October 19, 2020

How to cope during COVID-19

Most people have been sent home to isolate to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This means schools are online and people can only leave for essentials or work.

“Right now the situation is not in [any]one’s control and no one really knows when the pandemic will end,” Andrea Marcolla said.

Marcolla is an instructor and counselor at NCC, as well as a licensed social worker. She has been a counselor for 3.5 years and in the social work field for 10 years.

 “Not being in control can feel scary and may be anxiety-provoking.  In a way what we are experiencing is an interconnected global trauma. Not only is there the trauma of COVID-19 itself but also residual stressors such as unemployment, financial limitations, adjustment, grief, homelessness, educational disruptions, etc.,” Marcolla said.

For those who are trauma survivors, Marcolla noted this pandemic “can be triggering because it could replicate a sense of chaos and dysfunction” they’ve experienced from previous trauma.

“I do suspect some individuals may experience mental health disorders and/or relapse in their mental health recovery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, mental health and medical professionals are at risk to experience post-secondary trauma due to working the frontlines of this pandemic.”

One of the reasons toilet paper, hand sanitizers, and water have been hoarded is the fear of losing control. “Not being in control can feel scary, confusing and may be anxiety-provoking,” Marcolla said. This is a way individuals cope in an attempt to have control over the situations.  This is a way to feel comfort and relief with the knowledge they were prepared.

“When overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty, the fight or flight trauma response system is activated in the brain and body. Without healthy means to self-regulate the nervous system, people may react irrationally to manage their fears,” Marcolla said.

Everyone needs time to react and feel their feelings in a safe manner, said Marcolla. Many emotions may come during the time, i.e, sad, confused, anxious, disappointed, and frustrations.

She recommends checking in with friends and family. Discussing honestly and openly about one’s feelings to create a space to grieve ‘the way things were’ and adjust to the new normal.  

Remember that with practice and self-care we can control how we choose to respond to the pandemic. Is there a way we can reframe the unfolding situation into some sort of positive? I am not encouraging anyone to ignore the reality of what is happening, but it is important to find positives in some of the negatives portrayed by the media,” Marcolla said.

Marcolla gave examples of seeing social distancing as a way to practice care for others to save humanity instead of as forced isolation, such as how being home offers more time for self-care and connection with the people we live with. She also brought up how pollution had gone down and the air became clear because people are staying home.

“People are reaching out to help others. The world has essentially slowed down, and people are practicing mindfulness and gratitude,” Marcolla said.

Marcolla said students can practice self-care by “returning to the basics and find some things one can do at home.” Exercising, listening to music, playing games, starting a new hobby, reading, watching movies, journaling, and organizing/decorating living space were ideas that Marcolla recommended for students to help occupy themselves and avoid boredom.

“While we have the opportunity, take a hike, ride a bike, sit outside, garden, take pictures outside, etc.,” Marcolla said.

Additionally, NCC Counseling Services have put a list together with helpful links and resources to encourage self-care. (Link will be at the bottom of the article)

Students can reach counselors if they are unable to cope or need someone to reach out by phone and email. NCC staff and faculty are here to support students and will have their support services available online. That includes the library, advising, and the learning center. Students should remember to take breaks from technology throughout the day and find a quiet space to complete work.

“This is a period of adjustment that no one anticipated, and it is most important that our students feel supported during this transition.”

It may be difficult for students and family members to be home and with each other 24/7 rather than having a space where people are able to get some space. Marcolla recommends setting boundaries with technology and loved ones. “Remind your family/friends/roommates although you are home and accessible, you still need time to complete your schoolwork.” Students can go into solitude to be in tune with their emotions and reflect on the situation. She also says to limit social media as well as reading/watching the news to reduce negative feelings.

“This is an unprecedented time that no one expected and some of our feelings about the COVID-19 situation may come out towards one another. It is OK to have days that you do not feel 100% on, allow the opportunity for others to feel off too. Remember we are all doing our best to cope with the unchartered territory before us,” Marcolla said.

Sharing responsibilities, creating structure, communicating, taking breaks for fun, practicing daily reminders and being gentle with oneself and those they are with will go a long way towards helping mental health during these times.

One of Marcolla’s last piece of advice was for people to create a support network of friends and family to express thoughts and feelings openly via phone, text, zoom, facetime, etc.

“Identify safe coping skills such as yoga, home exercise, painting, journaling, listening to music to manage overwhelming feelings. If your thoughts and feelings become too overwhelming and/or distressing related to COVID-19, schedule a session with one of our counselors and/or contact your local county mental health resource office to find a therapist in your local community.”

 Community and national resources are listed on NCC’s Counseling Services website. 

If you begin to feel unsafe and are experiencing suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts contact: 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24-hour) 1-800-273-8255 or

Crisis Text Line (24-hour) Text “PA” to 741741

https://www.northampton.edu/student-services/counseling-services.htm

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