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To Higher Ed Professionals and Students - Coping with COVID-19

The coronavirus has undoubtedly changed how people communicate and interact with each other. It’s changed how people work, and students learn. For many, it was a change that happened suddenly and quickly. A deadly virus coupled with stay-at-home orders and the uncertainty of what happens next in one’s daily life has certainly taken a toll, leading to stress and anxiety.

As a professional working in Higher Education for many years, I have noticed coworkers, students, and entire families struggling with this new way of living. No matter if you are a student in college, or a parent who is now tasked with educating your young child while also unemployed (or working an essential job), it’s normal to feel the anxiety and stress that comes with these trying times. However, there are things that you can do to alleviate the mental and emotional exhaustion.

7 Key Tips People Can Use To Overcome Their COVID-19 Stress and Anxiety

1. Take Care Of Yourself (First and Foremost)

It’s imperative that you take care of yourself – not just mentally and emotionally but also physically. This means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, getting regular exercise, and use mindfulness apps.

If there are activities you have never done (for whatever reason), consider this the time to do them. Take out a puzzle and work on it, do some dancing around the house, clean your cars, work on those honey-do tasks you never had time for, discover a new hobby, enjoy having dinners with the family, teach kids to cook and clean, etc. The goal is to keep your mind occupied and reducing your stress level.

2. Stay Focused

Motivation may be difficult during this time… not just for you but for those around you and your neighbors down the way. Once you realize that you’re not the only one struggling with motivation, you won’t be so hard on yourself.

Be sure to create a routine, getting up at the same time you are accustomed to. Work like you usually would. If you have school-aged kids, get them set up to do their “AMI” school work. Take breaks often to stay focused on the work you have.

If you’re able, come up with a workspace that is designated just for you. When you’re working or studying, you should turn off your phone and let those in the household know that you don’t want to be disturbed.

3. Stay In Touch For Social Support

With college classes on physical hiatus, your classmates, like yourself, are back at home. It’s difficult not to feel isolated when you can’t physically get out and see people. This is where technology comes in handy. Set up a time for you and your classmates to meet virtually. If your classes are virtual, turn on the webcam to feel some connection. The same situation can be applied to parents with younger children. Combat their loneliness with webcam time with their classmates.

4. Assist Others To Cope With Their Anxiety

Everybody, from your friends to your family to your neighbors, is stressed out. While it may be tempting to help them with their problems, this is not the time. The best thing you can do is remind them that you’re all in this together!

Psychology students tend to learn that they help themselves when they help others. While you are listening to your classmates talk about their worries, allow them to continue without interrupting. You’ll find that your anxiety lessens as you hear them talk about their concerns because you know you are not alone.

5. Come Up With Ways To Overcome Disappointment

COVID-19 is putting the brakes on many milestones this year, including graduation ceremonies, dissertation defenses, internships, etc. With this being the case, the key is to look at the events in another way. How can you honor and celebrate your milestones? If it’s possible, these events can be rescheduled at a later time.

6. Put Attention On Controllable Aspects

Everybody has their own way of coping. They may not follow the guidelines suggested for social distancing, wearing a mask, etc. You can’t control them, so don’t let their “disobedience” translates to added stress for you.

Since you can’t control others, take the steps necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. You are the one in control over your behavior, state of mind, and views. Focus on things you can control.

One more aspect of control you do not have is uncertainty. Don’t worry about the future. Focus on the present.

7. Spend Less Time On Social Media and Other Media

You want to stay informed about events going on in your area. However, too much information can cause anxiety overload. Don’t spend so much of your time on social media and other media and only get your news sources from reputable places such as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If or when your state level to yellow, consider going back to the office for a day or two in the week. Most universities have libraries and other benefits open to students. Just do your due diligence using masks, sanitizing hands, and protecting yourself and others.

Social distancing can be hard and missing friends is inevitable. However, with a little bit of creativity, you can still connect with friends and family without putting them or yourself at risk. You can still do school work and celebrate milestones.

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