University Health Service

mountains receding

Are you feeling off-balance? If so, you’re not alone. Concerns about COVID-19 have brought rapid changes, which can bring stress, anxiety and fear. Your foundation may feel unstable, your grasp and sense of control may feel tenuous. 

This is new territory for everyone, which means we’re in this together. And it will take time, but we don’t know how long. It could be a marathon, rather than a sprint. 

How do we cope and practice resilience during uncertain times?  Let’s remember our wholeness and connections. The U-M Model of Well-being represents all those parts of us. You may want to check in with yourself and others: How are you feeling, not just your temperature, but in all dimensions of your well-being? 

Following are tips for coping and practicing resilience. 

Give grace. Stress uses up a lot of energy. Many feel unfocused and unproductive. Allow yourself to dial down your expectations of yourself and others a bit. It’s okay and normal to waver around as you try to adapt to new circumstances. Everyone at the university is figuring out new platforms for doing work remotely and how to perform on them, without a pause. Technology is great, unless it’s not. This is part of the learning curve. Give yourself and others grace.

Keep up your social connections. Those connections can mean the world. This is the time to stay in touch and supportive of each other. Check in on others: family members, friends, classmates, colleagues. You might choose one person a day to connect with. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know you care. Imagine what you can do virtually, in pairs, in small groups, or in larger gatherings, such as:

  • Read a book together
  • Share what each is struggling with 
  • Have a dance party
  • Have a virtual brunch or dinner party
  • Get coffee together
  • Share a bedtime story
  • Watch the same movie and talk together about it
  • Read an article and discuss it
  • Plan for an optimistic future—blue sky encouraged
  • [your ideas here] 

International students, you can virtually attend the International Center Coffee Hours. See also International Center Updates Regarding COVID-19.

Actively manage stress.

  • It’s important to notice when you’re stressed, name it and acknowledge it. Just doing that helps us begin to relax and then we can shift into what we want to do about it. The article That Discomfort Your're Feeling is Grief may help you recognize and name some of your feelings. 
  • Move your body. The recommendation to hunker down (colloquially speaking) does not prevent going for a walk or a run (assuming you’re not in self-quarantine, self-isolation, or sheltering in place). Movement is a great way to relieve stress, notice the big wide world, and get fresh air. MapWalk is a fun tool to create your own routes for walking, running or biking.  Michigan State Parks and National Parks are waiving entry fees during this time. For those who are currently in self-quarantine, get some fresh air by opening up your bedroom window or taking time to read on your front porch. Check out Free Movement Apps for College Students (until July 1).

  • Sleep. Sleep restores us like nothing else. Create a sleep schedule to wake up about the same time every day, which can add some structure to your day and help regulate your circadian rhythm, so you'll feel more stable. For more tips, see Sleep. 

  • Practice mindfulness. Being mindful helps us to slow down and reduces anxiety. A few deep breaths can reduce stress. Notice nature, even in the middle of a city. Notice what you’re eating. Being mindful for one minute can be a welcome change from worries, and it can help us to focus on what’s truly important. See resources, including virtual, at Mindfulness

Watch for not-so-positive means of coping. Sometimes people use alcohol or other drugs, sleep too much, or use other not-so-positive means of coping. If you notice that, consider Wellness Coaching, free for U-M students, now available via teleconference.

Mix it up.

  • If you're staring at a screen too long, take a break, move around and shift your gaze.
  • If you're worried about the news, tune out for awhile, listen to lullabies on Pandora, or dive into well-told, personal stories on the Moth instead.
  • If you crave a change of scenery, take a walk, or if can't get outside, escape into a book or podcast. One engaging podcast is Hidden Brain, which "uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships."

Switch up your study habits, if needed. LSA Newnan Advising Center offers great suggestions at Adjusting Your Study Habits During COVID-19. The Sweetland Writing Center offers a Sweetland Writing Workshop.

Find your new normal. We feel better when we can get our bearings, find our resources, and create productive routines, and those things take time. 

  • Without the usual rhythm of campus life, you may miss structure in your day. Create a schedule e.g. when to arise, when to go to bed, or just focus on the things you want to do today. Create a space to do work. 

  • The Maize and Blue Cupboard is still open and providing food. There is no cost. 

Seek help if needed. The Dean of Students Office is the central location to coordinate help for students.  If you’re facing financial hardship, see Student Emergency Funds

Use this time productively. Sure, binge-watch. You don’t have to be super productive all the time. But you could make a plan to explore something new, hone your skills, build your resume. The University Career Center can provide help. 

Consider how you can contribute. You might want to apply your creativity to this situation, write thank-you cards to health care providers and first responders, donate blood, find out how you can volunteer, envision Your Best Possible Self. This world needs you and your brilliance, now more than ever. 

Want more ideas?