Publish Date: 18.03.2020

Category: News from the University

The major changes as part of the emergency situation we are currently experiencing is something we cannot fully prepare for in advance. They can trigger a range of (unexpected) reactions in both ourselves and others. Great changes can also cause distress and a feeling of chaos.

Sometimes just having certain knowledge of how people react in emergency situations while simultaneously keeping abreast of developments and following up-to-date guidelines and recommendations can help us organise ourselves and stay hopeful. To this end, we are posting the following reflections and recommendations formulated in response to people’s distresses and dilemmas observed and expressed over the past few days. 

  • Unusual reactions are normal in such situations, even though they may be incomprehensible and unexpected. We may be surprised by the reactions of ourselves, our loved ones or our surroundings. If you are surprised by your own feelings and reactions, you can share them with supportive people you feel close to. If you do not have such people nearby, you can find them. If you notice excessive fear or even panic in others, try to calm them down, present realistic facts to them and increase their feeling of safety. We should also keep an eye on people who (being distressed themselves) spread intolerance towards others. This is where we must explain in an especially calm, but determined tone that problems will not be solved that way and that spreading intolerance only makes others more distressed.
  • We should think about what helps us maintain as much of a feeling of safety as possible. This can be small deeds or short rituals (e.g., establishing a daily routine connected with work and household chores, but also relaxing routines such as having a cup of tea or coffee, looking at photographs, covering yourself with a soft blanket, playing board games etc.), everyday events, memories, etc. Everyone has their own list, but we should try to expand it. Sufficient sleep also helps maintain a feeling of safety. We should also support others in defining, finding and carrying out as many (small) things, deeds, memories, rituals etc. as possible that help increase their feeling of safety.
  • Life – modified and following health instructions – goes on. Because all the major institutions that largely define our daily lives (work, preschool, school etc.) have been shut down, a relatively ambiguous space has developed that must be redefined and restructured (what is the meaning of distance learning or remote work, how to schedule children’s schoolwork and playtime, how to stay connected with others, how to stay physically active, etc.)
  • We can structure or assign meaning to our everyday lives in various ways. We can talk and decide who does what in our family, we can set a (tentative) schedule for the day, perform small rituals over the course of the day or before going to bed, etc. Most importantly, we must not forget to intentionally include relaxing routines and activities we enjoy and that make us feel good!
  • To contain the epidemic it is important to remain physically isolated as much as possible, but compared to epidemics in the (distant) past we are lucky to have the opportunity to stay extremely well connected virtually. We should maintain telephone or virtual connections with others, especially those who are isolated even more for various reasons (high-risk groups: the elderly, patients and people living alone). The feeling of being connected with others strengthens the feeling of safety on both sides.
  • We should talk to children about the situation realistically, taking account of their age and development level. We should make sure that the impressions and information we share with them help them feel safe.
  • Let’s get involved, so we can organise ourselves, contribute to the wellbeing of all and stay connected(these recommendations were written largely to serve that purpose). Mutual support and charity work can also take place via various apps, online groups, and virtual contact with fellow students, co-workers, relatives, neighbours, etc. The questions “What do you need?” or “What can we do for each other?” alone may open new opportunities for mutual support, projects and community actions.
  • If we feel paralysed or feel that our distress is too great and our social network cannot provide support in a satisfying degree or manner, we should look for (professional) help. In many places this is also provided remotely. For more information on available services in Slovenia click

Of course there are many other ways to overcome this stressful period together. May mutual support and community spirit foster new solutions and continued hope.  

Written by: Student Psychosocial Counselling Service Team