:
grieving the loss of what this year was supposed to be, what it has become, and what it may still be
accepting that this is what is happening now, and work to make sure we take whatever steps are necessary, and within our control, to take care of ourselves and our communities
Grieving doesn’t mean wallowing or giving up. We are all allowed to deal with loss and disappointment differently — there is no right way to grieve. Acceptance doesn’t mean happiness or approval. We can accept what has happened while still feeling upset, sad, and a whole host of other emotions. Looking towards the future doesn’t mean we avoid or ignore the realities of hardship of this moment, just as it doesn’t close us off to opportunities that often come with unexpected change.
How to support our well-being
- Connect with others.
Make connection a priority. Whether it's through virtual hangouts, game and movie nights, class discussions, homework sessions, therapy and coaching sessions – it is imperative that we continue to feel connected to each other. Staff and students are working creatively and quickly to bring people and resources together to meet all of our needs. Use the resources listed here on top of whatever makes most sense for you and your relationships.
Notice the good in the world. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counterbalance the heavy with the hope.*
Practice compassion. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.*
Reach out for help. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help from mental health professionals. There are people ready and waiting to help you through this crisis.*
- Practice self-compassion.
Acknowledge your fears, anxieties or concerns – it’s ok to not be ok. Give yourself some space and compassion right now. Whatever you’re feeling right now is valid. Give yourself time to grieve the plans you had made for the year, the hopes you had cultivated for yourself and your community.
Accept where you are right now. Remind yourself that all feelings are temporary, and take care of yourself accordingly. This could mean creating a work from home structure, setting up a daily mental and physical health routine, taking time to say goodbye to things that have changed, and reaching out to old and new sources of support. While there is much outside of our hands, there is a lot we can do to feel empowered and regain a sense of agency.
Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. Accept everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this. There is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.*
- Build a routine.
Stick to a routine. Try to sleep and wake up at a consistent time. Write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work and self-care.*
Move each day. Many of us have limited access to safe and enjoyable outdoor spaces. Luckily, for our movement needs, there are many free exercise classes on YouTube. If all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!*
Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15-hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show or podcast, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.*
Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all.*
Take things moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in one day, one week, or one month from now. Many of our long-term plans are on hold, so instead focus on smaller challenges that feel manageable. Set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will think about. Take each day one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.*
Check in with yourself. Ask yourself these questions everyday:
- What am I grateful for today?
- Who am I checking in on, or connecting with, today?
- What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
- How am I getting outside today?
- How am I moving my body today?
- What positivity am I creating or cultivating today?**
- Cultivate your power.
Cultivate a sense of power in the midst of powerlessness. What does this mean? It means being proactive, intentional, and resourceful to actively reframe our current circumstances.
All we have is time. Try a brand new hobby or one that you’ve been waiting to try that doesn’t connect to units or grades. Read books that aren’t assigned in class. Work on a project that is for no one but yourself. Create a biological/chosen family tree. Get into a mode of physical activity that makes you feel connected to your body.
Deprioritize productivity. Take opportunities to not be “productive” and instead focus on cultivating your emotional intelligence, sense of joy, and overall well-being. What you need is unique, so practice the kinds of self-care that are most important for you.
Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, whatever your community needs that is safe for you to provide. Helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.* When the ways we can help are limited, acknowledging the positive work of others is a win-win. For example, you can contribute to a collective card for health care workers at Stanford Hospital here.
Find the lesson or meaning. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world? You can hold and make space to honor the real human suffering happening in our world, and simultaneously practice hopeful visioning for the future.*
- Manage anxiety.
Find your own retreat space. Think about how to create a separate space for work and for relaxation. If it isn’t possible to separate your spaces, try creating rituals to help you mentally transition between activities.*
Self-soothe daily. Repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping, etc.) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective self-soothing techniques. Seeking and creating comfort is essential during times of uncertainty.*
Build a self-care menu. Self-care looks different for everyone. Effective self-care includes preventive/planned strategies and reactive/responsive strategies. Preventive strategies build your capacity to handles challenges in your life, while reactive strategies actively restore your capacity following a recent challenge. For example, planning to sleep eight hours every night is preventive, while sleeping 12 hours after a really stressful day would be reactive. There's no magic formula to build the perfect self-care menu, just make sure that you have both preventive and reactive strategies that work for you. Build your own self-care menu here.
Find lightness and humor each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie. We all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.*
Remind yourself that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.*
Seek news from reliable sources — and in moderation. Feeling anxious is a normal (and even adaptive) response to the current situation, but overconsuming news can heighten this anxiety to levels that no longer serve us. Try not to become too absorbed in the coverage for long periods of time, and find opportunities to disconnect from the barrage of constant updates. Set limits for yourself, e.g. checking news only 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at night, and check-in with yourself so you know when to make adjustments to your news consumption plan.
*(Feliciano, 2020) —**(Greater Good Science Center, 2020)