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Videos, Blogs & Presentations

Videos - COVID 19 Resources

Videos - Getting Help

University Counseling Services (UCS) provides the following videos to further engage in topics that may interest you.

Videos - Mindfulness Exercises

Videos - Peer Education Programs

Videos - Social Change

Videos - Statement of Solidarity

Blogs Related to COVID-19

Overwhelmed by COVID-19 News
by Alisa Turner-Augustyn

There's so much in the news about this disease. I'm feeling overwhelmed just watching. What can I do?

This is a great question, because COVID-19 is absolutely dominating the news cycle.  I would start by making sure you limit your searches to reputable sites, such as the CDC and WHO websites.  I would also suggest checking in with a local news site, so that you can stay current with guidelines for your immediate area.  Next, set a boundary of only checking the news once or twice a day, at specific times – perhaps in the morning and in the evening.  Setting boundaries around your social media use is also important, as information (and misinformation) is often spread across our newsfeeds.  You can do this by deciding in advance how often and for how long you will allow yourself to check your social media.  Other helpful tips for setting boundaries and managing anxiety include: monitoring the time spent on your phone, mute words that might trigger your anxiety, leave group chats that are triggering your anxiety, seek out positive news, and try to schedule time without the news.

Motivation
by Marilyn Mendoza

I’m having a hard time getting motivated to do anything. Do you have any tips to help me get motivated?

Thanks for asking because I think this is a common thing happening to many students right now. It’s really hard to get motivated when our routines have been thrown out the window. First, it is important to set up some kind of schedule for yourself. That means going to bed at a certain time, waking up at a certain time and filling your day with blocks of different activities. Make sure you include healthy meals, exercise and chunks of time for learning. While it is tempting to spend your free time bingeing endless TV shows or scrolling through social media, limiting those activities will free up your time to get those “gotta do” activities completed. Perhaps use screen time as a reward for getting your classwork or chores completed. Finally, be kind to yourself. These are extraordinary times and everyone is doing their best to find a way to cope.

Privacy
by Judy Schmidt-Levy

Help!  Since having to stay at home, my place is really crowded and I can’t get any privacy.  It’s getting in the way of doing my school work and just getting some “me” time.

This is a tricky situation.  Everybody is home to stay healthy, which is a good thing, but feeling like everybody is on top of one another is a not-so-good thing.  You might want to try:

  • Create a space that’s your own somewhere in your home, such as a bedroom, corner of the living room, garage, balcony, the yard.  A desk and comfortable chair may be all you need. 
  • Use headphones to create audio space.  Listen to your favorite music, eBooks, or podcasts.  If you need background music or noise for studying, search for instrumental music, ambient music or nature sounds.
  • Post a schedule where everybody can see it.  This lets everybody know when you need uninterrupted time for class, studying, and self-care. 
  • Take turns.  Talk to your family or housemates about arranging for everybody to get some private time.  You can set schedules for this, too. 
  • Involve everybody in the discussion and planning.  Have everybody share their needs and wants.  Do some problem-solving as a group: “I could use your help finding a way to have the bedroom for my Zoom class on Tuesday at 3 pm.”
  • Think about other places to go for some private time.  Your car?  An empty parking lot?  Be creative, but please keep safety in mind as we continue to practice social distancing.  Remember to wash your hands well as soon as you get home.

Sleep Hygiene
by Elizabeth Poloskov

I am soooo tired, why can’t I sleep? And even when I do sleep, I wake up tired. What can I do to get better sleep?

I hear this (and maybe say this) all the time, but especially during quarantine in the pandemic. It may be confusing because for many people, especially those who are not able to work outside of the home or do not have jobs that they can telecommute from home, it looks like there is more down time. You don’t have to commute to school or work and you can’t go out and socialize because most places are closed. So, you might be asking yourself, “If I have all this down time, why am I not sleeping and why do I feel so tired?” 

The pandemic is physically and mentally exhausting. No, you aren’t necessarily doing physically exhausting work, but sitting around, staring at screens, hunching over a key board and being sedentary throughout the day is a big change from your pre-pandemic life and is not the optimal mode for our body. This sedentary life takes a physical toll. Also, the uncertainty of the pandemic, the constant borage of contradictory information, concern for the safety of oneself and others, socially distancing, masks, economic stress and a lack of control are all mentally draining. Even if you were getting perfect sleep, this is a tiring time in life. But if we add sleep difficulties to the experience, it paints a clear picture of why you may be so tired and drained even if you aren’t observably doing much. (Side note: you may also want to consult a medical doctor to rule out any medical conditions that impact sleep).

While there are many things we can’t control right now, there are some things we can. Here are some suggestions on how to set yourself up for getting good sleep in the midst of a pandemic:

  1. Set the environment for sleep. To the extent that this is within your control, give yourself a comfortable, cool, dark and quiet place to sleep.
  2. Get up at the same time every day (including weekends). Set a fixed time to wind down to go to bed and fixed time to go to bed and turn the lights out.
  3. Spend 15-30 minutes outside to get some natural light especially in the morning.
  4. Use your bed for sleep (or sex) only. If you are working from home or taking classes, do not do work from bed. Do not bring the lap top or other electronic devices in bed. Instead, train your brain to equate bed with sleep.
  5. Get about 30 minutes of exercise, 5x per week for a total of at least 150 minutes per week.
  6. Limit caffeine and alcohol use.

If you would like additional support on improving your sleep hygiene or support on managing distress related to the pandemic, UCS is here for you. Please contact our main line at 818-677-2366 and request to speak with a UCS counselor.

Also, here are some links with additional information:

Sleep Guidelines During the COVID-19 Pandemic – SleepFoundation.org

Getting Your Best Sleep While in Quarantine – Psychology Today

Some of us have more time to sleep.  So why are we so tired? – Washington Post

"Help! My pants don't fit!"
by Allison Begley

I tried on my jeans for the first time since this all happened and they didn't fit. I'm so upset at myself what should I do now?

I have been hearing this from a lot of students lately. I think for many people, gaining weight right now is some combination of comfort or boredom eating, decreased physical activity, and increased stress (which elevates a hormone called cortisol in our body that can contribute to weight gain). The first step to addressing this is to be kind to yourself. You are in a unique situation you have never had to deal with before and are doing your best to cope. Perhaps you now notice that some of those coping strategies may not be sustainable longer-term, which is okay! If you notice that you are stress/bored/comfort eating, connecting with your hunger cue can help. If your hunger level is on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is “I’m so famished I might faint, I feel woozy” and 10 is “I feel so full I’m uncomfortable, there’s no way I could possibly eat one more bite”, where does your hunger rank right now? Use that hunger cue to inform your food choices. If you are at around a 5, maybe it’s time for a snack like apples and peanut butter, or a string cheese stick. If you are at a 2-3, maybe it’s time to eat a meal. If possible, try not to get to a 1 – sometimes that is when we make poor food choices or overeat. If you notice you are engaging in less physical activity than your body is used to, perhaps it’s time to explore options for exercise that you feel comfortable with. Some stretching or yoga outside in the sun, or a walk around the neighborhood (adhering to appropriate social distancing protocols, of course) can help relieve muscle tension and lift your mood. Many instructors are offering free exercise classes on YouTube, Zoom, or other platforms (including the Student Recreation Center!). Explore the options! Finally, in addressing the increased stress, remember to give yourself grace, and take a moment to pause and reconnect. One way of doing this is to find a quiet spot, set a timer for two minutes, and simply focus on your breath. As your mind wanders, acknowledge it, and bring the focus back to the breath. This is just one suggestion, and you can find additional resources in our Self-Help Library and our new page, Mental Health Services and Resources for Students During COVID-19 State of Emergency.

Anxiety
by Paulette Theresa-Schechtel

“What can I do about this nagging anxiety that I seem to wake up with every day?”

There’s no one way to address anxiety.  Here are a couple of things you might consider.  I suggest you do a virtual coffee chat with a couple of close friends with whom you are comfortable sharing your feelings.  Disclosing to people you trust can help.  If this doesn’t work for you then write about your feelings, or compose a spoken word or poem.  Perhaps start a gratitude journal and over time you can have a visual of good things to focus on that reminds you of some things that help you feel blessed.  Another thing to consider is reaching out during this time of COVID-19, and find a volunteer opportunity.  Social media posts a number of various things that helps others.  For instance, delivering food to those shut-in, making masks for your community, etc.  Helping others has a way of helping to take your mind off of your fears, and we usually feel good when we are doing something to help others.

Mindfulness
by Amy Rosenblatt

What’s all this talk about mindfulness?  What does it really do?

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, there have been so many circumstances that have, for many of us, produced fear, panic, loneliness, stress and other emotions.  It’s possible that recently or in the past, you have heard of mindfulness, and maybe you have tried it; maybe not.  Mindfulness is a practice that is centered on being in the present moment, no matter what you’re thinking or feeling.  It’s about being aware and not judging what comes up for you.  What if you were told that practicing mindfulness can be useful for improving relationships, helping you to sleep better and increasing happiness?  Mindfulness practice is scientifically proven to reduce stress and maintaining even five-minutes of mindfulness practice each day has been proven to increase and deepen your ability to focus. For many people, there is at least one factor that gets in the way of giving mindfulness practice a try.  Maybe you believe that your mind is too busy or that you don’t have the time.  Some people may think that meditating or taking quiet time feels self-indulgent.  Practicing mindfulness is not a magic wand and it is not going to fix all of our problems.  Yet, if you learned that mindfulness may allow you to feel 10% happier, you may feel more motivated to practice!  Because mindfulness is based on awareness of our senses, you are living mindfully even just by putting your cell phone aside and turning off your TV while you enjoy the flavorful taste of your meal or while you gaze at a colorful sunset.  Sitting cross-legged in a silent, dimly lit room with a candle burning is not necessary to practice (smile).  Many people have questions about the who, what, when, how and why’s of mindfulness practice; check out Ten Percent Happier's webpage for frequently asked questions.

Here are some mindfulness apps that you may want to try!

Calm

Headspace

InsightTimer

Mindful

Stop. Breathe. Think. (MyLife)

Mental Health Apps
by Abram Milton

I appreciate the online resources provided by UCS, are there any good Apps that can help me cope during our COVID-19?

Let me first say that I am happy you have found the Coronavirus mental health resources we provided on new Mental Health Services and Resources for Students During COVID-19 State of Emergency page to be useful for you.  You may have noticed that within this link above, we have highlighted several Apps to choose from.  Three specific Apps I often recommend to my clients that can be downloaded on any Apple or Android smartphone device include: (1) COVID Coach.  It was designed to help build resiliency, manage stress, and promote general wellbeing; (2) CBT Thought Diary.  It is a tool you can use to document your emotions and reevaluate your thoughts and identify your emotions, and (3) CBT-i Coach.  It is an app used as a support option which provides education and tracking of your sleep.  All these Apps are great ways to self-monitor your emotional processing.  However, these Apps can be great resources to compliment your consideration and potential work with one of our many mental health professionals within the UCS.  Please consider reaching out to our office by calling 818-677-2366 (Option 1), to explore your mental health options.

Self-Esteem
by Anne Eipe

My self-esteem has never been good, but I notice that during quarantine, it has gotten worse? 

This is a challenging time for many and, therefore, it is not unusual to find yourself struggling with not feeling good about yourself.  It may be that you noticed that when transitioning to virtual learning, you were not as motivated academically and were not as productive.  You may find yourself not adhering to your usual routines of exercise, sleep and nutrition.  It can be easy to get down on yourself and beat yourself up for not meeting your expectations during this time.  However, with any significant losses and change, there is a period of adjustment.  Therefore as we are in unprecedented times, it is important to give yourself grace and practice self-compassion.  For example, you may not have in-person access to many of the things that were important to you that helped you feel good, such as interactions with friends, classmates, access to specific resources, or working out at the gym.  All of these things help us to feel better about ourselves, and when we don’t have access to them, it can be challenging.  Below are some tips that may be helpful:

  • Decrease the amount of time you compare yourself to others including when you are on social media
  • Notice how you talk to yourself and be kind. Utilize self-affirming statements like “I appreciate (fill in the blank) about myself.”
  • Think outside the box; try virtual ways of connecting to resources you find helpful (e.g., schedule a virtual coffee date or virtual game night with friends, take an online exercise class, etc.)
  • Set realistic goals and then take pride in your achievements (set achievable targets, be sure you are not judging yourself against unreasonable standards)
  • Take an “I can” attitude and offer yourself encouragement along the way.  Celebrate your strengths and achievements
  • Identify and accept your strengths and weaknesses - everyone has them, and no one is perfect (forgive yourself for your mistakes, berating yourself for your weaknesses is self-defeating)
  • Get to know who you are:  explore your own interests and talents; love and appreciate the unique person you are!
  • Don’t try to be someone else, and be proud of who you are.

Feeling Alone; want to Connect with Other Students
by Sunil Obediah

I am back home with my family and yet, I feel alone and sad.  I miss being on campus and connecting with other students.  Can you tell me what to do to feel less alone?

Engaging in social distancing is a huge challenge for many and can feel like the opportunity to connect with others on campus has been robbed.  And though a return to family feels like a return to more social contact, connecting with friends or meeting others from campus is a very different quality of connecting that students truly miss.  Group psychotherapy is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness by having the experience of connecting with others from campus while learning about yourself and growing with others.  In this way, groups can provide support and help you realize that you are not as alone as you may think.  They also provide a way of learning how others are coping during this time.  Also, because groups provide an opportunity for you to support others, you may gain a sense of increased confidence or satisfaction in knowing that you have had a positive impact on others.  To add, groups can lead to a sense of purpose as you create meaningful connections with others.  Lastly, more often than not group members experience emotional relief by having nurtured a need to connect by reaching out to receive and provide support to one another.

Group psychotherapy offers a safe space for students to participate in a confidential manner.  To inquire about group participation at University Counseling Services (UCS), please call 818-677-2366.  Also, please discover more about group offerings through UCS on our Groups and Workshops webpage.

Relationships during Quarantine
by Dan Alonzo

My parents are super-paranoid about COVID-19.  Lately they have been getting worried when I spend time with my partner.  How can I convince them that it’s okay if my partner and I spend time together?

This is a common problem these days, and you are not alone.  COVID-19 is a frightening disease. We are all trying to figure out how to avoid getting this Coronavirus but still carry on with our lives.  It sounds like you are trying to balance two factors:  On the one hand, you are trying to be respectful to your parents, because you understand that they are responsible for the health and safety of you and others who live in your household. On the other hand, you have entered into a relationship that is meaningful and fun, and it is important for you to continue to explore deeper connections with people. Maybe your parents would feel better if they had a phone conversation with your partner.  Or, can you all sit outside, with your partner wearing a mask, at least six feet away from your parents, and can you all spend some safe time together?  Your partner would have the opportunity to reassure your parents about the efforts being taken to be careful (e.g., following current health guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing a mask in public). You might also want to try sitting with your parents alone and having a conversation with them. Let them know you take their point-of-view seriously. Finally, ask yourself this:  How can I continue to do my very best to protect myself from infection in order to protect my own health and the health of others?   Ultimately, this is what relationships are all about – being responsible to ourselves while simultaneously being responsible to the people we love!  

Suicidal Thoughts
by Anne Eipe

I noticed that since being in quarantine, I have been having thoughts about not wanting to be alive?  Is there something wrong with me?

Oftentimes when students experience these type of thoughts they feel alone, that they are the only ones experiencing this, and that having these thoughts signals weakness or flaws within them.   However, please know that it is not uncommon for individuals to experience negative or even suicidal thoughts during times of, significant life stressors and changes....  Suicidal thoughts are not character deficits but rather   may be a signal that you are experiencing some emotional pain that needs to be attended to.     Addressing this in a way that feels right for you may be an important step.  Please know that you don’t have to struggle alone, and that there is help available for you.  We encourage you to reach out to a number of resources below that includes: 

  • University Counseling Service 24/7 Crisis Line:  (818) 677-2366, press option 3
  • Crisis Text Line:  You may send text messages for crisis support to 741741.  Text “START”
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
  • Veterans Help Line: (800) 838-2838
  • LGBTQIA+/Trevor Project Lifeline: (866) 488-7386
  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing:
    • Chat with a Lifeline counselor by video relay service: (800) 273-8255
    • TTY: (800) 799-4889
    • Voice/Caption phone: (800) 273-8255

If you feel you are in immediate risk of taking your own life, please call 911 or contact CSUN Campus police at 818 677-2111.

Substance Use
by Steve Silver

Since the COVID-19 quarantine, I haven’t been able to go out as much. I’m worried that I’m drinking and smoking weed more than usual. How can I cut back?

Many people are struggling to not over use substances during shelter-in-place orders, including alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. There are a few things you can do to better manage this. First, make sure that you are engaging in other self-care activities during this time. Mind-altering substances are tricky because they very effectively release feel good/reward-based chemicals into our brain (e.g., dopamine); the same chemicals that are released in lower doses when we engage in other pleasurable acts (e.g., eating, sex, accomplishments). Therefore, it is very difficult to start managing your substance use if there aren’t activities to compensate for that absence. Staying active in some way can be very helpful, even if it feels like your environment is too constricting. This may include: stationary exercise that doesn’t include weights, engaging in aerobics via videos on YouTube or other platforms, buying a jump rope online to use at home, going for a run in your neighborhood (while maintaining social distancing, of course), etc. This is also a time where maintaining meaningful connections to others is necessary. Whether you’re sharing about how you’re doing (whether is positive or struggling) or asking someone else how they’re doing, attachment to others can help decrease the need to cope through using substances. Getting out of your head and thinking about someone else can be so helpful.

**Please keep in mind that, if you’ve been using in large amounts for a long period of time, it is important to seek medical/professional help when stopping or decreasing use. Please check out our Available Services page (Alcohol and Other Drug Counseling) and/or UCS’s Self-Help Library (Alcohol and Other Drugs/Addiction).**

Blogs Related to Racism & Trauma in the African American/Black Community

Reducing Trauma Impact in the Black Community (Part 1)
by Marlon James Briggs

COVID 19 is tough to deal with on its own, as a black person seeing all the news stories about police and community interactions that left black people dead is very hard to deal with right now. What do you recommend in terms of being able to reduce stress?

First, let me take a moment to say that your stress, worry, and any other emotion; sadness, frustration, or anger are completely valid. The repeated exposure of the mistreatment of black people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, by law enforcement and “others” who attempt to enforce their own laws, on what seems to be a daily basis is stress inducing. For many of us in the black community, these events imply that we are not safe to simply live.

So how do we cope? First, limit the exposure to these events. This is not to say do not be aware of what is happening, but try not to expose yourself to the same traumatic incident over and over again. Second, give yourself permission to feel. It is okay to have emotions. Holding down emotions can lead to mental, emotional, and physical issues. Third, remember that you don’t have to justify your emotions to people, and you do not have to explain why black people have a right to live. In times of pain it is expected from those who are hurt to explain why, that is not your job. Lastly, connect to other black spaces for support. On campus there are many black clubs and organization that can offer support. There are many off campus as well. Engage with, be supported by, and support others who can understand what is happening without needing a full explanation.

Counseling and therapy services are a great place to come to get some extra support and speak to someone who will listen without judgement and allow you to express and help you find the best way to reduce stress and cope overall.

Reducing Trauma Impact in the Black Community (Part 2)
by Marlon James Briggs

Why does seeing, reading, and hearing about the mistreatment of black people in our society affect me so much emotionally as a black person?

Thank you for your question. I want to provide a general answer that hopefully gives some insight. Hopefully this can give a bit of perspective and maybe lead to more in-depth conversations with a counselor or therapist.

There is a term called Secondary Trauma which occurs when people are witness to traumatic events of others and it impacts them in a way that is similar to the person who is experiencing the trauma. Living as a black person in America is different in terms of how we learn to interact with the world around us in order to stay safe.  Repeated exposure to traumatic events that show black people being mistreated or violated is a constant reminder of how at risk of violence or death a black person can be for just existing. In addition, the 24hr news cycle and social media shining a light on these events means we are able to separate from the trauma even less.

For many of us in the black community, these events imply that we are not safe to simply live. Not safe to jog down the street, not safe to work, not safe to change lanes while driving, not safe to protest peacefully or otherwise, and not even safe to be in our own homes without the threat of violence or death. Feeling safe is a basic need in our lives just like food and shelter. When we don’t feel safe, it is hard to comfortable or relax. Consistently being in s a state of worry can lead to anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

So individuals are left with the task of finding ways to make ourselves feel safe. We have to find what works for us, what makes us feel safe and secure. We also have to find outlets for our emotions so that the emotions don’t build up internally and cause even more issues.

Trauma Triggered by Law Enforcement
by Paulette Theresa-Schechtel

I’m frustrated and tired of being locked up inside because of the coronavirus.  Not to mention that at the same time, I’m angry and afraid to go outside because I may not make it home if I encounter the police.  You know what I’m saying?

You raise an important dilemma faced by you and your peers.  First of all, I hope to God that you never endure such an ordeal of moral violence.  The feelings you express are all understandable, and you may experience moving in and out of a number of emotions.  The reaction you have regarding the police is the result of what is called secondary trauma; that happens from witnessing so many other Black people die while in the custody of police (and sensing that could readily happen to you).  Over time, it’s only natural that you would become distressed.  It’s clear that police have perpetuated life-threatening circumstances, and witnessing this can bring about extreme anxiety, sadness, irritability, and worry.   You may have problems sleeping including nightmares, you may even suffer physical pain, headaches, or even problems with your self-worth.

You don’t ever have to apologize for expressing your own vulnerability.  At the same time, I don’t have to tell you that how you handle yourself if detained by police can save your life.  By now, you know how to maintain a respectful stance with them – to say yes officer, no sir officer, and don’t look them in the eye.  Remember to put your hands up or at least place them where they can see them.  Be sure to not make any jerky movements in your body, always say officer my hands are up and I will do whatever you say.  I am not armed and I am willing to follow your orders.  I know that even if you do all the right things that the situation can go wrong.  I still encourage you to do these things and hope for the best, because sometimes that’s all you can do.

Something you can do to lessen the negative emotional impact for you regarding this issue is to limit the amount of news you watch where you see police brutality of Blacks.  You might use this time to connect with your peers virtually to get support.  Also, it might be a healthy exercise to unite with your peers and send letters of concern to your local officials as acts of self-advocacy help to improve your self-esteem.  There are also anti-racism initiatives beginning to form through local churches that you might want to join to help make a change for better. 

The last thing I want to say is please know that you can reach out to University Counseling Services.  I know that not all of our counselors are people of color.  But I’m sure you have noticed that all of the protestors that have actively participated since the recent tragedies surrounding Black men are not just Blacks.  Our counselors care about ALL of our students.  Even if you don’t want to be seen by someone, you can always call our emergency hotline 24/7 at (818) 677-2366, and press option 3 to be connect to a crisis counselor.

A Very Powerful Deceiver: The Gaslighting Effect in Racism
by Abram Milton

“I feel that as I view my social media lately, I feel so confused and distressed.  When I watch television, I see people trying to tell me that what I am seeing is not racism or oppression.  I do not know what to feel.  I need help. ”

First and foremost, racism can be a very powerful deceiver when we are not aware of how it is affecting our mind and body.  Racism is often defined as, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior (Oxford Languages, 2020).”  Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse manipulation in which a person or group plant doubts in the minds of a person or group of people that causes them to question their own perception of reality or their own memory. 

This type of manipulation can negatively affect our emotional processing, self-esteem, and perception of our world – ultimately making the world feel unsafe and a scary place.  When we are also suffering from a mental health condition, it may feel hopeless.  To overcome these feelings, it is necessary to realize that the primary purpose of gaslighting is in relation to racism.  Gaslighting has one purpose – to manipulate and have someone or a group of people succumb to the manipulator’s will.  When dealing with racism, you will experience gaslighting in ways in which manipulators will not validate your feelings.  Experiencing this lack of validation can cause psychological and physiological problems. 

What skills can we use to defend ourselves?  In Hill’s (2018) How Gaslighting Manipulates Your Mind, a few options are highlighted.  First, pay particular attention to your own experience – trust your instinct.  Next, seek out consultation from an outside source that you trust – consult with them often.  It is very important to remember that not everyone does gaslighting on purpose, some are not aware of their behavior; therefore, be aware of their behavior and your own behavior around them. 

Finally, if you feel that gaslighting has negatively affected your life, we at University Counseling Services (UCS) would be more than happy to speak with you for a brief screening to explore your mental health options.

Presentations - COVID 19 Resources