Tips on ways to cope with this “new normal “ from Odessa D. Despot, PsyD
Dear RIT community,
Thank you for taking the time to read this. It is April and COVID-19 continues to significantly disrupt the way we live. For many of us, the unexpected changes and accompanying losses have been extremely stressful. In my conversations with students I have heard the following: varying degrees of frustration with adjusting to a mostly exclusive online academic experience; worries about coop and job security; worries around financial futures for students and their families; health concerns for self and others; fears around remaining independent—especially for graduating seniors who could return home after dreaming about and gaining exciting job opportunities—and, fears around what to expect next. There is no question that the loss of spring traditions and transitions has brought unexpected feelings of disappointment, pain, and sadness. College students across the nation have had to abruptly leave friends, partners, advisors, and mentors before they were ready to do so; vacate apartments they called home for months or even years; and deal with delays/cancellations of much deserved graduation celebrations, end of semester parties, and summer vacation plans. I wish for our RIT seniors to celebrate themselves anyway (maybe wear that graduation outfit you intended) and their families find a way to celebrate and “be” with their graduates. Whatever the format (email, video conferencing, driving by, virtual parties, rescheduled vacations together), I hope for our graduates and their people to share the proud feelings and moments of happiness when May comes.
Understandably, people want to know what will help in times of crisis. For many, some amount of relief and satisfaction can be found in: keeping up some routines or consistency; making a to-do list; doing and accomplishing small tasks; setting daily goals; taking regular showers and doing laundry; organizing or joining virtual meet-ups; reaching out for support (one person is enough); watching favorite TV shows/movies; doing some daily or weekly jumping jacks/stretches/yoga/activity; taking walks (appropriately socially distanced); and managing news consumption. I have also found flexibility in thinking, creativity, and doing things a little (or a lot) different in order to manage or cope in times of crisis to be useful. Also important: Notice your feelings; lean in to what you can control and work toward letting go of trying to control or change what cannot be; practice compassion toward yourself as you adjust to highly atypical circumstances; make room and give permission to learn about what you need as a person and how you manage as a person; recognize and challenge the negative thoughts and high expectations; practice gratitude when you can; and take care of yourself however that might be.
This sudden and surreal pause to normalcy is jarring in plenty of ways. Consequently, feelings of sadness, grief, anger, worry, confusion, helplessness, guilt and positive feelings of relief, joy, gratitude, and satisfaction, might fluctuate in a day or week and vary person-to person. Know that each one of us will experience the effects of COVID-19 uniquely and that there is no expectation and hopefully, no judgment, around how one experiences a global pandemic; for most of us this is a completely new (and shared) experience.
I am proud to be a part of the RIT community and wish our students, staff, and families’ good health as much as possible.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) remains committed to serving the student community as much as we can. Students, if needed, please contact your current provider; by phone or email 585-475-2261 email@example.com to connect with someone. For urgent cases after 5pm, use the after-hours line 855-436-1245 as needed. We know that mental health concerns can worsen during times of crisis and we want to help.