Lauriston Girls School
When people ask me that ‘How are you going?’ question my immediate response is ‘I am fine and we are all managing well.’ For the most part, I have provided a fairly accurate response. I am grateful to come to work each day and I have a routine which includes speaking with my father each day, regular exercise, healthy meals and chocolate.
Like everyone else, I have my bouts of frustration when I am expected to make decisions for our School based on decisions made by the Government who have not provided the finer details. I become despondent when we are unable to have our students return to school and complete their school year with a level of normality. I become concerned about the welfare of our students, teachers, staff and parents.
I was interested to find an article written by Amy Cuddy and Jill Ellyn Riley for the Washington Post in which they write about pandemic flux syndrome, a non-clinical term used to describe a jumble of feelings associated with all of the changes, blunted emotions, spikes in anxiety and a desire to drastically change something about our lives.
Author Brene Brown notes that the pandemic flux syndrome has resulted because there is a lack of clarity about the future. We have lived with uncertainty and unpredictability for 18 months and this has resulted in exhaustion and disappointment that we have not yet reached a more normal existence.
Dr Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, the author of ‘Battle Mind: Performing under pressure’ suggests that a crisis such as COVID-19 typically has three phases although they do not always come in a neat sequence of Emergency, Regression and Recovery.
Dr Wedell-Wedellsborg suggests that many of us find ourselves stuck between regression and rebuilding phases and we feel a level of ambivalence that will ebb and flow and will likely be very unique to individual circumstances. Some people desire the opportunities to rebuild and reinvent in order to make significant life and work changes. But this is not necessarily matched with the immediate sources of energy to enact these changes.
Human beings are not particularly accurate in predicting the intensity and duration of our emotions both positively and negatively for significant life events. The pandemic has resulted in all of us being in a prolonged emotional state caused by the need for resilience and monitoring of threats. Our collective capacity and mental heath have been impacted upon.
Over the past 18 months we have been drawing upon our resources with our ‘surge capacity’ which are a collection of adaptive systems both mental and physical that humans draw on for survival in acutely stressful situations. We are not supposed to be exposed to this level of stress for long periods of time and this means that that our nervous systems are depleted which can be manifested for people in various ways, such as depression, anxiety, inertia and a lack of motivation.
There is value in being able to understand these feelings and that our lives are in a state of flux.
Katelyn Merz, a social work clinician from the Centre for Human Development in the USA makes the following suggestions:
Self-care refers to those activities and practices that we deliberately choose to engage in on a regular basis to maintain our health and wellbeing. By incorporating self-care activities into our regular routine such as going for a walk or socializing with friends, we can avoid or reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. The Black Dog Institute suggests that individuals need to develop a self-care plan.
Step oneEvaluate your coping skills by examining your habits and putting positive coping strategies in place.
Relaxation and staying calmWhich activities help you to relax?
Self-TalkHelpful self-talk may include: I am safe/I can do this?
Social supportWhich family members and friends can you reach out to for help and support?
MoodWhich activities support a positive mood?
Step twoIdentify your self-care needs by taking a moment to consider what you value and need in your everyday life and during times of uncertainty.
Step threeReflect. Examine. Replace. We need to reflect on the existing coping strategies we have identified, examine the barriers to maintaining our self-care and how these can be addressed and work on replacing negative coping strategies.
Step fourCreate your own Self-Care Plan.
The Black Dog Institute suggests that in addition to the Self-Care Plan it is important to find an approach that SETTLES the mind.
If we can all manage to develop our own self-care plan we will be better able to manage the weeks and months ahead, I believe. My days will become lighter and brighter when our students return to school and I know that all of our staff feel exactly the same way.
Susan JustPrincipal, Lauriston Girls’ School