Tips for managing stress during lockdown

Three simple practices to clear your head and calm your body.

Header image

Seth J. Gillihan PhD, is a psychologist who specialises in mindfulness and produces a weekly podcast called Think Act Be. This article is an adaptation of content in those podcasts.

These days many people are experiencing more uncertainty than usual. These elevated levels of uncertainty can create fear and stress. If you’re a parent, stress can be compounded by the uncertainty of your child’s education, fear for their safety and the simple fact of having them at home a lot more than usual.

The simplest and most effective way to manage uncertainty, fear and stress is to come back to your centred self. But what does that mean? Your mind is a powerful tool for managing stress and by changing your thoughts you can change your perspective and calm your body.

Try these three simple practices and enjoy lower levels of stress.

Check in with your reality

News can often trigger scary thoughts and anxiety about the future. Sometimes it may feel like these fears are sure to come true. When this happens, it’s good to check whether your mind is focussed on fantasy or reality. Notice when you’re fearful or anxious in an imagined disaster and call it what it is – say to yourself “that is a fantasy.” Take a slow breath in and out, try smiling and return to reality.

Question your fear

Fear has the power to turn a potential problem into a complete catastrophe. News reports often sensationalise the news to capture our attention, and our minds can run away with this.

When your mind gets caught up in disaster scenarios, it can run through scenes and add your personal spin. This habit can unknowingly trigger past bad experiences that add body sensations to the experience, making it seem more real.

Notice this habit. Ask yourself whether it’s likely to be as terrible as you imagine. Realistically, how bad is the problem likely to be? Look at how safe are you right now. Take a deep breath and say like you mean it “I am safe. My family is safe.” Make a list of the things you have already done to prepare you, your family and your home for the present. Think back to similar circumstances and look at how you managed and coped. Look at the depth of your resilience and identify your many strengths.

Imagine coping

As the news reminds us every day, bad things do happen. Fear can make you think that you won’t be able to handle these new problems when they arise. And yet you probably know from your own experiences that they’re not the end of the story… that you found ways to handle the challenges you faced.

When you notice that you’re worrying about something, take a moment to imagine yourself coping skillfully with it. Close your eyes and imagine how the best outcome would look. Take it further. If you woke up tomorrow morning and everything was beautiful, what would that look like? Take a few deep breaths, sit with this and feel its power to place you in a positive space. Write a list of the positive things you see around you and the positive things happening right now.

By practicing these three mindfulness techniques, you will remember the abundant strength within you. You’ve proved your strength countless times before. You can rise to this occasion. Invite yourself to bring the same resourcefulness and determination to the problems you’re facing today.

If you feel anxious, fearful or stressed, and would like to speak to someone urgently, call 000 or one of these support services:

  • Lifeline Australia – 131 114
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
  • Open Arms (veterans and families counselling) – 1800 011 046

Our Flourishing Families service provides practical support for families experiencing challenging times. If you would like to speak to one of our Flourishing Families case workers, call us now on 0488 919 992.