Optimism - a powerful tool to manage anxiety

Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jess, our Community Education intern, who is a 23-year-old psychology student.


Optimism is a mix of positive feelings like hope, confidence and goal-driven behaviour. It is not simply about wanting to look at everything in a positive light, but more how you see and explain things happening in your life.


One of the challenges I have faced this year in the midst of being in lockdown for a huge part of it, was facing uncertainty - when restrictions would ease, if they would get harsher, and when would I be able to leave Auckland to see my family again. This last point had been weighing on me in particular in the last few weeks, especially with Christmas and New Years drawing closer and closer. I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility of not spending Christmas with my family, for the first time in my life. This as a result made me feel more sad and less hopeful for the future. Thankfully when I explained my worries to my friends, they helped me gain a more optimistic view, and to hang in there. It helped me significantly talking to close ones around me about my worries and to hear their encouraging and hopeful words. Sure enough, as it has been announced, it will be possible to go home for Christmas now.


I am a person who loves to know what is happening in the near future, and somewhat sticking to a routine. So naturally, I found it difficult waiting for week-by-week updates from the government on alert level decisions. My mood would immediately be impacted negatively after listening or watching the news. This in turn would also make me feel anxious for the future and any plans I had or were trying to make. However, I am very grateful to have been surrounded by friends living with me who I could talk to about my worries and stress. This made me feel better letting it out, but also being able to shift my attention onto something else, such as going out for walks or making food. It definitely helped being around optimistic people who reminded me there was an end in sight to the lockdown - this made me feel hopeful and excited for what was to come in the future. And now, being at the stage we are in, finally being able to start opening up to normal life once again, looking back I am glad I could listen to these people, and see how far we have come.


I have learnt that trying our best to have an optimistic attitude can be very beneficial in particular during times of stress. For example, when things do not go well such as having lockdown being extended or case numbers increasing. Being optimistic, I have learnt it can be good to think that this is temporary, rather than attributing it to an absolute negative future. This meant recognising my feelings and worries but also choosing not to dwell on it.


As human beings it is normal for us to crave security and certainty of what is happening in the future, so in these pandemic times, it is normal to feel anxious and stressed about the uncertainty the restrictions provide and wondering about the what-ifs. It is important if you do feel this way to know you are not alone, and that many of us also feel the same way. There are steps that can be taken to alleviate anxiety and to be able to face the unknown with more confidence. As mentioned, having someone to talk to about your worries can help change your outlook for the better. And lastly, we can focus on the things we can control, such as taking care of our overall wellbeing, like going for walks, being mindful of what we eat, and partaking in activities we enjoy.


https://www.healthline.com/health-news/reduce-anxiety-by-practicing-optimism-can-help#1.-Change-your-brain

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/smarter-living/coronavirus-how-to-stay-optimistic-.html

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/dealing-with-uncertainty.htm

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