There are many unsettling transitions happening in such a short period of time, and I want to reiterate to you that putting your health and safety and that of our greater community is the university’s highest priority. What we are all seeing unfold regarding COVID-19, along with the resulting university decisions, may result in feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, fear and many others. Worrying about a potential risk to your health and safety or that of your loved ones is normal and common. Your fear and anxiety are valid—these times can feel scary and uncertain. It is a reminder of our interconnectedness and a reminder to take better care of each other and to check in with our own mental health.
If you are feeling anxious about COVID-19, here are a few recommendations for how to manage stress in uncertain times.
- Create structure and routine where you can—so much is out of your control right now. If you can, try establishing the following:
- Establish a daily & weekly routine for yourself
- Set a schedule and daily goals
- Keep up on personal hygiene and get dressed as you normally would
- Engage in healthy habits – definitely continue to wash your hands and also continue to take care of your health by:
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
- Eating well
- Making time for movement (walk outside, check out free yoga or exercise videos on YouTube)
- Avoid unhealthy coping strategies—as tempting as they may be, overuse of the following won’t help cope with big emotions:
- Alcohol and other drugs
- Junk food
- Sleeping all day
- Compulsive spending
- Focus on what you can influence—so much can feel out of your control right now. What can you influence?
- Washing your hands
- The amount of news media you consume
- Taking full, deep breaths periodically
- Make a list of what else is in your power and focus on those
- Find things to do that nurture your mind and spirit. Ted Talks, books that inspire you and journaling activities. Make time for tasks that allow for hope and future planning even if it is uncertain when some things may happen. Engage with life around you with intentionality and being present.
- Unplug—limit the amount of time you devote to stressful news coverage:
- Set a time, and give yourself that amount of time once or twice a day
- When you do pay attention to news, make sure you are consulting reputable sources with solid medical and public health backing. We would suggest the university’s COVID- 19 information website and the Centers for Disease Control website as useful resources. (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).
- Connect with your support system—reach out to folks who support and energize you
- Be open about how you’re feeling and hold this space for others as well
- Find ways to positively support one another
- Schedule regular video chats or phone calls to check in
- Tap into this moment—being mindful won’t make your anxiety go away, but it can change your relationship to it
- Consider utilizing a mindfulness app
- Consider joining a virtual guided mindfulness meditation through Instagram Live (@WashU_Habif) on Mondays at 4:00 PM (CST)
If you are utilizing the strategies above and find that your anxiety is difficult to manage, or if you are even wondering if you should reach out for help, you should. Seeking help is not always our first impulse. By the time this occurs to you, it is time to ask. Please see some of those counseling and support resources below.
Take good care and let us know what we can do to help. We care about you.
M. Kirk Dougher, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Support and Wellness å University in St. Louis