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Coping with COVID-19: Tips for Dealing with Uncertainty & Anxiety    

March 20, 2020


Tips and advice for TAMUG students, faculty and staff dealing with COVID-19 and coronavirus-related stress, anxiety and other emotions.

By Andréa Bolt, Content Manager, Division of Marketing & Communications

The combination of stress, fatigue and uncertainty during these trying times can do a number on the human psyche. Texas A&M University at Galveston Director of Counseling Services Daisey McCloud knows this on a personal level.

“I’m a Baby Boomer and this online learning stuff, I’m uncomfortable, but gradually exposing myself to what I’m afraid of or what’s worrying me is how I’m going to get used to it,” she said.

McCloud has done a deep research dive on trauma and crisis and based on her readings; practicing tolerating uncertainty is what will aid people of all ages as we navigate these troubling times.

She advocates gradually recognizing and facing our particular uncertainties and the feelings attached to them every day.

“For me, I’m the caretaker of my family and when I feel need to call my elderly mother, check on my siblings or children because I want an answer, I’m practicing trying to pause that need for immediacy and instant gratification, that certainty-seeking behavior,” McCloud explained.

Furthermore, now we are being instructed to self-isolate and practice social distancing, behaviors McCloud says are the opposite of what the counseling office recommends in normal circumstances.

“We normally see some students isolating themselves and being on social media all the time, where there’s no healthy balance of engagement in their lives, and now we’re asking people to specifically be this way. It’s a lot to balance,” she acknowledges.

Most of the time, McCloud says this behavior is a side effect of depression, anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – all of which she says are currently on the rise across college campuses.

“This crisis we’re facing now will give way to that happening and have people feeling more overwhelmed, and that’s everyone – students, faculty and staff, too.”

But what comes after recognizing these situations and feelings?

Self-Care

McCloud says the importance of self-care cannot be overstated during “normal” day-to-day life, but most especially during times of extreme stress or crisis.

Recognizing the sources of our anxiety, worry and fatigue is crucial. McCloud says constantly engaging with social media, the barrage of negative news and reliance on digital technology can be fatiguing in emotional and physical ways.

“We have to allow ourselves to feel and experience that fatigue and be okay. Listen to your body. You might be exhausted. Maybe your eyes hurt from staring at screens or you have a stress headache. But allow your body to actually feel and experience things,” she advises. “Tell people you’re going to turn your phone off for an hour, close the computer for a while. Shut things down and feel what you feel.”

From there, McCloud says to confide in a trusted friend, partner, counselor, therapist or a religious leader about your feelings. If you don’t feel comfortable with doing that quite yet or are limited in who you can contact, write your feelings down.

Once you make peace with or acknowledge these feelings, McCloud says you will arrive to a place of vulnerability and humanity. Next, she instructs to think about self-care and how to address your headache or fatigue.

“What’s your go-to thing? Is it music, a walk, exercise, meditation, drawing, reading, etc.? You need to incorporate that into your daily routine and be intentional about listening to your body.”

McCloud recommends the following mobile apps to help promote self-care techniques:

  • Sanvello for Stress & Anxiety – McCloud say this self-help app helps to manage stress, anxiety, depression and allows you to schedule your mindfulness time based on your behavior profile via questions it asks you. She also likes that it can send messages to help gauge your feelings during certain times throughout the day.
  • Calm – This app is great for meditation and breathing exercises, McCloud says.
  • Happy Color™ – Color by Number – McCloud says this coloring app encourages mindfulness and self-soothing.

When you plan your self-care time, McCloud says you should also similarly schedule your worry time.

“Actually put it on your calendar or planner and schedule your worry. Worry on purpose, then after that, you’re done. You can’t worry again until that time comes.”

McCloud references the book “Great House of God” by Max Lucado as having many helpful tips, especially one about picturing a mental house. 

“We all have a house, but they all look different. Your house has different rooms than mine, but you might have an attic, basement, closet, etc. All of us own this house but there are certain rooms we’re uncomfortable with or not ready to enter yet,” she says. “So we take our time and when we’re ready, go we go into those rooms. Spend five minutes in your attic. Open the door to your basement. Add in increments the things you worry about or fear the most, a little bit at a time.”

She says this exercise puts the person experiencing the stress in control because it’s up to them when they enter that room, how much they spend there, and when they decide to tackle the thing they fear.

It’s also easier to conquer these fears in increments and then to be sure to celebrate your successes, both small and large.

Grief & Loss

McCloud says anxiety and uncertainty are not the only emotions people may experience.

“When we suffer grief or loss, these same emotions apply to events like graduation or even summer cruise,” she said. “A temporary loss of not having that, something someone has worked hard for and now experiencing an uncertainty about that event is difficult. Loss of an expected hope or desire can equate to a loss of hope.”

For some students, their TAMUG community is their only family or the only one they know. This loss of community as a result of social distancing is legitimate. McCloud said even staff and faculty can experience this same sense of loss as many people rely on work as an escape from home or family life and rely on their work friends and families in social ways.

Moving Forward

It takes an immense amount of pressure to form a diamond. Similarly, stress can actually result in positivity, says McCloud.

“It may seem paradoxical, but feeling overwhelmed or stressed can drive people to be creative and to discover new ways to solve problems. John Legend just played a virtual concert so people could enjoy it, a fitness trainer in Spain went out on a rooftop so the whole neighborhood could see him and led people in an workout,” said McCloud.

One of the things that helps most with fatigue is passion.

McCloud believes heavily in playing to your strengths and focusing on overcoming obstacles based on your personal strengths and passions.

“We are most resilient when we’re operating out of our strengths. If you love drawing or playing piano or counseling, you can tap into that strength and not get tired. These things help you in times of great stress or difficulty. Go back to what you know and where you shine, then go forward from there.”

She stresses that in the event these coping mechanisms are not enough or if you still experience an undue amount of stress leading you in an unhealthy direction, you should reach out for additional support. That support may be a personal care physician, good friend, counselor, mentor, parent or more.

Another positive tip McCloud encourages is taking this time to get enough sleep and rest.

“That means quality rest. Not oversleeping, either. Practice good sleep practices, aim for seven to eight hours. Oversleeping and under sleeping causes stress too.”

Further Resources

Texas A&M-Galveston’s Office of Counseling, Career & Ability Services will be available to students Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment for mental health-related consultations.

To schedule a teleconference or confidential video conference, email studentservices@tamug.edu or call 409-740-4725. Those with urgent counseling needs may call the duty phone at 409-502-8353.

Visit tamug.edu/counsel for more information. 

Center for Disease Control recommendations regarding coronavirus and COVID-19 stress and anxiety-related feelings are here: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

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Media contact:
infoline@tamug.edu