University of Wisconsin-Platteville has been adapting and making precautionary changes to campus in the midst of COVID-19. During this unprecedented and uncertain time taking care of your mental health is very important, according to Assistant Director of University Counseling Services Teresa Miller.
“On the counseling services website we have been gathering and adding resources for coping with COVID-19,” she said. “We are constantly adding content, articles, videos and other resource pages. These are evidence-based support to help manage stress.”
As UW-Platteville students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members adjust to this pandemic, Miller offers advice to help those experiencing unsettling feelings.
What recommendations do you have for our community as they continue to social distance from one another?
Physical distancing is what we are doing to stop the virus, but in the midst of this it’s more important to maintain our social connections and support each other.
It’s a stressful time across our state, nation and world. How can people take care of themselves and support each other during this unknown time of Covid-19?
During this unprecedented crisis, there are a lot people feeling worried about getting sick, the uncertainty of how long this will all last, possibly the financial stress or worrying about their livelihood, and also the dramatic changes in their daily routine.
It’s expected and almost normal to have your mood feel affected, to feel anxious and even lose sleep. This is a critically stressful time. From our office of counseling we want to remind everyone to be extra vigilant about taking care of ourselves. It means getting good sleep, keeping to a similar routine. We also recommend, if you can, go outside for a walk or some type of physical activity.
It’s important to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Schedule some time in the day to focus not only on the stress and challenges of this situation, but on the things that are also going right at this time, what you’re learning and can accomplish.
If a student would like to contact the university counseling services, how should they go about that process?
The most direct way to get ahold of our office right now is by calling the front desk phone number 608-342-1891. You will be able to leave a message and a counselor will respond. They are also welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is it important for those who may suffer from anxiety, depression or a preexisting mental health condition to reach out to a counseling service or their health care provider?
If you are already taking care of your mental health right now it’s important to keep that support going. It’s a challenging time for all of us to know how to adapt. Using counseling services offer new opportunities to cope. Reach out and know it’s okay to talk about these things; to get some reassurance, perspective and calming guidance.
What are some examples of ways for people to cope?
There are a lot of different ways for people to cope. Some people are finding it’s really helpful to discover a hobby or an activity to do in the meantime, something they can do to distract themselves. Maybe crafting or building something so they can see the results right before their eyes.
Meditation and yoga are another way to cope and can be very grounding practices. It helps to focus on how our body is dealing with stress and bring our breathing back to a slow calm state. Do some stretching in between meetings and zoom calls. Making time for five or 10 minutes of stretching and focused breathing to really help bring the mind back away from all thoughts it’s running to and back to the current moment.
If people have noticed behavior or emotional changes in their friends and family since the pandemic, what should they do?
I think a lot of people are worried about their friends and family. Even though you may not be able to be with them in person right now, make sure you are connecting with them in other ways including video chat, texting and phone calls.
There have been some dreary and rainy spring days across Wisconsin. What role does weather play when it comes to feeling trapped, fearful and anxious about the virus?
Some people like the cozy, wrapped up on the couch on a rainy day feeling and for other people it can leave them feeling trapped or almost stuck inside. Some of the messaging I have really found is to remind people they are safe inside right now. As long as you are taking precautions and following them, you are doing your part even if it feels like you are not doing a lot; you’re doing all you can by staying inside and flattening the curve.
The weather can definitely both help and hinder our mood. One great thing to remember is to be mindful and accept our emotions as they come up and not judge them. If it’s a day where it’s dreary and someone is feeling down, acknowledge that feeling, sit with it for a moment and then try to find an activity. Find maybe a journal to write out how you’re feeling. Don’t avoid processing the feeling; feel it and by feeling it you will get through it.
Eventually things will start getting back to normal. What advice do you have for those who may still be fearful and not see the light at the end of the tunnel?
This is really important because for all of us this is an undetermined timeline. It’s natural when we have something that’s uncertain to want to problem solve and get it resolved. Now is a time to remember what opportunities you have to feel some sense of control. Are you doing everything to take care of yourself as an individual? Are you making sure you are investing in the goals you have for yourself?
If you could give Pioneers one tip to help them during this outbreak what would it be?
To remind people to stay connected through others. It can be really hard to feel cut off from friends, classmates and everything we have on campus. Practicing our emotional self-care, making sure you’re taking the time to catch up with an old friend, or someone you have fallen out of touch with. Think of the things maybe you have put off, and realize every one of us now is kind of reinvesting in our social network. What are those new ways we are going to stay connected?
It’s okay to reach out and check on anyone – your neighbor, friends, classmate or someone you might not have talked to in a while.
For more information visit, www.uwplatt.edu/department/counseling-services.