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Source: University of Canterbury

03 April 2020

We asked University of Canterbury psychology academics Associate Professor Gini McIntosh and Professor Julia Rucklidge, who specialises in mental health and nutrition and is giving a livestreamed talk today, for some advice about staying on track during a time of uncertainty and stress.

  • University of Canterbury Clinical Psychology Professor Julia Rucklidge will talk about key mental wellbeing principles followed by a Q&A session focusing on your questions about nutrition and nutrients, managing anxiety and stress, exercise, and maintaining good routines in uncertain times. Join us on UC’s Facebook page for the live talk: Friday 3 April at 11am.

We asked University of Canterbury psychology lecturers Associate Professor Gini McIntosh and Professor Julia Rucklidge, who specialises in mental health and nutrition and is giving a livestreamed talk today (see below), for some advice about staying on track during a time of uncertainty and stress.

Here are six of their top tips:

Manage your expectations and take charge of your thinking.

During difficult times and times of change it’s important to make sure your expectations of yourself are reasonable. These could be expectations about how productive you should be, how long you should be working at a stretch, and what kind of parent you should be. Consider relaxing overly high standards of yourself and be understanding when you don’t finish something. We don’t need perfection.

How you think impacts on how you feel so take control of what you say to yourself (self-talk). Try talking to yourself as if you were talking to your favourite person, someone you want to look after and wish the best for.

Establish a routine

Decide how you want to spend your time and make a plan. Not a rigid one, but more of a guideline. Make sure your routine will help you do the things that need to get done (assignments, deadlines, writing, housework, cooking, etc), has downtime (walk, watch a movie, play a game, sing, dance, bake), time for sleep (the most efficient time for sleep is the same eight-ish hours each night), time to connect with people, and time to be active.

If you have more time available than usual think about projects you might like to take on. Be creative: build the raised vege plot you have always wanted, learn te reo, start yoga, learn to knit, learn to make sourdough, tidy your wardrobe or learn the ukulele.

Connect with people

Staying at home with only the people in your household limits your usual social interactions but it’s still important to connect in different ways with different people. Use Zoom, FaceTime, email or phone a friend or family member. Social connectedness is highly associated with well-being and longevity. 

Be generous

Everyone needs to feel cared for just now. Check in on classmates, colleagues, family, friends and relatives. Offer to do something for someone else – shopping for a neighbour, an online tutorial for a friend, or dishes for your flatmate. The wonderful thing about generosity is that it comes right back at you.

Be Active

Physical activity has many positive benefits – including improving circulation, helping with brain health and memory and boosting energy. On top of the physical benefits, it also enhances mood, improves motivation, and leads to a greater sense of enjoyment. Staying at home can make it more of a challenge to stay active but make sure you walk, run or ride your bike around your neighbourhood, or try an online gym workout or yoga class.

Eat Well

When under stress we can often reach for foods that are “comforting” (like biscuits, donuts, cake, pastries, and chocolate bars), but these calorie-rich but nutrient poor snacks aren’t the best choice for feeding your brain under demanding circumstances.

To cope well with stress your goal should instead be to eat more fruit and veges and other foods that are high in nutrients. Grab a banana instead of a biscuit, a carrot stick dipped in hummus instead of chocolate, and nuts and seeds instead of a bag of chips.

Aim to eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole foods, rather than Western-style processed food. Include good fats, nuts, seeds, fish, a modest amount of meat, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Limit sugar intake and, although it’s tempting, try not to let your caffeine and alcohol intake creep up.

Te Hāpai Ō | UC Live Speaker Series 2020 – Livestreaming on UC’s Facebook page:

Te Taha Hinengaro | Mental wellbeing
Prof Julia Rucklidge on Te Taha Hinengaro | Mental Wellbeing, 11am-12pm Friday 3 April

Te Taha Wairua | Spiritual Wellbeing
UC’s Senior Ecumenical Chaplain Rev Spanky Moore on Te Taha Wairua | Spiritual Wellbeing, 11am-12pm Friday 10 April

Te Taha Whānau | Whānau Wellbeing
Health Sciences lecturer Tracy Clelland on Te Taha Whānau | Whānau Wellbeing, 11am-12pm Friday 17 April

  • University of Canterbury Psychology Associate Professor McIntosh

MIL OSI