Stress, Anxiety, and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Justice Petersen, IV Leader Staff

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many people, including students, staff, and faculty at IVCC, facing stress and anxiety that they do not know how to cope with.  

These past few months, the coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, has been rapidly increasing every day, resulting in more positive cases as well as deaths.  

The situation has become so serious here in the Illinois Valley that Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered for all restaurants and bars to close starting March 16, and March 17 he ordered all public K-12 schools to be closed. Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order beginning March 20. 

IVCC announced that starting March 23 all classes will be delivered online and campus as well as the Ottawa Center will be closed until further notice. 

With a situation that seems to show no signs of improvement, it has been easy for fear to take over many people. However, experts say it is important to keep calm during this difficult time, as fear and the spreading of false information regarding the coronavirus will only make the situation worse.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that “taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.” 

The CDC provides several ways in which you can relieve stress during this time: 

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. 
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditateTry to eat healthy, well-balanced mealsexercise regularlyget plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. 
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. 
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. 

The CDC recommends that you contact your healthcare provider if your feelings of stress impact you and your ability to carry out your daily activities for several days in a row. 

Additionally, Tina Hardy, Disability Coordinator and head of Disability Services at IVCC, offers advice to those struggling with their mental health during this time: 

  • Try to set a purpose or goal for each day, whether that be academic, physical, spiritual, or personal.  Actively work toward meeting that goal each day, even if you take small steps.  Accomplishment feels good. 
  • Stay organized and structured.  Set up a routine for school work, exercise, and self-care.  Use to-do lists or calendars to keep track of assignments and due dates.  Keep them visible.  Controlling your schedule and your time will help you feel more in control and less anxious. 
  • REACH OUT FOR HELP!  Check out the student support resources listed on IVCC’s main page.  Writing Center, Peer Tutoring, Student Help Desk, Library, Disability Services, Counseling, etc… are available digitally to help you. “We are ready and waiting.  Email instructors with questions when you are unsure of due dates or expectations. 
  • Use the YOU@IVCC portal as a resource.  They have really upped their game as far as adding coping strategies and tips during this time.  It’s easy, quick, and anonymous. 
  • Exercise, even if that means a short walk.  Exercise is good on a chemical level for both your body and mind.  It’s a win-win!     
  • Try to find one thing each day you are grateful for.  Jot that down.  Doing so may help you recognize the silver linings in what seems to be a pretty dark cloud right now. 

Many people on social media and on the news admit that this is a difficult time right now. ABC News writes that several aspects of our everyday lives have changed due to the coronavirus, such as the closing of schools, the stock market declining, cancellations of public events such as concerts or sports games, the urge for social distancing, and some states pushing for a stay-at-home order. 

But most of all, with the hundreds of thousands of cases across the globe and how little is known about this disease, many people are fearful not knowing how this situation will play out. 

It is important to try and find the good in this situation and do everything possible to continue the further spread of COVID-19. Psychology Today says, “This positive outlook on life will allow us to be more resilient and instill hope for our own loved ones, our neighbors, and beyond. People do not have control over the virus, but they can control their actions and behaviors and that sense of control should relieve some of their stress and anxieties. 

It is crucial that people continue to practice safe hygiene in order to protect not only themselves, but others from the coronavirus. The World Health Organization recommends to wash your hands often, cough into your elbow when you need to cough, avoid touching your face, keep a safe distance from other people, and stay home if you are able to.