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Take care of your Mental health in Trying times

Written by on March 17, 2020

Photo courtesy to ISU

NORMAL, Ill.-  In trying times of this pandemic, questions are raised and mental strength is challenged.

Especially for those who are unemployed or, more recently, the college students at Illinois State University who will not be returning for the remainder of the Spring semester.

Student Counseling Services Associate Director for Programs Allyson Hawkins said, “We are hoping to offer remote services via telephone or video conferencing.  Our goal is to offer emergency services and help with referrals to local services to all students.”

Students who are already clients of Student Counseling Services may be able to continue contact with their counselor or with another counselor in the center.

The Coronavirus can create a mental toll on students or anyone as self-quarantining is becoming a regular practice.

“It’s certainly a time of uncertainty, which can foster anxiety, but students are resilient and by doing things like maintaining a regular schedule, keeping things in perspective and finding creative ways to maintain social connections can help students stay on track,” said Hawkins.

Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to drop all communication.

Moments like this aren’t new for the Counseling services at ISU, but nothing compares to this.

“Several years ago an ISU student went missing and we eventually learned that she had been murdered.  The campus was on pins and needles during that time, but this is so much larger.  I can’t think of anything that compares to this,” said Hawkins.

Some particular students experiencing anxiety is college seniors who will experience some grief about not being able to have their last semester on campus and potentially missing graduation.

“These are real losses and we will have to validate them and help them find ways to mark this milestone in different ways,” said Hawkins.

The health risk for traditionally-aged students with no health concerns is probably fairly low; however, students might be justifiably worried about family members.

The advice from Student Counseling services is to, “Focus on what you can do – social distancing, hand washing – to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.  Continue to eat healthy foods and exercise.”

Below are some steps that can help you take care of your mental health:

Seek accurate information and limit exposure to social media and news reports that provide no new information or inaccurate information. Take regular breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.

Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and stay focused on what the situation actually is, rather than the worst-case-scenario. It can be helpful to shift your focus to things within your control rather than things outside your control.

Develop a routine.  Create structure in your day by scheduling a normal bedtime and wake up time; structuring your time with hobbies, homework, reading, scheduling regular phone/video contact with friends and family.

Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

Take breaks– We’re not machines. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.

Strengthen self-care. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques. Try to keep a routine especially if you are self-quarantined. Developing distractions and activities that take your mind off the threat and focus on pleasure and relaxation.

Don’t underestimate your resiliency. Although dealing with a pandemic is not an experience many of us have had, there have been times we have lived through a crisis and survived. Remember that you usually have more strength and coping skills than you imagine, particularly when you are stressed.

Make a plan. If finances are a source of concern and anxiety, make a plan or budget to manage your expenses for the next month. Making a plan always helps manage anxiety even if you have to change the plan as time goes on. This can include thinking about vacations or travel that you may have had to cancel and rescheduling them. Try to make as many decisions as you can and avoid simply leaving them “up in air.” Remember that uncertainty feeds anxiety and plans can always change if needed.

For more visit https://counseling.illinoisstate.edu/