As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rise and remains in headlines, physical health concerns are not the only thing in question.
Mental health concerns are rising as many suffer from depression and anxiety.
A change within an individual’s typical day to day routine has dramatically come to a halt with a nationwide stay at home order to combat the novel coronavirus.
To understand the idea behind anxiety and depression, Dr. John Otzenberger, mental health service director for the LSU Student Health Center, established working definitions for a general understanding.
The word “depression” stems from the root word “press." People that are depressed often report feelings of sadness, being numb, alone or not having any emotions at all. That feeling of being “pressed” is where they feel the weight of the world pressing down on their shoulders.
People that suffer from anxiety hold the mental capacity of living in the future. The futuristic time frame can be a few minutes from now or a long-time span from now.
Distance learning for students, being isolated and the COVID-19 pandemic has placed all Americans in a place of uncertainty. Individuals with anxiety are feeling overwhelmed and fragile as they are unsure of an end and what it’s like for people.
“I’d say that what we are seeing is an increase in general stress. I think the longer we go through this, and the longer we’re not able to sort of have that very cohesive sense of connection and community cause it feels like community has been pulled apart,” Dr. Otzenberger expressed.
A transition to online classes has also impacted a student’s daily routine, and an enormous amount of stress has been added into their life.
It is essential to communicate with fellow peers to maintain an aspect of normalcy, and also lookout for symptoms of stress that fellow individuals may be experiencing. Symptoms of stress include:
· Not sleeping or sleeping too much due to a change in schedule (staying up later to do homework assignments and sleeping in later during the day).
· Changes in appetite; eating too much or not eating enough.
· Increased muscle tension and headaches by sitting through Zoom meetings all day.
· Becoming irritable, frustrated, angry and impatient.
· Uncontrollable crying; not sure where it’s coming from.
Increased stress can lead to an inability to make decisions and lead to panic attacks. This is where students are experiencing an increased sense of anxiety and depression.
As students move forward with distance learning, it is important for students to practice self-care by getting proper sleep, eating healthy, getting exercise and sunlight and avoiding alcohol and drugs because substance abuse will only numb the pain and lead to a worsened rebound effect following. It is also important for students to maintain a routine similar to the routine a person had before the pandemic.
“As human beings, we all strive to be a part of community, and you think about the LSU community. All of the wonderful things that we have within this community on campus and now all of the sudden we’re sort of scattered,” Dr. Otzenberger said.
Find chunks of time throughout the day to focus on one thing for a short period to allow one's brain to retain that information entirely. Dr. Otzenberger explains that the chunking technique allows for a person to take in small bits of information at any given time. Chunking helps with preparing for an exam or paper, and it helps avoid stress.
As students continue to focus on their class material, added stress surrounding issues with their families and trying to keep themselves safe adds onto their mental stability. The actions of others have had positive and negative effects on those around them. Those who have been careless during these times have heightened the anxiety and uncertainty for many.
A recent graduate from Georgia State University, Ashton Husbands expresses, “I am enduring my own battles mentally with quarantine at home life, and I have a mother who works at a hospital. Even before I knew the personal impacts the virus would have on my family and I, I still did my part because my actions can harm someone else.”
COVID-19 has put individuals up to an ultimate test. How people choose to interact with others and practice social distancing affects others. This is a time for people to not only care for themselves but others as well.
“We’re not able to see our friends, we’re not able to go to sporting events, we’re not able to see our favorite professors in that way, face to face. So, it has increased the overall stress of our students,” says Dr. Otzenberger.
Find a way to connect with people. Call, Facetime, Zoom, and interact through social media with friends and friends. Checking on friends may open up conversations of mutual feelings, make one feel good about themselves and remain connected in the community emotionally.