A School Psychologist’s Advice For Students On How To Cope During This ‘New Normal’

By Rahul Kumar
9 min read

As the pandemic prolongs, many are understandably feeling anxious, worried, and stressed. At BroglieBox, we are speaking to different mental health professionals that are providing support for individuals during this time and sharing tips on how to take care of your mental health. 

Access to mental health has become a significant topic amid the pandemic, especially for college students. The Healthy Minds Network recently found that out of nearly 18,000 college students who left college campuses when the pandemic hit, only 42% sought mental health care services with 60% of those students experiencing some difficulty to access their desired care. 

We wanted to focus on how mental health professionals who work closely with students feel about the mental health crisis that the pandemic has catalyzed, and amplify advice that they give young people feeling stressed and overwhelmed during this time. Here, a school psychologist answers 10 common questions sourced from students about mental health. BroglieBox Student Contributor, Rahul Kumar, spoke to Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a Connecticut Certified School Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider, and a Board Certified Neurofeedback Provider, who is the founder and current director of Dr. Roseann and Associates as well as the originator of the 360° Reboot® Intensive Therapies Program.

Rahul Kumar: Right now, many students are fearful for various reasons – their family predicament has changed, their educational career has been impacted, and more. What are some simple ways that students, especially those who are pressed for time, can largely prevent this fear from overwhelming them?

Dr. Capanna-Hodge: Taking 10 minutes everyday to power down our overactive minds can go a long way in getting our nervous system to regulate. When we calm our brain and body, we are better able to think more clearly and address those issues that are holding us back.

How can students who feel that they have little control over their current situation best combat this thought? What are some helpful ways and methods that could help students feel in control again? 

The number one thing a parent can do to help their child feel less overwhelmed by everything that is happening in the world and in their lives, is to empower their child with decision making. Helping them to have more control over the choices they make is a great way to calm anxiety and build a sense of control. Ultimately we all crave control, so why not give your child opportunities to successfully manage things so they can feel better about themselves. 

Between school work, extra-curricular commitments, work obligations, and more, students are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain relationships with their friends and family. Why is it important to keep up these relationships? If prolonged, what are the negative impacts of this social isolation?

We are social beings who need social connection, so making time to connect with others is important in so many ways. Prolonged isolation from others can lead to depression or anxiety. Friendship may look different in 2020, but making time to connect virtually or person should be a priority.

With social distancing, many students are finding it hard to retain the same level of interaction with their close ones that they once had. How can students still maintain strong relationships with those around them in a safe way?

With learning being most virtual in 2020, students have to go out of their way to stay connected to peers. That may mean joining groups with other kids that share common interests, playing video games on a server, or doing outside activities where kids can still retain a distance. Bicycling, scootering, hiking or other activities that don’t involve physical contact are not only a great way to socialize safely but get you moving.

With many campuses going online, it is becoming increasingly harder to make new friends, connect with professors, and overall have the same educational experience. What are some ways that young people can still make new social bonds, albeit new friend groups or professional connections, while being a virtual student?

During the global pandemic, we not only are realizing how much we need community but we are finding really creative ways to develop communities. As we launch into this digital world, more and more students are finding their way into membership-based communities that are organized around shared interests and hobbies, such as hiking, parenting, stress management, and a million other interests. Virtual communities are a great way to connect with like-minded people and fill the need for connection that we all so desperately need. Students should join established groups that have leaders with a proven track record of building communities. Make sure the group is being regularly moderated and that content is added. In today’s high stress world, these groups can get unruly if the group rules aren’t being enforced. 

How can social media specifically be leveraged to help promote strong interactions? 

Finding groups social with others that have common interests and hobbies can be a great way to find new friends. 

What is the importance of cultivating self-care at this time? Many students are really anxious and stressed particularly at this time, so what are some ways to take care of yourself? 

There are lots of healthy ways to mitigate stress, the key is to use them everyday, so the nervous system can regulate and remain in a calmer or parasympathetic state. Simple but effective strategies such as breathwork, meditation, biofeedback, and visualization can have a dramatic effect on one’s stress levels and mental and physical health. 

Many students are living with their family members and/or roommates (particularly if they are in college). In this ‘new normal’, many individuals are unable to engage in social activities to get a break from the people they live with. What tips do you have on setting healthy boundaries with housemates and roommates? 

We’re outside of routine and structure, ‘normal’ keeps evolving, and we’re constantly trying to adjust our expectations. When those expectations — especially the ones we have with our partners or roommates — are mismatched, and we stop communicating what we want, we begin to break down and we’re not our best. If you’re snapping unnecessarily, getting tearful, having a hard time sleeping, getting stomach aches or uncomfortable and struggling to get along with people, it’s possible you need some alone time. Keeping a consistent line of communication will allow for open conversations and for you to express your needs or struggles.

Many college students are living in their dorms alone, with little interaction with other individuals due to social distancing guidelines. Moreover, students that have tested positive for COVID-19 have to quarantine alone for two weeks. What tips do you have for individuals experiencing loneliness and social isolation? 

  • Join an online community
    • There are so many great online communities now and it is a great way to connect with like-minded people. Start by finding a group that shares your interests and interact with them. Commenting and DMing can build friendships. This isn’t passive internet surfing; this is an opportunity to connect.
  • Get involved with an charity
    • There are so many organizations who need help from all students. From food banks who need food preppers and servers to online charities who need people that can help with social media or graphic design, they need committed people. Getting involved in helping people not only feels good but you connect with others who have a heart of service. 
  • Create vision board
    • Creating a vision board is a powerful way to get clear on what is important in your life, as well as what your future goals are. Loneliness feels awful and one can get stuck in those sad and hurt feelings but focusing on the future gives you hope, purpose, and direction. 
  • Connect with nature
    • Connecting with nature helps you connect the mind, body, and spirit, as well as grounds you when you feel unbalanced by life. Taking walks is a great place to start and setting an intention and being mindful in the moment. Mindfulness helps us to be present and when we connect to ourselves without that harsh inner dialogue, we are able to be calmer and kinder to ourselves.

Now, students are slowly re-entering campus and pursuing activities safely in this ‘new normal’. What would you recommend for those experiencing re-entry anxiety

In the spring I coined the term ‘Re-Entry Panic Syndrome’, noting everyone has their own comfort level and even people who may not have had a history of anxiety could be feeling panic right now or some level of discomfort about whether their environment (whether it be school, work, etc.) is safe enough for them to return to. Here’s what one can do to lessen their worries:

  • Practice good self-care so you can lessen your stress and sleep better, which will reduce your overall anxiety
  • Check in with friends and family 
  • Get out of your dorm  – Start with going to one place that you feel safest, then slowly start to visit other places step by step. 

Rahul Kumar is a pre-medical student at the University of Miami, and hopes to use his experience and passion for healthcare to promote meaningful change. In his free time, Rahul enjoys blogging and photography. He has published past blogs on the impacts of the California CampFire, research on Alzheimer’s, and more.

To read more about getting through this pandemic as a student, check out these other articles from BroglieBox!

How to Help Your Anxious Child Cope During COVID-19 Isolation
Coronavirus Youth Mental Health Resources
10 High Schoolers Share Their Favorite Self-Care Activities
Here’s How A Psychiatrist is Providing Care To Young People During The Pandemic

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