By Douglas M. Campbell
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to cast a shadow over the world and the midterm season approaching for students, it is easy to become entangled in feelings of stress or anxiety.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2021 the average of adults who have reported symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder is at 41%, which is a 29.1% increase from 2019.
Dr. Victoria Kress, a professor of psychological sciences and counseling, feels this increase in anxiety and depressive disorder is caused by a variety of reasons.
“We want to believe that we have a sense of control for our lives and our situations, and I think this pandemic, on an existential level, has really highlighted that we all have so little control over our day-to-day life experiences,” Kress said.
She said the feeling affects everyone in personal ways, which comes from a practical place in life where people question their future while also living day-to-day with a sense of permanency.
“I think with the pandemic, it really immobilized us because we are realizing we don’t have a lot of control over what happens in the future and the pandemic made it very, very difficult to plan and even think about the future,” Kress said.
Feeding into our social side by finding time to connect with friends and loved ones digitally is a way to alleviate stress, according to Kress. She also recommends creating a set schedule with wellness activities and strategies planned throughout the day.
“For me, for example, I work a lot and it’s just so easy for me to spend 12 hours a day in front of my computer working all day, but I have to go, ‘No, at 1 o’clock I’m going to go exercise or do yoga,’ or whatever,” Kress said.
Throughout the month of February, the Andrews Student Wellness and Recreation Center on campus offered virtual yoga and spin sessions for students to help their basic self-care needs and physical and mental health.
Carrie Clyde, wellness coordinator at the office of Human Resources, said it is important not to lose sight of the basic things we need to do every day to take care of ourselves.
“These are the foundations of good health, and it’s really important to keep in mind and keep people aware of doing those things. Not just the physical attributes but also the mental, social-emotional pieces that fit within that,” Clyde said.
Frances Clause, a first-year graduate student in clinical mental health counseling, copes with stress during the pandemic by winding down and playing music and video games, journaling and watching videos.
“A lot of people still think that even when you relax you still have to be doing something as well. I feel that as a society we think we have to be productive at every second and that also includes our relaxation … it’s okay to sit down and do nothing,” Clause said.
Clause created an Instagram page last year called “Coping With Fran,” where she shares with her followers her experiences with mental illness.
“It’s all such a different experience for anyone. So many people can have anxiety and each of those people individually are so different. So, my thing was mostly to explain my own experiences just so other people can know, ‘Oh, this is what it’s like with her,’” Clause said.
Ryan Lalchand, a junior computer science major, copes with pandemic stress by completing to-do lists and organizing his schedule on the calendar, an organizational skill that he learned from his girlfriend.
“It helps me clear my mind and distract from the pandemic and my workload. Chunking my time is honestly the only way I’m able to keep up with deadlines and commitments,” Lalchand said.
The most important advice Kress offers her clients and students is to reach out for help if they need it and talk about the feelings they may have during the pandemic. She recommends utilizing the free counseling services available at community counseling on campus and from university counseling services.