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As we return to school and go back to socialising, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed after almost two years of restrictions.
Sometimes it can all feel a bit much, and with this in mind, we’ve enlisted the help of Caroline Foran to offer some advice.
Caroline is the author of best-selling books on anxiety and self-worth like Owning It and The Confidence Kit. She also has a podcast called Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast which helps the listener to manage their mental health.
Speaking about going back to school after being at home for so long, Caroline says it’s important to be honest with yourself and others.
“I think the first thing you can do, and it’s something that I do, is just to say it to someone, like say: ‘this is a bit mad isn’t it! I’m not super sure-footed here, I’m a bit rusty!'”
She added: “I guarantee you that people will feel the same way and when you share that little bit of vulnerability people will share it back and then you’ll see, okay, we’re all feeling this, and then it takes that top level of anxiety away because you’re addressing it.
You’re just being a human being, whereas if you’re going in pretending that you’re cool as a cucumber that’s a lot of pressure to live up to for yourself. Also, it might intimidate other people because they’ll think, well if she’s fine, why am I not fine?”
Caroline added it’s important to go easy on ourselves after the stress we’ve been under due to the pandemic.
“We’re all finding it difficult, it’s normal to feel that way now, for the last year and a half, we’ve been primed to be on high alert whenever we step outside our house, and to avoid people because of the risks. Your brain is going to take a while to unlearn that and realise that it’s okay to do so again, with caution. But you’re going to have a bit of a negative response because you’ve been training your mind to think it’s not a good thing to do. So there is a lot going on there that I think it makes perfect sense that people would feel unsure.”
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“My go-to thing would be to just put your hand up and say it, just for people that you can trust even – your pals, and just take it each day as it comes. We’ve adapted so well to COVID and we’ll adapt so well out of it.”
When you get home after school, it’s important to allow yourself to relax and unwind. So how can we destress outside of school?
“I think you need to step away from social media and have some dedicated time per day to do something that doesn’t have any pressure. So for me it’s just 20 minutes of pilates on the mat to get some headspace, it’s good for my mind as well as my body, anything that can help make your world a little bit smaller. Even if it’s something like reading your book or something that helps bring you back to centre.”
When it comes to social media Caroline explains how it can negatively affect us, and that stepping away can make all the difference.
“You can lose hours to scrolling social media endlessy, and it might seem passive but you’re actually falling into social comparison traps, you’re stimulating yourself and you’re affecting your sleep. So, I know it’s hard and not always practical but even just an hour where you do something that makes you feel good, it can even be watching TV, because that’s as relaxing these days because you’re not scrolling and it’s not right in front of you.”
So, be open and honest about your feelings, and dedicate some time to being phone free and do things that make you feel happy.
Caroline was speaking at the launch of the Stellar InstaSTAR Award. You can vote on Stellar.ie