The coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of changes and questions about the future, but people still have the ability to seek care for their mental health.
Alfredo Palacios, a national certified counselor and licensed professional counselor at Auburn Psychological Wellness Center, said there’s some universal tips on keeping calm, but ultimately, it’s an individualized experience.
Everyone is experiencing the pandemic a different way, and because of that it’s important for each person to consider their situation and what works for them, Palacios said. He wants people to understand it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, scared and stressed.
“The things we once found to be constant in our lives are now very much uncertain,” he said.
Palacios said this sudden shift in people’s lives is difficult. It’s important to be understanding and kind to themselves about not being able to adjust as fast as they hoped.
“When we set our expectations on what this should be like, it’s always good to fudge a little patience for yourself,” he said.
Something else Palacios said was important is that people continue to check in with their emotions throughout this time.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
“Perhaps this is less of a matter of talking ourselves out of our stress and more of a matter of recognizing how to really sit with our stress in a healthy way,” he said.
According to Nadia Bhuiyan, an assistant clinical faculty member at Auburn University Student Counseling & Psychological Services, we can also pay attention to physical reactions that can of stress-related symptoms like headaches, rashes, stomach and muscle pain.
“Stress can also manifest as difficulties with concentration, increased irritability, anger and frustration, and worsening of ongoing health problems,” Bhuiyan said.
Bhuiyan said it helps to keep in mind that individuals cannot control everything, but they can control how they react.
“When you find yourself frustrated by things you cannot control, give yourself an opportunity to step away, take a deep breath and take a break to engage in an enjoyable activity,” she said.
With adjusting to the changes the pandemic might bring, Bhuiyan said finding a new routine helps especially if elements from a past routine can be implemented.
Palacios said as well as taking care of our mental health, taking care of physical health is equally important. Eat right, hydrate and stay in motion, he said.
Staying in motion doesn’t have to be an exercise workout, Palacios said. It can just be chores around the house.
"Our bodies and our mind both hold stress," he said.
Another thing to keep in mind is how people are filtering their thoughts, he said. Humans want to make meaning out of situations, and finding that meaning can be positive or negative depending on how we choose to view it.
“Hope isn’t something we have to necessarily wait to find us, but more of a thing we have to actively work to create,” he said.
Building hope is difficult, especially when there’s not a lot of hope being talked about around us. Because of this, he said it can be helpful to distance ourselves from the media coverage and try to find a balance between staying informed and not creating an obsession.
“I think when we look for hope, it’s looking for what are the things that are going well for us right now,” Palacios said.
Palacios said the increase of social distancing also has a play with our mental health. Phone calls and services like Facetime or Skype can be useful to keep connections going. Social interaction can still happen if effort is put in to stay connected, he said. It’s also ok to ask for help whether that’s with loved ones or counseling services.
“Sometimes just sitting and talking to somebody, having your narrative heard, honored and seen is what we need to just reconnect with what we can do at a time like this,” he said.
Auburn Psychological Wellness Center is offering telehealth, a remote option of counseling. Students can call the Auburn University Student Counseling & Psychological Services crisis hotline at 334-844-5123, which is available 24/7.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman