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Mental and Emotional Self-Care during COVID-19

A Message from 'A Sound Mind'

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has been stressful for many people and communities. Fear about the spread of a novel virus can be overwhelming and cause various emotional responses.  Auburn University has been actively monitoring the evolving nature of COVID-19 and has implemented guidelines to ensure the safety of the campus environment.

This tip sheet describes feelings and thoughts you may have during and after social distancing and/or self-isolation. It also suggests ways to care for your Mental Health during these experiences and provides resources for more help. Further, it offers ways to reduce social stigma or discrimination of groups of people in relation to COVID-19.

What to Expect During This Time

Typical Reactions

Every person may experience their own unique reaction to a stressful situation such as the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, you may feel some combination of what is listed below.

People may feel:

  • Anxiety, worry, or fear related to your own health status.
  • Concern about effectively managing your life demands while choosing to isolate for your own safety and safety of others.
  • Concern about friends and family back home, if home is in an area heavily affected by COVID-19.
  • Stigmatized or singled-out, including if you are part of a group of people who may experience stigma related to COVID-19 (see Social Stigma section below).
  • Anger and frustration about having your movements in the world confined to one space.
  • Boredom and frustration because you may not be able to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities.
  • Uncertainty or ambivalence about the situation.

Not-as Typical Reactions (But Can Still Occur)

Some people have pre-existing emotional or psychological conditions that can be exacerbated by a high-stress event, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. This may include:

  • A desire to use unhealthful coping behaviors that interfere with normal sleeping, eating, and self-care behaviors such as excessive late nights, over-eating, and excessive use of substances.
  • Symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite, lethargy, isolation, or sleeping too little or too much
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as intrusive distressing memories, flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, changes in thoughts and mood, and being easily startled

What if I Have to Distance Myself From Others?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals are encouraged or even required in some cases to engage in social distancing. Especially, if it is possible that they may have come in contact with COVID-19.

Ways to Support Yourself During Social Distancing and/or Self-Isolation

Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing and isolation. You can use the telephone, email, text messaging, and social media to connect with friends, family, and others

  • Stick to a scheduled sleep routine (see the Sleep Page on A Sound Mind website)
  • Eat healthy and avoid excessive use of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances
  • Infuse some variety into daily activities
  • Read (books, magazines, blogs, etc.)
  • Do homework: stay connected with professors by email and keep up with classwork
  • Time spent in meditation or just taking deep breaths and stretching
  • Journal about your experience during this time
  • Monitor time spent on social media
  • Engage in or develop a hobby: try something new you have never tried before!

Expect that this may be challenging at times and it is normal to feel a variety of emotions.  Be sure to talk about how you are feeling with others.  “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) is a normal thing to feel; use social media sparingly if you start feeling this way and turn your attention to things you enjoy. Have actual conversations with others if you feel lonely.

Calm is providing free meditations during this time, this may be a great resources to maintain emotional health.

How to Support Someone who is Social Distancing

If a friend or family member is engaged in social distancing, here are some tips in staying connected with them:

  • Remain in some kind of daily virtual contact (video chat, text, call).
  • Ask about how someone is doing and normalize feelings of anger, frustration, worry.
  • Don’t try to fix these feelings while also reminding them that you care about them and that this will pass.
  • Remind them to engage in healthy routines such as regular sleep patterns, eating. healthy, and adding variety to their daily activities.
  • Utilize websites: Soul Pancake , Happify.
  • For more information visit the our ‘Helping a Friend’ page

What to Expect after Time Spent in Self-Isolation

It can be normal to feel singled-out and worried about how others may view you when returning from a social distancing period.  Here are tips on how to address this:

  • Talk to others about your experience and how you are feeling
  • Re-engage in your daily routine: go to class, exercise, study, reconnect with others, etc…
  • Seek help if you feel distressed, anxious, depressed, and/or are having difficulty sleeping

Stopping Social Stigma

Auburn University is committed to fostering an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion. While the spread of disease may cause fear and uncertainty, we reject discrimination and any speech or action that would be biased toward any member of our campus community.

It is wrong to assume that because of someone’s perceived country or region of origin they have come in contact with or have contracted the new coronavirus. If you or someone you know has experienced harassment based on discrimination, contact The Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) at 334-844-4794.

Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma.

For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. Stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others.

It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.

Some groups of people who may be experiencing stigma because of COVID-19 include:

  • Persons of Asian descent
  • People who have traveled
  • Emergency responders or healthcare professionals

Stigmatized groups may be subjected to:

  • Social avoidance or rejection
  • Denials of healthcare, education, housing or employment
  • Physical violence.

Stigma affects the emotional or mental health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in. Stopping stigma is important to making communities and community members resilient. Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts and sharing them with others in your community.

If you need further assistance, please call SCPS at 334-844-5123 for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For current information on Auburn University’s response to COVID-19, please click here.

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Last modified: 03/18/2020