Welcome Students, Faculty & Staff!
How Do We Stay Mentally Fit in Times of Stress?
You will find information, resources, and strategies to help you manage your mental well-being while we, as a community, come together to unite around the educational and research mission of our school.
We are all feeling anxious right now regarding the uncertainty that awaits us as a community. Elevated levels of anxiety are to be expected in times of uncertainty- it’s our body’s way of telling us that we need to be alert and prepared. However, uncertainty often has has a strong tendency to turn normative levels of anxiety into problematic levels of distress.
Because there is a lot that is unknown about what the future holds, we are primed to start contingency planning. This said, there is actually a lot we do know about what actions we can take right now to respond to the current situation. The primary advice is to follow the CDC, state, and local public health guidance related to preventative measures.
However, how do we manage the anxiety? Below you will find some information that can be helpful in this endeavor. Naturally, these are only a few tools in a large toolbox of options. We encourage you to pick what you think will work best for you during these times. The ultimate goal is to reduce anxiety- so you can always ask yourself if what you are doing right now is helping to reduce anxiety, keeping it the same, or making it worse. If it isn’t reducing it, then you might need to explore alternative strategies of coping.
When it comes to keeping anxiety at bay, there are several important guidelines to follow:
- Anxiety feeds off of the changes that we are forced to make in our routines. Keep your normal sleep, eating, and exercise schedules. Check out JED Campus TIPS for Self-Care.
- Anxiety feeds off of the unknown. Worry tends to turn into rumination, which in turn amplifies symptoms of anxiety.
- Approach the unknown as problem solving– when a worry thought enters your mind, turn your mind to a curious observation and write down the thought on paper. Return when you have time to put proper attention to it. If it is still important, problem solve.
- Label the thought as a “worry thought.” Labeling thoughts helps to regulate them. When we can notice our thoughts arising as cognitive processes rather than fused with any truth or certainty, then we can provide cognitive distance. Remember, worry thoughts are the mind’s way of telling ourselves to attend to something.
- Notice in your body where anxiety lives. Noticing where the body holds your anxiety helps you to focus on identifying physiological symptoms and provides cognitive distance. Label those physiological symptoms as anxiety symptoms. Remind yourself they are there to indicate that you may need to be prepared.
- Limit your researching behavior. Anxiety is never satisfied with the amount, quality, or frequency of data gathering. Strictly limit your researching to 15 minutes per day. Set a timer on your phone.
- Focus on the your work that matters to you!
- Anxiety is amplified by avoidance of safe situations. It is important that you follow university guidelines and policies for precautions as these set the boundaries for what is in and out of bounds. Anxiety causes people to not only overestimate the probability of something bad happening, it causes people to imagine the worst. To combat problematic avoidance:
- Follow university guidelines to tell you what is in and out of bounds. This includes social distancing, washing hands frequently, staying home if you have any symptoms for anyone not at high-risk. For individuals who are at high-risk or live with someone at high-risk, this may mean self-isolating until further guidelines are put forth.
- Seek advice from others. Follow the guidance of administrators and colleagues, and determine what makes most sense for you. You will know if avoiding is helping or making things worse- the level of symptoms tells you. If working from home isn’t helping your anxiety and your colleagues in a similar risk category are on campus, then switch it up.
If you are experiencing panic attacks, debilitating anxiety, loss of sleep, or severe symptoms that feel unmanageable and are preventing you from functioning in any domain of your life, it may be time to seek help. This is the first time in our lifetime that these types of measures have been put in place at this scale in the United States. For our alarm bells to be screaming and us to not know how to soften them is totally normal.
Anyone who is already managing an existing mental health condition should prioritize self-care during difficult times, continue their treatment plan, and stay in contact with their mental health team.
Faculty & Staff Resources:
- Work-Life Solutions (EAP). Work-Life solutions, formerly known as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), offers free, confidential, 24/7 support, resources and information for every aspect of your life. Visit GuidanceResources.com or call 844-365-4587
- United Healthcare. You can search for a local mental health provider in the area on United Healthcare’s Find a Provider website, use your MyUHC portal, or call United Healthcare at the number on the back of your card.
- Psychology Today. You can visit Psychology Today to search for providers in your area, by insurance, and specialty.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline. Call the helpline for referrals 24/7 at 1-800-622-4357 (TTY 1-800-487-4889).
- Habif Health & Wellness. Students currently engaged in services or remain in town may continue to use Habif for both medical and mental health needs. Contact Habif at 314-935-6666.
- Health Insurance Provider. Students may contact their student health insurance provider at the number found on the back of their insurance card.
- Washington University School of Medicine Student Health Counseling. Medical campus students may connect with the Student & Occupational Health Services for initial consultation.
- Provident Behavioral Health. Students may contact Provident Behavioral Health at 314-533-8200 to schedule a behavioral health appointment or contact their after hours crisis line at 314-647-5357.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Students in mental health emergencies can contact that National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY 1-800-799-4889) and be connected with a local provider.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has guidance on managing mental health and coping during COVID-19 for children and caregivers, as well as guidance for higher education administrators.
- The Child Mind Institute has published a resource on how to talk to young people about COVID-19.
- The Hope Center has outlined resources for supporting college students during this crisis.
- The American College Health Association has created a guide to help college health staff and campus administrators address COVID-19 on campus.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has information on travel, media resources, and other research on COVID-19.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America Psychologist Jelena Kexmanovic provides some science-based strategies and tips for coping with COVID-19 anxiety.
Remember, we are all in this together, focus on what can be done in this moment, and stay connected to the people that matter most to you.