Navigating Your Mental Health During COVID‐19 Isolation or Quarantine

Maryland University of Integrative Health’s Counseling and Referral Services (CRS) is here to support you and your mental health as you navigate COVID‐19 isolation and/or quarantine through consultation and support, ongoing mental healthservices, and/or assistance with connecting to a provider in the community. To schedule an appointment please email or register on student portal to schedule a session through muihcounseling.secure-client-area.com/portal/. Please note we are unable to provide 24-hour crisis counseling. If you are experiencing an urgent mental health concern click here for a list of resources.

What is Happening?

In line with the social isolation effort to help flatten the COVID-19 curve, colleges and universities across the nation have closed their campuses and dormitories, forcing students to leave their campus community, friends, classes, and familiar routines. While many students may be happy to reconnect with family again, some have returned to abusive households, others to an empty fridge, and others to no home at all. Coursework was quickly transitioned to online for the remainder of the year. Much-anticipated culminating end of the year events, including commencement ceremonies, have been canceled. Many students have lost their on-campus or local jobs, and likewise, the job search has been severely disrupted. All the while, college students are experiencing these sudden and unexpected changes while physically separated from their familiar on-campus support systems.

Impact on Mental Health

It is well studied that college students are especially prone to feelings of loneliness, and they experience higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to the general population. During this period of social isolation, uncertainty and abrupt transitions, they are prone to further worsening of these feelings. Removal from their social support system and extracurricular activities at their school can cause students to feel less connected with their friends, organizations, and hobbies. In addition, they are facing uncertainty about their future, their own health, and the health of their friends and loved ones. The situation they are living through is stressful and anxiety provoking, as there is a constant fear of the unknown in addition to a loss of control, making them especially vulnerable to developing mental health concerns.

Recognizing Distress While in Quarantine or Isolation

  • Increased worry, fearfulness, or feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feelings of fatigue or exhaustion that persist and/or intensify
  • Inability to focus or concentrate that may be accompanied by decreased academic performance
  • A feeling of hopelessness and/or a paralyzing fear about the future
  • Sudden anger, sadness, irritability, or noticeable changes in personality
  • Sleep difficulties or change in appetite
  • Increased unhealthy coping behaviors (e.g., increased alcohol or drug use, engaging in impulsive behaviors)

Online Resources

  • In response to these challenging times, Best Colleges has been hard at work to keep students informed of the latest news in education and help students cope with the new realities of learning from home.
  • The NCCSD has resources about food insecurity and homelessness if you need them, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition has resources specifically about being homeless during the pandemic.
  • If you’re worried about how you’ll access your online classes without public hotspots, Comcastis offering free internet service to new customers who qualify as “low-income” for 60 days. They’re also providing unlimited data and higher internet speed to their customers during the pandemic. If you don’t fall within this qualification or aren’t within the Comcast service area, Charter Communications is also offering free internet service to households with K-12 or college students.
  • Adobe is providing free and discounted access to a number of different programs, including Acrobat, Talent, Portfolio, and Captivate. Whether you need to create a portfolio website, apply for a job, or collaborate with classmates, Adobecan help organize your work-from-home setup.
  • SoftMaker Officeis essentially a Microsoft Office alternative, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re offering free access to their entire suite to students of all ages. Plus, they’ve made it clear that this resource will be maintained throughout the length of the pandemic, so the offer may be extended if needed.
  • This Bible study streaming serviceis offering free access to a limited video library to support the spiritual development of those affected by the Coronavirus. You can also check with your church or school to see if they offer full access to the RightNow Media complete library.
  • Google Arts & Culture teamed up with over 2,500 museums around the world to offer thousands of virtual tours and online exhibits, including some from the Van Gogh Museum in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Use these resources to supplement your online classes and dig deeper into cultural history.
  • The American Psychological Associationhas numerous resources about COVID and stress, parenting, compassion fatigue, self-care, and post-COVID psychological effects.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1‐800‐273‐TALK) offers free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources.
  • The NCCSD Clearinghouse and Resource Library provides general information about the Coronavirus and COVID-19 in addition to resources for People with Disabilities
  • The JED Foundation created a list of mental health resources for students during the pandemic.
  • COVID-19: How to Stay Productive– We’re all cooped up at home right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be productive. Get tips on staying busy and getting stuff done now.
  • How to Stay Active During the Coronavirus Pandemic– Staying active might be one of the hardest parts of sheltering-in-place. Use these tips to get moving and feel better while you’re stuck at home. 
  • Quiz: Would You Survive a Zombie Attack on Campus? – Find out your fate with this silly quiz.
  • 4 Easy Networking Strategies for Online Students– Networking as an online student takes a little extra effort than if you were on campus. Here are some simple ways to start connecting with peers and professors.
  • The NCCSD has resources about food insecurity and homelessness if you need them
  • The National Low Income Housing Coalition has resources specifically about being homeless during the pandemic.
  • Ten Percent Happier, an app featuring guided meditations, has launched a Coronavirus Sanity Guide featuring meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks to help build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos.
  • How to Manage Your Stress for Better Health as a Student– Learning stress management strategies can greatly benefit your mental and physical health. Check out your options for dealing with this stressful situation here. 
  • Stuck in a Rut During COVID-19: A Student’s Perspective– The pandemic hasn’t been an easy time for anyone. Here are some encouraging words from a student like you to help you get out of a rut and stay productive.
  • Entertainment Picks to Help Pass the Time– We have the cure for your social distancing boredom. Check out this huge list of movie, TV, book, music, and podcast recommendations from CX users!
  • Studying While Financially Stressed During COVID-19 – How does that financial stress impact students’ studies, and what should educators know about these financial realities? On this podcast, two students facing these challenges share their experience as part of the series about how COVID-19 is impacting education.
  • Tips for Self-Care During COVID-19 – While it’s necessary to keep up-to-date and make changes to daily life in order to help control the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the constant news cycle coupled with social distancing measures can have a real impact on mental health. During times of change and uncertainty it is ever more important to incorporate self-care and structure into your schedule. And while your typical self-care routine may no longer be available, there are ways to stay healthy and remain connected. Every day take a moment (or more) to take care of yourself.
  • Income Benefits for College Students – Many students are dealing with emergency needs resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and the consequent economic downturn. The economic fallout from the crisis is likely to last months, if not years, and it is therefore crucial that students take action now to shore up their economic stability over the long term at the same time that they address emergent needs. The resources below may not offer immediate relief but are nonetheless crucial to put in place alongside emergency relief measures as quickly as possible.
  • Support for Immigrant Communities During COVID-19 – Resources for undocumented communities during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Topics covered include: Addressing Fear and Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks; Health Access & Guidance Regarding Covid-19; Connecting To Free/Low-Cost Resources; Legal Rights and Supports for Workers; Housing; and many more topics. The resource is being updated as more information becomes available. Available in Spanish & English.
  • How to Handle Coronavirus – Crisis Text Line information and resources for students on how to handle Coronavirus.
  • Community Connections in Times of Physical Separation – If you’re experiencing feelings of worry, irritability, or low mood right now, you’re not alone.
  • Love is Louder Action Center – Love is Louder Action Center to provide resources and tips for taking care of physical and mental health and supporting each other during this time of uncertainty.
  • 9 Strategies for Quarantining in a Non-LGBTQ+ Affirming Environment – With help from queer therapists and experts from The Trevor Project, here’s how to endure isolation with those who might not accept your identity.
  • Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety – Recenter during these uncertain times with a free short meditation.
  • Taking Care of Your Mental Health during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak – This information from Mount Holyoke College is intended to support students coping with COVID-19, especially students with loved ones in China.
  • Coronavirus Sanity Guide – These free resources from Ten Percent Happier include meditations, blog posts, podcasts and talks to help build resilience and calm anxieties.

Coping Strategies to Help You F.A.C.E.C.O.V.I.D:*

F.A.C.E.C.O.V.I.D. is an acronym that outlines practical steps that you can take as you navigate the challenges of self‐isolation/quarantine from COVID‐19, and the mental health difficulties that it may present. Taking these steps will assist you to cope with the uncertainty you are facing and build upon the resiliency you already hold as you embark on this process. These steps are not meant to replace meeting with a medical and/or mental health professional.

F=Focus on what you can control

‐Navigating these challenges can make you feel powerless. Focusing on what you can control is empowering. The alternative to uncontrollable worry is to focus on what actually is in your control, and we have control over what we do right here and now.

‐This might be focusing on sleep quality and nutrition, scheduling phone calls and virtual check‐ins with loved ones, writing outyourthoughtsin a daily journal, watchingtelevision or listening to music.

A=Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

‐The more we tell ourselves not to think or feel a certain way, the more we will feel and think that way!

‐It can be a powerful shift to choose to simply acknowledge whatever thoughts, feelings, physical sensations or urges arerisingup insideof you.

C=Connect with your body

‐Following your healthcare provider’s guidelines regarding physical activity comes first and foremost. The following activities are not meant to be a workout, instead connecting with your body is an opportunity to physically experience how these simple actions are things in your control. Mindful stretching and mindful bodyscans can help calm your system.

E=Expand and engage your senses

‐When we engage all of our senses, we can help shift our mind from worries to placing our full attention on the present moment—the only point in time where we have some control.

‐A helpful tool to shift your attention from your internal experience to your immediate surroundings is by engaging in what we call a “grounding technique.” See if you can notice: …5 different colors that you can see…4 things that you can physicallysense/touch …3 different sounds (not you) …2 things you can possibly smell…1 thing you can possibly taste. This simple 5‐4‐3‐2‐1 exercise helps to ground our body and experience in the current situation and helps to root us in the present moment where anxiety holds less power.

C=Connect with others

‐Though physically connecting with others is not possible at this time, it is all the more important to practice being intentional in connecting with others through technology.

‐We as humans are hard‐wired for connection. Identify 2‐3 people with whom you can connect at set times during the day.

O=Open up

‐Gently opening up to the difficult thoughts and feelings of worry, fear, anger, grief, guilt, loneliness, confusion…or whateverelse you might be noticing can provide a space for you to process the weight these emotions can carry.

‐Rely on the supports around you here at Northwestern and beyond with medical personnel, mental health professional(s), family, friends, and/or loved ones.

V=View yourself and others with compassion

‐Often times when we hear the word self‐compassion, we think it is the opposite of being strong and resilient, when in fact self‐compassion is a courageous act of vulnerability and kindness towards ourselves.

I=Identify your values

‐Values are the things that matter most to us. Values are not goals to accomplish or even ways that we want to feel. Instead, values describe the type of person we want to be and the direction we want to head in life.

‐What do you value? How do you want to treat yourself and others?

D=Do what matters

‐Remember action can be the antidote to anxiety. Take this time to experiment with new coping strategies, ways of thinking,and/or gettingconnectedwith additional supports.

 

*F.A.C.E.C.O.V.I.D. strategies and resources adapted in part from Russ Harris, M.D., www.actmindfully.com.au

Document adapted from Northwestern University CAPS