December 14, 2020

SIU’s counseling director offers tips for de-stressing in a stressful time

by Christi Mathis

Jamie-Clark.jpgCARBONDALE, Ill. — With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, political tensions, economic uncertainty, expectations about upcoming holidays and other things happening in the world, many people are anxious, perhaps even overwhelmed. While you can’t control everything around you, you can maintain resilience by controlling your responses, and Jaime Clark, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s director of Counseling and Psychological Services and associate director of Student Health Services, offers her top 10 tips for de-stressing in a stressful world.

  1. Stick to the facts. As wonderful as your friends are, their social media posts aren’t likely the best way to get accurate information. Check the websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Illinois Department of Public Health for the latest realities about COVID-19.
  2. Be informed – not consumed! Spending every waking minute watching the news, scrolling social media and focusing on all of the things that are causing you to be concerned can lead to increased depression and feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Likewise, don’t waste time arguing with people or trying to persuade them to come to your way of thinking or accept facts. You will just feel worse afterward.
  3. Accept reality and acknowledge the unknown aspects that come with it. Focus on positive aspects of life, strive to make lemonade out of lemons and realize that there are simply some things you don’t know and/or can’t change.
  4. Live in the moment. Let go of the past, the future and things that are beyond your control. Focus on things that you can control, taking one day at a time and even breaking the days up into small, manageable parts.
  5. Keep things in perspective. Not everyone who coughs has COVID-19. Not every financial setback is permanent. The next relationship you have may be a million times better than the one that just ended. Tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. Catch yourself if you find your thoughts spiraling in a negative direction.
  6. Don’t judge yourself or others. Your emotions are valid and real, even if your feelings change and evolve constantly. So are the feelings other people are having. Remember that each of us is molded by our experiences. For instance, someone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 may feel different than someone who has lost a job due to the pandemic; likewise someone who had the virus and recovered easily may have different reactions.
  7. Distance doesn’t have to mean isolation. Don’t equate physical distance with social distance. The pandemic has forced some physical distancing between people, but it’s still critically important to stay connected. In fact, social support is a huge predictor of mental health. So, find safe ways to connect with other people. Zoom, call, write – set aside time each day to make positive connections with other people even if you can’t be near them physically.
  8. Establish a structure and daily routine and stick to it as much as possible. Studies have shown that people struggle when they have too much unstructured free time. So, even if your usual work, school or life schedule is upside down right now, create a new routine, building a new schedule. Keep busy doing things you enjoy. Make time to do things you’ve never had time to do before.
  9. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Avoid mood-altering substances. Make your physical and mental health a priority. And at this time, decrease your health risks by washing your hands, wearing a mask and following other safety protocols.
  10. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know the resources available to you and your loved ones and seek help if you need it. If a family member or friend seems to be floundering, refer them to helpful resources. A little help today can get you through to that bright tomorrow.

Here are some numbers you can call:

  • Suicide hotline: 800-273-8255.
  • Domestic violence hotline: 800-799-7233.
  • Alcohol and other drugs hotline: 877-726-4727.