Wellness Articles and Messages
Social and Emotional Learning as Helping Tools in the New Academic Year
Welcome to the new academic year! As we start this semester in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the after effect of the social discord, it is important for everyone to maintain our wellness in adapting to this new normal. The Wellness and Support Section has organized various programmes which are targeting to the benefits of your physical wellbeing and social and emotional wellbeing, they are supporting you in your academic pursuit and personal development.
During this turbulent time, the social and emotional skills are more important than ever. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process by which people learn to understand and manage their emotions, set goals and make decisions, and engage in positive relationships. Research has shown that “SEL programs significantly improve social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance” (Durlak, 2011).
The pandemic has impacted everyone at different levels, we see this moment as an opportunity to rethink, reunite and thrive for the wellbeing of our students. Instead of focusing on the downside, we process what we have learned and experienced during this difficult time and realize that nothing could be more important than the social emotional wellness.
We have tried to find out non-traditional ways to connect with you and get to know you outside of the academic classroom. By creating a sense of community with different programmes, such as the online Social Meet, Virtual Lunch, we offer opportunities for students to socialize and connect, even when physical distancing may be necessary. A series of social emotional learning programmes are designed to cultivate relationships and build friendship, such as the Interpersonal Intelligence Series, the Emotional Management Series, aim to nurture healthy mental wellbeing. The Mindfulness Series enhance students’ resilience to cope with the uncertainty in life. To support you better, we will strengthen our mental health and trauma support to cope with ongoing stressors related to resuming classes during COVID-19. We aim to create a safe, supportive and equitable learning environments for you.
At this moment, nobody knows exactly what the new academic year will look like, we endeavor to respond quickly to changing local health conditions and find new strategies to support you as conditions change. Please enjoy the programmes we have prepared for you and reach out to us if you would like some connection with us.
The Wellness and Support Section
Durlak, J.A., et al. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta‐Analysis of School‐Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, Vol. 82, No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x
Tips for Stress Release during Online Examination
In view of the suspension of face-to-face teaching, the examination and assessment will be highly likely carried out via online platform. If you encounter any technical difficulties during the examination, you are advised to follow the steps as below.
Step 1: Keep Calm.
Step 2: Record and save your work if possible.
Step 3: Take a deep breath and check the connection of your computer and other devices (such as Wi-Fi router).
Step 4: Document the incident such as taking a picture.
Step 5: Report to your course instructor as soon as possible.
Essentially, you should check your computer and network 1-2 days prior to the examination or assessment.
How to manage examination stress in times of pandemic
When assignments and examinations are held online, students worry about the unexpected circumstances which may trigger anxiety and fear.
By Counselling Team, OSA
As assignment deadlines and the examinations are approaching, some students begin to feel anxious and stressful. It is normal for students to feel stressful and to have some level of examination anxiety. As many of us know, there are different types of stress, one of them is good stress (the eustress) which motivates us to enhance performance. However, if the stress becomes overwhelming and incapacitates your ability to perform, you need to handle it with care. Some students experience symptoms like heart palpitation, shaky hands, trembling thighs, or getting hot flashes or chills. Especially in times of pandemic when most of the assignments or examinations are performed online, it adds other variables contributing to the heightened anxiety level. Some may worry about the possibility of technical problems happen during the examination such as unstable internet connection, unable to logon to the website, sudden power shortage…etc. Below are some simple ways to help you managing overwhelming emotions and coping with difficult situations.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches us how to tolerate painful emotions and to manage challenging situations. When we encounter problematic situations like internet interruption, power shortage, computer failure…etc., it could be terrifying and anxiety provoking, it causes people to feel emotionally out of control. TIPP skills are effective ways to help you regulate your emotions so that you can manage the problem better.
T stands for Tip the Temperature.
Hold your breath and put your face in a bowl of ice-cold water or if you don’t have a bowl handy, just grab a water bottle and splash your face with the coldest water you can get for at least 30 seconds, it helps to quickly calm you down. This causes the body chemistry to change and it slows down the heart rate. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system which prompts a relaxation response.
I stands for Intense Exercise
Occupy yourself with intensive exercise, even if it is only for a brief period of time. Intense exercise helps the body to get rid of the negative energy. Exercises like stationary running, walking at a fast pace, jumping jack…etc. are all helpful to release endorphins which help fighting the negative emotions like, anxiety, anger or sadness.
P stands for Pace Breathing
The effectiveness of deep and slow breathing in calming us down is a well-supported by research, it helps to cue your parasympathetic nervous system. Begin with your abdomen, then breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. Placing your hand on your abdomen makes it easier for you to feel the belly expands and contracts. When people experience strong emotions, one could easily feel the shortness of breath, so focusing on your breathing will help reduce your anxiety. Try breathing deeply for a minute or two, and you’ll see how much better you feel.
The second P stands for Paired Muscle Relaxation
Perform muscle relaxation to pace breathing simultaneously. Begin with your face. Tighten your facial muscles one by one, for a few seconds each, and then let go. Progressively work your way down to your shoulders, hands, fingers, chest, abdomen buttocks, legs, and toes, curl your fists, and then release. Repeat clenching, relaxing, clenching, relaxing your body muscles one by one. Pay attention to the difference in your body as you tense and let go of your muscles.
When you encounter unexpected circumstances and feel overwhelming anxiety and fear, remind yourself that you’re feeling anxiety, and not real danger. You can even try directly addressing the fear. It may be tempting to try to focus your mind elsewhere, the healthiest way to deal with strong emotions is to acknowledge it. Practice a go-to response like, “I notice my heart is pounding fast”, “My muscles are very tense”, “This will pass.” Another common reaction is the feeding on thoughts of “what if.” What if I fail in the exam? What if I cannot graduate? What if my Professor don’t understand me?... etc. Acknowledge that fear, then shift from “what if” to “so what?” Sometimes the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as it seems.
Remember if you come across any difficulties before, during or after the examination, you may always contact your professors, your departments & faculties and tell them your problems. If you have any emotional distress or mental health issues, please do not hesitate to contact the counselling team for advice.
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd Ed). New York, NY: Guilford Publication.
Tips on how to stay CALM in COVID
In face of the rapid changing epidemic, we need a tranquil and wise mind to establish a basis for us to cope with the unpredictability.
Connect with the body
Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings
Look around to ground ourselves
Mindful on your action
Care for yourself and others
Open to uncertainty
For some students, the world had turned upside down because of the COVID- 19, the change of learning mode, alteration of the assessment, not being able to study with classmates, even social activities have to be kept in a minimal level. The pandemic came so sudden that many of us found it so difficult to adapt to all the changes, things became so uncertain and volatile. It is common that people feel anxious, insecure, fearful or panicking but we could also turn this into an opportunity to learn how to stay calm and face uncertainty. At the end of the day, we all have to face the existential concern as stated by Greek Philosopher Heraclitus ‘The only constant in life is change”. Let us learn some tips in how to stay calm in face of the changes in the everyday life.
CALM in COVID
Connect with the body
Our physical body is always our loyal companion; however, we often neglect to connect with our body in midst of our busy day to day life. This moment is the best time we can discover our own way to connect with our body. Below are some easy steps you may follow to get in touch with your body once again.
Find a sitting or standing position,
Gently push your buttock or feet into the chair or the floor,
Gradually straightening up your back and spine,
Gently pressing your fingertips together,
Gently stretching your arms or neck, shrugging your shoulders,
By connecting to our amazing body, we craft out a space to nurture ourselves. Although the subtle physical ache, soreness and discomfort may be magnified when we focus on our body, we just observe the sensations and try not to react to them. Let our patience take charge and we will soon realize that the sensation will disappear sooner or later.
The body-mind connection has many benefits. Our physical state, the posture and movements can affect our mind and mental wellbeing, let us use our body to heal and strengthen our mind.
Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings
Be curious on whatever comes up to our mind, they may be thoughts, feelings, memories, fantasy, sensation…etc.; take a bystander position, just observe what’s going on in the inner world. We may take a step further by putting them into words, for example we may say, ‘I’m noticing fear’, or ‘I am having a feeling of loneliness’, ‘I am having thoughts about getting the virus’…etc. By just observing and not reacting to our thoughts and feelings, we can minimize the unfavorable impact brought about by our negative thoughts and feelings.
Look around to ground ourselves
Look around, get a sense of where you are and pay attention to your surroundings. Use our five senses to ground ourselves in the here and now moment. For example, you may look around the room, notice 5 things you can see, notice 5 things you can hear, notice what you can smell or taste or sense in your nose and mouth. Or you may simply notice what you are doing and really engage in what you are working on. Grounding exercises are helpful in many situations, particularly when we are overwhelmed or distracted by distressing memories, thoughts or feelings.
Mindful on your action
With the extensive and effective promotion of the health organizations and the experts in microbiology, many people now are washing hands, observing social distancing habitually, these are all effective protective measures against the Corona virus. But we may also ask ourselves are we doing it excessively? In addition to these actions, are we spending enough time to take good care of ourselves? Are we doing physical exercise to stay healthy…etc. Repeatedly ask ourselves ‘What can I do right now that improves life for myself or others? Then fully engage in these activities.
Care for yourself and others
In times of crisis, self-kindness is the foundation for us to cope well in the situation. Do you remember in the plane when the cabin crew remind us: ‘In event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before helping the people sitting next to you.’ It is always important that we express self-kindness before we can help the others. For example: we may maintain good connections with family and friends. Spend time on pleasurable activities and hobbies. Eating nutritional diet, exercise regularly, getting quality sleep and avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to cope with stress. Other exercises such as practicing relaxation, meditation and mindfulness are also good ways to help us to readjust to a calm and peaceful state.
Open to uncertainty
In times of stress, it is easy to overestimate how bad the situation is and worry about the situation than it really is. If we can think about how we could cope with the situation, even if the worst were to happen, it helps us put things into perspective. Of course it is important that we take reasonable protective measures but we should also stay open to uncertainty at the same time. The pandemic is changing at a pace human being can hardly predict, it is normal that we feel anxious and fear in times of ambiguity but it could easily drive us to irrational behaviors. Do what we can and accept the fact that we have no power over certain things. Allow uncertainty and if it is really too difficult to do, simply watch our breath – that is something we can be certain of.
Since the widespread of the epidemic, many students complained about the change of the learning mode, the online assignments, the live classes, social distancing, closing down of the Karaoke lounge and the bar…etc. There are indeed a lot of alterations we need to adjust and this is by no means easy. However, one of the advantages of all these inconveniences is that we can take this opportunity to slow down, to minimize our activities and to enjoy this moment when many external restrictions are enforced. We may take time to look up to the sky, to eat the meal without rushing to the next tasks, to feel the spring breeze and to enjoy some personal time.
It is essential that we obtain the latest information from reliable sources and stick to the recommendations; however, one could easily feel anxious and stressed out if the influx of information and news about COVID-19 is excessive. Restrict the time we are exposed to news updates and the media coverage on COVID-19, check out information apart from the COVID-19 to expand our perspective and shift our focus to other things in life.
While observing physical distancing, do not forget to maintain social and emotional connection. Some students expressed that they feel lonely and isolated because of the social activities reduction. Limitation of social activities could have negative impact on one’s emotional state but one can be flexible and innovative in maintaining social activities while practicing physical distancing. Make use of the technology such as FaceTime, Instagram…to keep update with friends. Make a video call or send a text to your friends or family who live in other areas. Social distancing doesn’t mean that we must lock ourselves at home. If we wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and maintain physical distance from others, we can still enjoy some outdoor time and get close with the nature.
Remember adapting to change is an important skill and attitude we have to learn in our journey and here comes the time for us to practice and experience. The last time to keep in mind is that you are not alone and we are supporting one another. Below are some resources and community support information you may take reference.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Five ways to view coverage of the Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pandemics
Harris, R. (2020). How to respond effectively to the Corona crisis. The HappinessTap.com. Retrieved from https://www.actmindfully.com.au
Morganstein, J. (2020). Coronavirus and Mental Health: Talking Care of Ourselves During Infectious Disease Outbreaks. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2020/02/coronavirus-and-mental-health-taking-care-of-ourselves-during-infectious-disease-outbreaks
The Australian Psychological Society. (2020). Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/
The Australian Psychological Society (2020). Maintaining your mental health during social isolation. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/