Emotional self-care during the COVID pandemic

| June 23, 2020
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly everyone’s lives and routines have been upended. Many students have physically moved, adapted to online learning and socializing, and made countless other adjustments.

During this time, it is imperative for you to take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Both stress and coping look different for everyone; there is no one size-fits-all approach. I’ve complied this list of strategies for taking care of yourself, and I hope you will find a few that work for you.

    1. Seek professional emotional support if you need it. Students can access many Hopkins resources either in person or remotely, including:
      Homewood Counseling Center (KSAS, WSE, Peabody)
      Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program (SOM, SON, BSPH, SOE, CBS, SAIS, AAP, EFP)
      University Health Services (SOM, SON, BSPH)
      TimelyMD (telehealth for all Hopkins students available through September 10, 2020; service key is JHU2020)
      • Sheppard Pratt Virtual Crisis Walk-in Clinic (anyone living in Maryland)

    2. Stay informed, but not overwhelmed. Limit time spent watching or reading pandemic coverage, and stick to reliable sources like the CDC and the Hub. Spending excessive time focusing on the same subject or absorbing incorrect and catastrophizing information can increase anxiety, depress mood, and make it difficult to focus on anything else. Find a balance between overwhelming yourself with information and avoiding it completely, in order to be informed enough to make wise and safe choices.
    3. Remain safe by practicing social distancing and following recommendations from the CDC. Focusing and acting on what you can control in a time of uncertainty is beneficial to your mental health. Using face coverings is one of the most helpful things you can do to protect yourself and your community, along with avoiding large gatherings and remaining six feet from anyone who is not a member of your immediate household.
    4. Stay connected. Social distancing does not require social isolation. Try and enjoy a few new and different (and, remember, temporary) ways to connect. You can stream movies and games with friends, and share meals (or beverages) and have club meetings online. You can also do a regular phone or video call, just to talk, with no agenda.
    5. Maintain a healthy and balanced diet, if possible. A well-balanced diet of nutritious foods can support a strong immune system, helping with the burden of stress on the body during a time of crisis. If you are experiencing food insecurity, either near campus or elsewhere, contact the following Hopkins resources for help:
      Student Outreach & Support (KSAS, WSE undergrads). 410-516-7857 or [email protected].
      Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs (KSAS, WSE graduate students)
      Peabody Office of Student Affairs (Peabody undergrads and grad students)
      Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program (AAP, BSPH, CBS, SAIS, SOE, SOM, SON). The JHSAP 24/7 toll-free number is 866-764-2317.
    6. Keep up physical activity at home. Exercise is a wonderful way to stay healthy, boost your mood, and take a break from daily stress. Both the O’Connor Rec Center (Homewood) and the Cooley Center (East Baltimore) are offering free streaming classes for all students across all divisions, and CHEW created two mindful yoga exercises, available on YouTube. The 15-minute session is good for beginners and a quick reset; the 40-minute vinyasa flow is more of a workout.
    7. Create a manageable routine. Having a routine can help you cope with change and uncertainty, maintain positive habits, and reduce stress. The Office of Student Disability Services, which serves all nine academic divisions, has created a recommend list of study tools.
    8. Take breaks from work and from screens. Breaks keep us from getting bored and unfocused. They also help us retain knowledge and reevaluate our goals as needed. For more on the science of breaks, you can read this Buffer article, which includes some strategies like the Pomodoro method.
    9. Explore new ways to “get out of the house.” Watch a virtual concert or show. Tour a museum or a national park. Watch a TED talk. Check out the list of Virtual Arts & Travel below.
    10. If you can, help others. Doing something for other gives you the opportunity to take a break, even if just temporarily, from a crisis. If you are able, see what you can do in your community, like donating to a food pantry, blood bank, or animal shelter. Buying local (including gift cards) can support small businesses. If money is tight, consider writing a card or reaching out to someone you care about.
    11. Try something new. Drumming up enthusiasm for a new pursuit during social distancing can be tough. However, trying something new can keep you mentally stimulated and reduce boredom, fatigue, and restlessness. Get on the quarantine cooking bandwagon. Trying online gaming. Read for fun, from a genre that’s not your usual go-to. Listen to some new artists. Plan a future event to look forward to.
    12. Take time to decompress and de-stress. Each person will likely experience this life disruption differently, and it’s perfectly understandable to feel any number of ways. Remind yourself this is a time of adjustment. The Calm app, which is available for free to all Hopkins affiliates, is a great tool to reduce stress. The SilverCloud app, which is available for free to all full-time Hopkins students over the age of 18, teaches skills and strategies based in cognitive behavioral therapy that are also helpful in reducing stress.There are also two free regular meditation sessions with SOM faculty available through Hopkins; check the wellness calendar for upcoming sessions.

Note: the tools and resources listed below are not sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. If you try any apps or services mentioned here, make sure you ask about any related costs before purchase if necessary.

Communication and Collaboration Tools

  • Facetime. Free voice and video calls through on Apple devices only. 
  • Google DuoFree group video calls for large groups. 
  • Google HangoutsFree group video calls for groups with messaging. 
  • HousepartyFree social networking, more casual than other platforms. 
  • MessengerFree text and video chat. 
  • SkypeFree calls, messaging, and plans for international calls to landlines. 
  • WhatsApp. Free messaging, calls, and videos. 
  • ZoomFree video and conference app, with an option to share computer screens. Good for watching and playing. 

Extra Credit Reading

Hotlines and Online Resources

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741. Resources for both people in crisis and people trying to help others who may be in crisis. Includes COVID-specific resources. 
  • Crisis Text Line for self-harm. Text HOME to 741741 in the US and Canada; see link for UK and Ireland options.  
  • Futures Without Violence. Resources for abused children and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. 
  • I’m Alive. IM service for people in moments of crisis and emotional pain. 
  • The Jed Foundation (1-800-273-TALK OR 1800-237-8255). Nonprofit organization for suicide prevention in teens and young adults. 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK OR 1800-237-8255). 24/7 free confidential phone line for individuals in crisis. People do not have to be suicidal to call. The hotline supports more than 150 languages. 
  • Suicide.org (1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433). Nonprofit organization for suicide prevention, awareness, and support. 
  • The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7486). Suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. 
  • TransLifeLine (877-565-8860). Grassroots hotline offering emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis.  

Virtual Arts & Travel

Wellness Tools and Resources