Counseling Services Offers Advice for Dealing with COVID-19 Anxiety

March 24, 2020
By: Hana Lasell

During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, Counseling Center staff shared some recommendations for coping with the anxiety that college students at Worcester State—and around the world—are likely experiencing. Here are some tips on how students can care for their mental health while being told to stay home and “flatten the curve” during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Take heart. Humanity is making significant sacrifices around the world for the greater good. Closing campuses and elementary schools is the number-one way to reduce the spread of the virus right now, and this action is in our control.

Maintain routines. Structure is essential to maintaining one’s mental health day-to-day. It gives us a sense of normalcy, predictability, and a sense of control, three things we desperately need in uncertain times. Waking up, showering, having meals, and scheduling a morning and afternoon activity to break up the day can go a long way. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, eating regular meals, checking in with friends and family, scheduling time for academics, and making time for exercise can all help to reduce anxiety.

Expect a range of feelings. Change and disruption brings anxiety and sometimes grief. Grief consists of waves of emotions—anger, numbness, bargaining, acceptance—which can hit at any time. Acknowledge the feelings (Ex: I’m feeling angry that school is canceled.); express the feelings through journaling, art, crying, and/or talking with a good listener; normalize your experience and reassure yourself as you would a friend (Ex: It’s okay that I feel this way.); and distract yourself with music, art, academics, or movies, if you start to feel overwhelmed.

Calm your stress response. The more anxious one gets, the harder it is to problem-solve. If you start to feel anxious, take a deep breath, practice mindfulness, and refocus on a present task.

Focus on the present or near future. If you start worrying about next year or down the road, you’ll feel an increase in your stress response, but being as close to the present is where we have the most control.

The Counseling Center staff is still available to help, even if they can’t meet in person. If students are having difficulty with functioning, concentration, and dealing with feelings of hopelessness and need additional support, they should contact Counseling Services at counseling_WSU@worcester.edu. There is also the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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