Daniel J. Alonzo, Psy.D.
University Counseling Services
- COVID-19: Review of where we have been
- Our personal experiences now
- The effect of this stress on our minds and our bodies
- Moving back into the world and managing our anxiety
- Keep This a Safe Space
- Confidentiality Should Be Honored
- Speak for Yourself: No One Has to Be a Representative for Any Group
- Agree to Disagree: Listen with the Goal of Understanding
- Honor Other People’s Opinions
- All Communication Should Be Respectful
Where Have We Been? At the Beginning...
- Over the space of two weeks in March 2020, the world came to a halt
- The world changed overnight
- An invisible terror
- No clear answers
- A later of dread
- No clear end in sight
From Empty Streets…
To Overwhelmed Hospitals…
Where Are We Now?... The Current State of Affairs
- As of August 2021, number of deaths due to COVID-19 in U.S. = 637,000
- However, 68.3 % of U.S. population has received at least one dose of vaccine
- 49% are fully vaccinated
- However, this is the Pandemic that won't go away
- The spread of "variants," such as the Delta variant
- Moving forward, then taking a half-step back
- Will there be more steps back?
- An uncertain future...
An Evolving Pandemic: How Do We Move Back Out There?
- Whether in academics, jobs, careers, family relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships, there is one generally observable truth:
- It’s very difficult to relax and move forward when the picture keeps changing!
- And it’s very challenging to enjoy the moment, deepen your experience, and continue growing if you can’t relax!
Our Current, Personal Experience
- Nervousness around social interactions - work places are odd; social situations are not the same
- "I really don’t know – Is it safe?"
- Frustration – “I want to move forward, but...
- "Other people are afraid and cautious
- "I hear that virus continues to infect people..
- "I have moments of being afraid or cautious myself!"
More on Our Current, Personal Experiences
- Still some shock and denial
- The pandemic has shattered people's assumptions of safety and security
- For some, an actual loss of a person - which is a tremendous, personal loss
- For everybody, a huge loss:
- "Everybody lost a year of their lives..."
- Re-opening is stressful:
- Even a good change is stressful! Stress is stress!
Stress on the Mind and Body!
- Centers for Disease Control: During these 18 months of COVID…
- 41% of U.S. residents struggle with mental health or substance abuse
- 31% report symptoms of anxiety or depression
- 26% report symptoms of trauma or a stress-related disorder
- "COVID-19 Stress Disorder" - has elements of PTSD: Fear of infection; fear of socio-economic impacts of COVID; fear of other people, sometimes fear of people perceived to be “foreigners”; compulsive-checking and reassurance seeking; significant distress; and impairment of day-to-day functioning
Bessel Van der Kolk: "The Body Keeps the Score…"
- A prolonged state of anxiety for a year-and-a half!
- Activation of the Central Nervous System
- "Fight or flight!"
“Fight or Flight!”
“Now, They Say, We Can Move Back into the World!”
- But even a good change is stressful!
The Effects of Stress on Our Bodies
- Increased blood sugar
- Tense muscles
- Increased risk of
- Rapid breathing
- Missed periods
- heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Erectile dysfunction
- Rapid heart beat
- Low sex drive
- immune system
So! How Do We Begin to Move Back Out There?
- First, acknowledge what has happened and what you have been through personally...
- Second, acknowledge what has happened and what we have all been through!
- A chance to practice self- and other-compassion!
Normalize Your Anxiety!
- It’s okay if you are feeling anxious!
- It's okay - You are "normal"!
- Remind yourself: Other people are feeling the same things!
Think About What’s Most Important in Your Life
- What is most important to you?
- What are your values?
- What are your social priorities?
- Don’t discard the behaviors that were most important to you before the pandemic!
- And, hold on to the things you discovered that you enjoyed during the pandemic!
Set Realistic Expectations
- You’re not going to change your life overnight!
- You won’t be completely free of anxiety in just one day!
- One step at a time!
- Start with small activities that you used to enjoy
- Try some new activities that seem within your comfort zone
- Listen to the guidance of health experts - but don’t waste time trying to find the final, definitive answer
- Start slow…
- Attend all your classes...
- If there is an in-person, on-campus component, give it a try...Follow guidelines...Keep a social distance…Wear your mask...
- As much as possible, focus on the instructor and the learning experience - The more you focus on the learning, the less you will worry about COVID!
- Stay engaged! If attending virtually, keep your camera on. In person, make eye contact with the instructor. Raise your hand! Ask a question! Take notes!
More for Students...
- If meeting in person on campus, practice reaching out to other students...
- Ask a student sitting close to you a question
- Ask a student if they want to study together - even if it is a virtual study group
- Practice making small talk before and after class - Check in and ask how they are doing!
- Practice taking small steps when you are ready: Go to a food outlet on campus...Arrange to do 1 hour of studying at the library...Walk around campus...
- Get involved with a club or organization...Start with a virtual meeting at first, but when you are ready, attend an in-person gathering
- Reward yourself for getting back on track!
Practice Patience! Practice Compassion!
- Breathe deeply
- Remind yourself it is okay to be human!
- Make a gratitude list
- Be gentle with others
- When you find yourself being judgmental, remind yourself to let other people be themselves
- But Also: Be compassionate with yourself!
The More Compassionate You Can Be with Yourself...
- The More Compassionate You Can Be with Other People!
University Counseling Services
- University Counseling Services - Bayramian Hall, Suite 520
- (818) 677-2366
- 8 AM - 5 PM, Monday-Friday
- Call and press Option 1 to make an appointment
- During regular business hours, if you need to speak to someone urgently, call and press Option 1
- After hours, call same general number but press Option 3 to speak to a crisis counselor
- Crisis Text Line, 24-Hour Crisis Line: Text HOME to 741741
Thoughts and Comments?
Experiences You Want to Share?
Daniel J. Alonzo, Psy.D.