COVID-19 has repercussions beyond physical health.
With many people practicing social distancing, the virus has led to an outbreak of stress, anxiety and depression, Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer at Ohio State, said in a webinar March 19. Ohio State students have found that keeping busy combats the negative side effects of the global pandemic.
Melnyk said the outbreak is triggering mental health issues because it leads to despair, decreases job and financial security, encourages social withdrawal and increases loneliness, as well as other stresses and anxieties.
Jack Brandl, a first-year graduate student in the Master of Social Work program and chief of staff for the Council of Graduate Students, said keeping busy and maintaining a normal routine and schedule has helped him cope with social distancing despite having anxiety about the situation.
“I think there’s just so much uncertainty right now given the nature of this crisis and the kind of timelines; I think it’s hard to know when this will end,” Brandl said. “You’re kind of bracing yourself for the worst, which, for an anxious person, can be really hard.”
Brandl said he has been distancing himself for a little more than a week and combats feelings of helplessness by working with CGS and the homeless.
“Honestly, for me personally, I like to feel busy. I hate to feel like I’m helpless in the situation,” Brandl said.
Brandl works with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio as part of his placement work for his master’s. At COHHIO, he creates emergency funds, raises money, distributes supplies and connects people to basic needs and resources.
“It’d almost be useless to sit around and be helpless when I have avenues to kind of engage in these different areas of work that can help the crisis,” Brandl said.
Nicole Keller, a third-year in sport industry, said staying busy has also helped her with social distance.
Keller said social distancing reminds her of being stuck at home while recovering from a surgery, which negatively impacted her mental health, but she copes by staying busy.
“I feel like if I don’t do something, that’s when I start going crazy and get really bored,” Keller said.
If she’s not staying active, Keller said she becomes sad and negative regarding herself and the COVID-19 outbreak, but it helps her to take deep breaths, meditate, watch YouTube videos or call her friends.
“Sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I can do this for, you know, two weeks or however long,’ but other times I just get really negative,” Keller said. “Obviously, I get sad and just upset that I can’t hang out with people. Granted, on the daily, I just go to work and school and all that. It’s annoying that we can’t go out but I realize why.”
Brandl said he also understands the need for social distancing, but is itching to get out and see his friends.
In line with Melnyk’s advice, Brandl said he advises people to stay socially connected even though they may physically be apart.
Melnyk said she suggests avoiding the phrase “social distancing” because it promotes social withdrawal.
“We need virtual social interaction like crazy right now,” Melnyk said. “We’ve got to stop saying we’ve got to do social distancing. Distancing is extremely important, but let’s talk about physical distancing, not social distancing.”
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