There are many different reactions and responses that one will have during the Coronavirus outbreak. This could include physical and emotional responses that you might be experiencing for the first time, or with a different intensity than you’ve felt before. As these reactions can impact both you physical and mental health, it’s important to bring awareness to your reactions in order to understand how to cope with them.
It’s normal to feel fear, anxiety, anger, grief, sadness or confusion during this time. This could show up in the following ways:
Fear and Anxiety
· Excessively checking media, news, and other related articles as a symptom of anxiety. This can lead to trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and increased heart rate. As information changes rapidly these actions can give you a feeling of control over something that is ambiguous or unknown.
· You may start to notice that you’re thinking more about contamination and concern that you have contracted the virus. This may include being preoccupied about symptoms of illness, examining your daily actions for risks of infection, and habitually checking WebMD or google for a medical diagnosis.
· In addition, anxiety can also lead to excessive cleaning and sanitizing of spaces, continually making trips to excessively stock up on items, and the constant need to sanitize hands.
· You might feel anger and frustration about the outbreak of Coronavirus. This anger could be directed at the need to change your daily routines, or even at specific people for their choices and responses during this time. As the different preventative and precautionary measures have been issued, such as online classes, it can be frustrating to redefine what being a student looks like during this time.
· Additionally, you might also feel anger towards social media and media coverage that contributes to a sense of frustration.
Grief and Sadness
· You may be feeling grief right now. You likely have had to cancel important plans and celebrations, like a special spring break trip or a large campus event. You might be grieving the idea of your “perfect senior year” pre-graduation, which may be challenging to uphold when you can’t be on campus, or when you are separated from your friends. While we know the COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever, there might be anticipatory grief about both the loss of your normal life right now and unknowns of the future. This could look like anxiously focusing on the worst possible outcomes and having difficulty living in the present moment.
· You might also feel sad and overwhelmed about things you’ve had to change. Sometimes these emotions lead to periods of low mood, feeling a loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, reduced
motivation, and feeling isolated. It might be hard to feel hopeful about the future when there are many unknowns.
· Over the last few months the information about Coronavirus has rapidly changed, and information continues to evolve. This can be disorienting and confusing as recommendations change and you make decisions to keep or reschedule plans and travel. You might feel unsure about what your role is in enacting different precautionary measures of social distancing or about what to make of the statistics being reported in the media.
Stay informed - It’s important to find a balance between staying informed and protecting yourself from the overload of information in the news and media. It may be helpful to set up time limits to check the news (e.g., 1 hour a day) and find non-sensationalizing news sites that are reliable. It’s okay if these limits need to change- perhaps your initial time limit ends up leading to heightened anxiety and could be reduced. Additionally, try to avoid exposing yourself to news during the evening when your brain is winding down and you are preparing for bed.
Be attentive – Pay attention to your internal reactions during this time. As you bring increased awareness to your emotional and physical responses, you can get important information about what you need in order to cope with each feeling or sensation. For example, if you’re noticing your anxiety increasing, it’s important to note what happened right before the increase in anxiety (e.g., looking at the news). You then can decide what choices might decrease your anxiety, like reducing how much time you spend reading news. · Seattle U students can access the Sanvello mobile application for free which provides evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy approaches to address symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Routine - Establishing a supportive routine can help both your mind and body during periods of stress. This includes maintaining a consistent schedule for sleeping, eating, moving your body, and socializing. Sticking to a routine can help create a sense of normalcy and control.
Connect - Stay connected with your friends and family. Sharing your thoughts and concerns with loved ones can help relieve feelings of stress and isolation. You may be trying new, creative ways of fostering connection, like watching a movie together over Skype or FaceTime, having a joint study session, or having dinner while in a video or phone call. Try to widen the topics you’re discussing with your support systems rather than focusing all conversations on the virus. Visit the Center for Student Involvement’s Virtual Community Building to connect with fellow SU students.
Redefine – Significant plans might have been changed due to the virus outbreak. Recognizing and accepting that this will have an impact on you and your community is part of the process to help redefine what comes next. This could mean coming up with unique ways to celebrate with friends, staying connected, and starting to let go of previous plans.
Monitor social media - Examine your social media usage. It’s important to be mindful of the amount of social media that you’re consuming and what type of information is being shared on media platforms. Although social media can be in an invaluable way to connect with community, it can also lead to misinformation and increased exposure to the news. Be cautious about checking these sites before bed to help mitigate that risk.
Keep perspective – The coronavirus is a health concern that is being taken seriously by Seattle University and public health officials. It’s important to not let your worry about the virus take control of your life. Work on creating new routines and recognize what you can and can’t control.
Extending compassion - Extend compassion to yourself and your community. Remember that COVID-19 doesn’t recognize race, nationality, or ethnicity. Wearing a mask does not mean a person is ill. Disrupt stigma by sharing accurate information, and speak up if you hear, see, or read misinformation, witness or experience harassment or discrimination. Practicing compassion can also help you feel less alone in what you are experiencing. Consider trying a guided meditation to help increase your connection to our common humanity during this difficult time. · As always, you may report concerns of discrimination to the Office of Institutional Equity (206-296-2824; firstname.lastname@example.org).
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve. If you are interested in keeping up to date on research, prevention, and community impact information you might wish to explore the following resources:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many people's mental health. Here are some resources discussing the impact of COVID on mental health as well as coping and management suggestions.