Can you learn to manage stress and uncertainty? Absolutely – according to Bruce Christensen, Associate Dean for Culture and Wellbeing in the College of Health and Medicine, clinical psychologist, and Mind Seeds podcast host.
Christensen has seen first-hand how the COVID pandemic has challenged our community to cope with tragedy, loss, and change. He wanted to acknowledge these events and do something to help ease people’s distress. And so the Mind Seeds podcast was formed.
“Some people come naturally equipped with a mind and body that are better able to deal with stress than others. But the good news is that no matter where your natural abilities sit, humans can get better at managing stress and staying mentally healthy,” says Christensen.
In each podcast Christensen interviews psychologists from the Research School of Psychology about evidence-based approaches to coping with change, stress and uncertainty. Each offers practical tips and exercises to try.
“For example, a couple of podcasts take listeners through mindfulness exercises – a technique largely developed in Eastern spiritual traditions that promotes attention to the present by focussing on one’s breath,” says Christensen.
This might sound simple, however it can be difficult to stay focussed and present, especially when you start practising mindfulness. But Christensen assures us that you can get better quite quickly with just a few minutes of participation a day.
Another theme running through the podcasts is that negative feelings, such as anxiety, sadness, and frustration, are normal reactions to difficult events. And that’s ok.
“Sometimes our tendency is to try and ignore or suppress these feelings because they are uncomfortable. But studies show that this can make negative feelings worse,” says Christensen.
To address this, several of the podcast guests encourage listeners to acknowledge their feelings as understandable and legitimate – even sources of important information. And to allow for their existence (but minimise their impact) in ways that help us connect to our values and foster self-compassion.
While the Mind Seeds podcasts were made in response to changes at ANU, they would be useful to anyone experiencing stress or difficult change. These might be related to a job or school pressure, a difficult break-up, the loss of a loved one, or a significant life challenge.
You can listen to the Mind Seeds podcasts series at any time by visiting the College of Health and Medicine SoundCloud site, or by clicking on the links below, directing you to the individual podcast:
How checking your thoughts can help you deal with stress, with Dr Kristen Murray.
How emotions can help guide us in life, with Julia Reynolds.
Using mindfulness to cope with worry, with Dr Conal Monaghan.
Self-compassion, how we treat ourselves matters, with Associate Professor Liz Rieger.
Managing the challenges of uncertainty, with Lisa Oxman.
How connecting with our values can help in times of change, with Dr Linda Nicholson
Strengthening social connectedness to manage stress, with Professor Kate Reynolds