Battling stress in the age of the coronavirus
By Kenna Caprio
Fairleigh Dickinson University is taking every precaution to keep all students (plus faculty and staff) healthy, safe and educated during the current coronavirus pandemic. And this includes taking mental health into account.
“Some stress and anxiety is normal and to be expected given the current national emergency and the change in our daily routines with remote learning and social distancing,” says Alice Mills, co-director of Student Counseling and Psychological Services at the Metropolitan Campus.
Here are some ways, from FDU counseling and psychology experts, to mitigate stress as we collectively navigate these uncertain times. Alone together, we’ve got this!
Breathing right can help lower blood pressure and clear your mind, says Charles Imbimbo, a psychological counselor at Student Counseling and Psychological Services on the Metropolitan Campus. In diaphragmatic breathing, as you inhale through the nose, the belly expands — as opposed to the chest — and as you exhale, it contracts. Imbimbo recommends 10-15 minutes of this type of breathing, once or twice a day to calm the nervous system. “Being present to the breath and letting go of thoughts helps an individual to be less anxious and more grounded in the present moment.”
“Some techniques can be implemented on the spot to try to restore the natural rhythm of stress and relaxation,” says Mills. Go for a walk, meditate or practice yoga, listen to music, write in a journal, read a book, take a shower or a bath or FaceTime with a trusted friend or family member. Remember: “Take care of yourself,” she says. She also recommends using a smartphone app called the Virtual Hope Box, which promotes self-care through relaxation techniques, inspirational quotes and engaging games. Virtual Hope Box is available through the Apple app store and Google Play.
“In our daily lives it’s important to recognize negative thought patterns and remind ourselves of the positive,” says Imbimbo. “We need to be patient with ourselves and nice to ourselves and extend that patience and acceptance to others.”
During this tense time of transition to a new but temporary normal, creating a schedule can also help alleviate feelings of helplessness and lack of control. Establish structure and routine to find balance during the day. Then, at night, decompress before bed to relax. Find more sleep tips in the Fall 2019 edition of FDU Magazine.
“Social support helps to buffer us from stress,” says Mills. “In this time of required social distancing, call, text or email. Share your problems and concerns. By having friends and family you can talk to, you are able to discuss problems, gain new perspectives, feel supported and/or get help.”
“Stress that remains stuck has the potential to manifest into irrational thoughts, body discomfort, uncomfortable emotions, or a lack of vision and direction. The flow of positive energy that exists within us is what provides balance in keeping the intensity of stress at bay,” says Stephanie Koempel, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the Florham Campus. “Reflecting upon what we are grateful for in times of stress is one of many ways to tap into our inner positive energy. Additional ways consist of connecting to nature, spending time with a cherished pet, and actively engaging in a meaningful activity that brings joy.”
Students who need help managing stress can contact Student Counseling and Psychological Services on the Metropolitan Campus at 201-692-2174. Leave a message and a staff member will return the call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Students can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Or they can reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services at the Florham Campus for support. Call 973-443-8504 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all coronavirus updates, and additional mental health resources, visit fdu.edu/coronavirus-update.