Phoebe Davis - Subject Support Co-ordinator and Lucy Carey – Subject advisor
This blog was originally published in March 2020
World Mental Health Day is on Sunday 10 October, and this year the official theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. During the pandemic, some parts of life might have felt a lot more unequal than normal, and especially as the weather turns colder and the nights get darker, study worries can feel worse and stress can seem heavier.
We know lots of students are feeling uncertain, and we also know that our schools have gone above and beyond the last couple of years, and now might be feeling the strain. In this blog we’ve shared some research and ideas that might help you think about how to stay calm and be kind to yourself.
We’ve all been told to think positively, and that might not be bad advice. Work published by Vikram Chib found that changing your view of a stressful situation can reduce panicking and improve performance. You can read more about this in an article published by the British Psychological Society. So thinking positively about mock exams or that tricky lesson might actually help. In other words, fake it ‘til you make it, and it just might work.
Another way of coping with difficult emotions is to balance them out by experiencing more positive emotions. Emotions like hope, gratitude, joy, excitement, and inspiration.
Positive emotions have been proven to develop resilience and help manage stress during times of change. Think about what makes you happy, and try to do those things, or picture the things you’re most excited to do again. Sometimes we do things we like and don’t really acknowledge it – but if you’re doing something you like, really take the time to enjoy it. If putting up Christmas decorations in November inspires you and brings joy, don’t let anyone stop you. There is nothing wrong with buying Christmas duvet covers in September, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween throughout the whole of October.
Remember stress and anxiety in unusual and unpredictable times are normal. Everyone reacts differently to stress and that’s okay – we want to help you manage that stress though, and some tips are below.
There are resources available on the Mental Health Foundation’s dedicated World Mental Health Day webpage.There is more advice available from the NHS website - which talks about five steps to mental wellbeing.
Feeling stressed is not the same as feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. Here are some symptoms you might have if you are finding it difficult to cope:
If you are experiencing symptoms like these, there are people who can help you. Talk to your family, a teacher who knows you well, a friend or your GP.
If you don’t want to talk to somebody face-to-face, here are some organisations that can help you:
Be kind to yourself and others. Even though the pandemic is very familiar now, it’s normal to have days where you don’t feel like yourself. Chances are, at some point you’ll speak to someone who’s having a bad day, and that’s okay. We don’t have to be cheerful all the time, but be kind to everyone (including yourself) and soon there will be something else to focus on and be joyful about.
Phoebe is a subject support co-ordinator and has worked for Cambridge Assessment in various roles since 2015. Since joining the subject team in 2018, Phoebe has been responsible for a range of subjects including Law, Citizenship and the Extended Project Qualification.
Lucy joined OCR in September 2017 as the subject advisor for sociology and psychology. Before joining OCR she worked as a teacher being the head of sociology and psychology departments in Peterborough, Yorkshire and Cambridge. In her spare time, she enjoys scuba diving and travel.