Your Mental Health and COVID-19
Student Wellness Services wants to extend our support and commitment to the Caltech community as we navigate this difficult time in which so many individuals and communities are being impacted by COVID-19. Students may have a variety of reactions including (but not limited to) fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, isolation, uncertainty, and depression. While there are several ways our community continues to respond, we hope to highlight some strategies for coping during this difficult time.
Tips to Resolve Awkward COVID Conversations
School has started, and navigating the new landscape of remote learning and social distancing can be confusing. We also realize conversations around COVID can get awkward. Our Wellness staff members, Nari, Denise and Jane, have put together some tips, observations, and a role play demonstration for how to start some of these talks with friends and peers.
Wellness Check-In: Expectations vs. Reality
Join Alice, Denise, Lee, and Nari in a casual conversation about their personal experiences post-COVID-19. Personal wellness tips included!
Caltech Student Wellness acknowledges the impact that COVID-19 may have on mental health. During this time, we encourage the Caltech community to follow the CDC's recommendations, including:
Knowing common symptoms of stress during an infectious disease outbreak, including:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Take the following steps to cope with a disaster:
- Take care of your body - Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Connect with others - Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks - Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed - When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news - Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
- Seek help when needed - If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, contact Counseling Services at (626) 395-8331 for graduate or undergraduate students, or the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center at (626) 395-8360 for faculty, staff, or postdocs.
For Caltech community members who may be dealing with isolation or quarantine:
For Caltech community members dealing with isolation or quarantine, we recommend following the guidelines from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
For people who have been released from quarantine:
Being separated from others if a healthcare provider thinks you may have been exposed to COVID-19 can be stressful, even if you do not get sick. Everyone feels differently after coming out of quarantine. Some feelings include:
- Mixed emotions, including relief after quarantine
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Stress from the experience of monitoring yourself or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
- Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from contact with you, even though you have been determined not to be contagious
- Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or caregiving duties during quarantine
- Other emotional or mental health changes
New reports about COVID-19 are becoming more widespread and are making some people anxious. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety, put news reports in perspective, and maintain a positive outlook.
Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms. Work is being done to help people who may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions. As coverage increases, it's important to take the necessary precautions to keep your family and loved ones healthy.
Get the facts. It is helpful to adopt a more analytical approach as you follow news reports about the coronavirus. You will also want to verify information that you receive from family, friends, or social media. You may also find useful, reputable information from local or state public health agencies or even your family physician.
Keep connected. Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. You can maintain these connections without increasing your risk of getting the virus by talking on the phone, texting, or chatting with people on social media platforms. Feel free to share useful information you find on government websites with your friends and family. It will help them deal with their own anxiety.
Seek additional help. Individuals who feel an overwhelming nervousness, a lingering sadness, or other prolonged reactions that adversely affect their job performance or interpersonal relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people deal with extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals to help them find constructive ways to manage adversity.
We acknowledge that the outbreak of COVID-19 has generated xenophobic and racist biases against international populations and individuals domestically of Asian descent. We also acknowledge the impact on communities of lower income, those without healthcare access, and people in detention centers or incarcerated.
We encourage our Caltech community to be aware of the fear this infectious illness may generate in ourselves, check and challenge biases for ourselves and within our social networks, and promote inclusion by considering the impact of our actions on others. For example, do not assume that a person wearing a face mask is infectious, or that they should be avoided. We know that it is a social norm in many countries to wear a face mask during cold and flu season. We encourage our community to practice empathy and compassion for each other- keeping in mind people most impacted and at risk, and helping each other follow CDC guidelines for reducing risk of infection.
- For Caltech community members dealing with isolation or quarantine, we recommend following the guidelines from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- CDC Managing Stress & Anxiety
- SilverCloud Health - It's natural to feel stress and worry as you go about adapting your life and routines to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our commitment to our students' whole health, we're working with SilverCloud, a clinically proven online platform, to offer programs that build resilience and give you the skills to manage stress and sleep issues. Based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness and positive psychology, these action-oriented programs build self-awareness and self-management skills for your emotional health. Visit Caltech.silvercloudhealth.com/signup/ to get started.
- Psychology Tools - Free Guide To Living With Worry And Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty
- Care For Your Coronavirus Anxiety
- The Wellness Society
- New York Times: Five-Minute Coronavirus Stress Resets
- Visit Caltech's Coronavirus page for the latest campus updates
- Contact Caltech with additional questions or concerns