Aug 26, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
The unusual return to campus this fall has brought heightened feelings of anxiety for many. They are worried or insecure about their well-being and are processing vast amounts of public and campus health data.
Being surrounded by worried people can spread worry. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us out of familiar and comfortable routines and requires us to embrace a “new normal” defined by virtual classes and meetings, and complying with safety mandates and expectations — as well as a lot of uncertainty about the future.
Additionally, we now need to behave in new ways, including getting tested regularly for the virus, wearing face coverings, and staying physically distant, to combat the spread of the virus. “Forming new habits can be tough. It can be challenging to remember to leave home bringing and wearing your mask and stressful having to constantly monitor yourself to ensure that you’re physically distant enough when walking around campus or going to get something to eat,” Tiffiny Hughes-Troutman, director of the Center for Assessment, Referral, and Education (CARE), said. “But these behaviors are so important to the health and safety of our campus community, and over time they will seem normal and routine.”
Many people are also experiencing loneliness and mourning the loss of what relationships used to look like before the pandemic. We are social creatures and need human interaction to survive. Health researchers point out that people who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation.
“It is now more important than ever to stay socially connected and in touch with friends, families, colleagues, and others who care about us,” Hughes-Troutman said. “It may be challenging to even fathom the concept of having an enjoyable social experience with someone from a distance, but it’s definitely achievable and, even more important, critical for your emotional health and well-being. So keep those connections going.”
Here are some tips on managing anxiety, staying calm, and building connections with others:
- Self-soothe and practice self-care. Journal or engage in creative, healthy self-expression when you feel worried; practice mindfulness, meditation, and aromatherapy; get adequate sleep and nutrition. https://healthinitiatives.gatech.edu/well-being/mental/self-care
- Take cognitive control. You can control your thoughts and positive health attitudes and behaviors, so do it. This pandemic is temporary, even though it may not seem that way to you.
- Try yoga. Take a free online class through YouTube. It results in better sleep, improved focus, and reduced stress.
- Incorporate physical activity. Safely engage in physical activity by exercising with friends or family, get outdoors, use online fitness resources, take a virtual fitness class, and set exercise goals. http://crc.gatech.edu/virtual-fitness
- Participate in a virtual meetup group. Host or join a virtual meetup group and have fun sharing videos and experiences.
- Volunteer. Spending time serving through safe and physically distant volunteer opportunities creates meaning and purpose in life and shifts the focus away from the negativity surrounding the pandemic.
- Join an organization. Engagement Week is this week! There are over 60 opportunities for students to get involved, so dive in and find your fit on campus. https://gatech.campuslabs.com/engage/events?categories=16834
- Play virtual board games. Enjoy a virtual escape room with friends as well as the many free or inexpensive online board games that you can play through a video chat app (e.g., Tabletopia, TableTop Simulator).
- Take up a hobby. If you find yourself plagued by worries or negative thoughts, distract yourself and focus on a new skill. Learn a new language or instrument, knit, bake, play online chess, or teach yourself how to sew masks.
- Talk to others frequently. Even though the notion of support looks different these days due to social distancing, maintain social connections virtually on your computer or phone.
- Reach out for help. If you find yourself having persistently disturbing or negative thoughts, feeling hopeless, or simply not bouncing back to your usual self after trying these or other techniques, then seek professional help. Students should call CARE at 404.894.3498 for an appointment. Students can also refer to the resources available in the new Mental Health Resources on Canvas at https://gatech.instructure.com/courses/108574 Staff should contact EAP at https://health-and-wellbeing.gatech.edu/eap. Refer others who may need help as well: https://counseling.gatech.edu/content/distressed-students-guide.
Information on the Center for Assessment, Referral and Education (CARE) 404-894-3498 www.care.gatech.edu