Although some of us have been more fortunate than others during this time of transition and anxiety, we could all use some tips on how to cope with social distancing. (Photo courtesy Del Daylami)
Although some of us have been more fortunate than others during this time of transition and anxiety, we could all use some tips on how to cope with social distancing. (Photo courtesy Del Daylami)

Surviving Social Distancing: Coping together

During the coronavirus outbreak, maintaining student well-being becomes even more important.

March 24, 2020

(Photo courtesy Del Daylami)

Greetings and salutations. I hope utter chaos treats you well.

My name is Del, and I’m a junior studying education and English. I’m starting this column in the hope that it will help others manage their mental and emotional well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. I first gained interest in student well-being in my educational psychology class, where I completed projects and research on supporting identity development in college students, promoting positive self-efficacy beliefs in adolescents and utilizing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to support students as a student affairs professional. In that class, I also learned theories of learning and motivation that will prove useful while navigating online classes. This semester in my education practicum, I’ve studied both existing research and peer university practices for best supporting students at both an institutional and individual level. I’m certainly no expert, but I hope the knowledge I’ve gained can help you maintain your sanity under these stressful conditions. As someone whose brain tends to launch me into fight or flight mode under even the best circumstances, I’ve also learned a few tricks to tame it on my own. I hope that you’ll find this column useful as we all try to adjust to social distancing, stay on top of online classes and cope with fears surrounding the virus.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in all of this, which I can only hope is true for those reading as well. My aunt and uncle were able to pick me up on short notice and let me stay with them for the foreseeable future. The loss of a plane ticket, which I was lucky to have been able to afford after Vanderbilt’s initial class cancellation, wasn’t devastating. I knew that after a few days of stress packing, I would be safe and stable again. And importantly, my family in Reno, Nevada and Middle-of-Nowhere, Missouri, are safe from the virus as well.

Although I am one of the lucky ones, I have my share of anxieties. I’m worried about infecting my aunt and uncle, who are both nearing seventy. I’m worried that my mom will die if she contracts the virus. I miss her. I’m worried about having access to my medications while off campus, and about what I’m going to do to pay for next semester without the rest of my work-study income. I worry for those who have yet to find stable housing, those in cities with high infection rates and those whose homes aren’t safe for them. Until Vanderbilt’s recent announcement that their pay would continue, I worried for the Vanderbilt staff whose livelihoods were up in the air. It must be tiring to read another list of fears, but I hope they will remind someone that their own are valid and normal. The rug, after all, was pulled out from under all of us.

Moving forward with this column, I’ll use my experience coping with the situation and background in student well-being to provide tips to help you attend to your mental and emotional wellness during the outbreak. Whether it’s suggesting an app to stay connected during social distancing, outlining mindfulness exercises for when it all gets to be too much, giving ideas for what to do when boredom starts creeping in or providing tips for managing online classes, I hope this column will be a resource to you. I hope, at the very least, to remind you that although we’re now all over the globe, Vanderbilt is coping together.

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