Irritability. Sadness. Loss of appetite. These are a few signs and symptoms individuals may experience due to social distancing and isolation, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Feeling lonely or isolated can be a crippling sensation,” Erika Pobee-Mensah, the outreach coordinator for Florida Tech’s Counseling and Psychological Services, said in an email.
According to the SAMHSA, signs of stress include: increased irritability, trouble sleeping, or having difficulty communicating; physical signs like headaches, loss of appetite, or being easily startled; and emotional signs like feelings of guilt, anger, and overwhelming sadness.
This stress can lead to changes in sleep or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health problems, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pobee-Mensah said that students may alleviate feelings of anxiety by scheduling time to worry, and pursuing alternative behaviors like classwork, exercising, or playing music outside of that scheduled time.
Gianna Petravvulo, a junior studying biomedical science, said that it has been difficult to adjust from going out regularly to staying inside most of the time.
Petravvulo has found some positivity in social distancing; she’s used her extra time to do things she enjoys, like creating art and playing video games.
“I feel like I have a lot of time on my hands to focus on myself,” Petravvulo said, “it’s rekindled my creative side.”
To alleviate outbreak-related stress, the CDC also recommends establishing a routine of well-balanced meals and regular sleep and exercise.
Pobee-Mensah stated that many individuals are experiencing feelings of grief during this time of isolation, whether it be due to the loss or illness of a loved one, or the loss of work, income or social interaction.
“Whatever grief or loss you can identify, it is important to give yourself time to grieve and express these emotions,” Pobee-Mensah said. “Allow yourself to cry, to scream into a pillow, to call up someone and vent, or to write about how this pain feels.”
In addition to reaching out to friends and family, Pobee-Mensah said students may benefit from virtual socialization methods such as group chats, or multiplayer gaming. Gaming engagement has seen an uptick; concurrent users of gaming distribution service Steam exceeded 24 million multiple times between April 12 to 18, according to the Steam Database.
The CDC advises taking breaks from news consumption relating to the pandemic, including the use of social media. The National Alliance on Mental Illness further advises managing how one consumes information; the organization states that “false information spreads very easily on social media and can have serious consequences for individual and public health.”
The SAMHSA advises making time for conversation unrelated to the outbreak, in addition to sharing emotions related to the outbreak and exchanging reliable health information.
“Take a moment to put your doubts aside and reach out to friends or family,” Pobee-Mensah said, “Strike up a conversation with an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.”
The CDC states that those at higher risk for serious illness, including older adults and people with underlying health conditions, may experience higher stress levels. These individuals may become concerned that regular medical care could be disrupted.
As many individuals experience feelings of anxiety, stress, and grief, Pobee-Mensah advises staying connected: “If you are in need, ask for help from family, friends, or your local community.”