Stay informedbutlimit intake of news – While you need to stay informed on the coronavirus, overexposure simply makes one more anxious or can exasperate existing mental health issues. Encourage finding a healthy balance of news and social media that informs but doesn’t overwhelm.
Establish a new structure for your days — LIfe used to be structured by work, school, church, and other commitments, both chosen and unchosen. A scaffolding for living has to be re-established. Like starting a new job, begin to set your wake-up, “go to work,” “come home,” and bed times. You have a chance to be more creative with your schedule since you have more control over your time than ever before, but plan your days and weeks. What are your goals for these days? Really, what do you want to accomplish today, this week, this month? How can you set up a “buddy system” to help keep you on-course.
Take care of your body/mind/spirit – Attend to what helps your body/mind/spirit cope with stress. Increased stress is a normal experience in these days — accept it, but choose positive coping. Examples: Trying to eat healthy well-balad meals, exercise or move the body, get outside even for a few minutes, and get appropriate sleep. Avoid poor coping strategies, such as using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Rediscover old or find new hobbies. Consider contemplative forms of prayer, engage in various forms of online worship, devotionals, scripture reading, inspirational podcasts or informational blogs. Participate in streamed services from your local church/ATS Chapel. Think about online counseling and pastoral care — it’s happening all over.
Connect with others – Talk to family and friends, and don’t just text. Find new apps (i.e., Marco Polo) that let you actually talk to friends and family. Ask questions and share concerns. Let others know how you are feeling and be a good listener to family and friends. As social distancing allows, creatively find ways to take a meal together — even via Zoom. Play games with others via online video platforms. Distancing does not mean isolation. Isolation equals exasperation of anxious and depressive feelings. Consider telehealth and telemental health services, as necessary.
Serve others/Care for others — Find ways to “do” for others, live into relational values, as these help mitigate anxiety and depressive feelings. Call to deliver an encouraging message. Create a card or letter. Deliver foods or homemade snacks. Invite prayer requests and intercede for others. There are actually online “reciprocal resource exchange groups, called mutual aid societies, popping up, with community members lists of needs and posted offering. View this map to find a mutual aid society near you.
Engage in enjoyable activities — Reading, art, crafts, music, dance, conversation, woodwork, etc. Find ways to enjoy doing what you have done in the past, and increase usage as appropriate. Try new activities that you have not had time to consider. Sing, hum, or whistle, especially when you are alone. Take a drive or a walk. Exercise.
Stay engaged in academics — Even though the current situation might be very distracting for some, engaging in school work is a way to move toward a future goal. Keep up with homework and other class-related projects. Find ways to help others with their academic work. Start discussions and reading groups. Create online or small group forums on topics of interest. Most of all, remember your calling and why God has invited you to be in graduate school.
Look for financial helps — Soothing money concerns can be helpful, and more companies seem to want to be attentive to needs during these days. Look around and share news with others. For example, Spectrum and Comcast are offering free Internet connections to students for 60 days. That may not be helpful for those in Seminary housing in Wilmore, but for many other students, that can help stay connected with family and school. Another of those options for students to consider is free storage for those students who are facing temporary moves. U-Haul, as another example, is offering 30 days of free self-storage for students who have been impacted by unforeseen higher educational closures. Finally, there may be some students who are concerned about the expanding impact on their abilities to provide for themselves and their significant others. As the impact continues, students may find themselves unemployed, food- and home-insecure, and potentially at risk of losing their path toward finishing seminary. An article by the Hope Center provides information and resources to help students who are dealing with these issues.
Common signs of distress
Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear.
Changes in appetite, energy, and activity levels.
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems.
Anger or short-temper.
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.