UH Health Experts: Stress and anxiety normal, and here are some ways to help you manage it - University of Houston
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DSAES News
April 14, 2021

Are you feeling stressed?

Irritated?

Anxious or sad for seemingly no reason?

All of those are perfectly normal reactions to what's happening, said Dr. Suzy Harrington, assistant vice president for Student Affairs – Health and Well-Being.

"You might be stressed by these sudden changes in your routine and what is going on right now in our world," Harrington said. "We can validate that it is normal to have a variety of strong emotional reactions to these events, including fear, anxiety, sadness and frustration."

But you are not alone, she emphasized, and that could be comforting to many University of Houston students whose semesters and lives were upended by COVID-19. Harrington said one way of managing these emotions is to continue to nurture the human relationships that you found support from, even while obeying the orders to stay home.

"It is important to stay connected — with your family, friends, faculty and others within your community, even with physical distancing."

Harrington oversees several departments in the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, including the Student Health Center, Campus Recreation, UH Wellness, Students with DisABILITIES, Cougars In Recovery, and Counseling and Psychological Services.

These departments have created many virtual services that can help students who are struggling to cope, but they have also compiled some easy tips that can also help:

Focus on healthy coping strategies

Maximize your coping skills:

  • Go for a walk or attend a virtual recreation program.
  • Eat nourishing food
  • Get adequate sleep, but don't sleep all-day
  • Focus on positive social media or call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile
  • Consider health and wellness coaching with Wellness staff
  • Monitor use of alcohol and other drugs. Call Cougars in Recovery if you are looking for a support group  link

Focus on what you can influence

So much can feel out of your control right now. What can you influence?

  • Washing your hands and not touching your face with unwashed hands
  • The amount of news media you consume (limit to 30 minutes per day, updates)
  • Taking full, deep breaths periodically
  • Make a list of what else is in your power and focus on those
  • Practice self-compassion

Find things to do that nurture your mind and spirit

  • Engage with life around you with intentionality and being present
  • Make time for tasks that allow for hope and future planning even if it is uncertain when some things may happen
  • First, focus on your classes, but also Find Ted Talks, books that inspire you, and journaling activities
  • Incorporate daily exercise and yoga into your routine. Both yoga and exercise are powerful tools to limit symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Start a new hobby you always wanted to do

Unplug

Limit the amount of time you devote to stressful news coverage: 

Connect with your support system

Reach out to folks who support and energize you:

  • Be open about how you're feeling and hold this space for others as well
  • Find ways to positively support one another
  • Schedule regular video chats or phone calls to check-in

Tap into this moment

Being mindful won't make your anxiety go away, but it can change your relationship to it:

  • Consider utilizing a mindfulness app
  • Consider joining a virtual guided mindfulness meditation through Instagram Live
  • Postpone your worry so it doesn't take up your whole day. Instead, set aside time to allow yourself to worry (e.g. 30 minutes at the end of the day).

Ask for help

We offer a number of online and virtual resources that can help during this time:

  • The Division website will direct you to the most current information about student services.
  • The CoogsCARE website will continue to be a resource for emergency aid resources at UH and in the city of Houston.
"If you are utilizing the strategies above and find that you are struggling to manage a variety of emotions, or if you are even wondering if you should reach out for help, you should," Harrington stressed. "Seeking help is not always our first impulse but it may prevent things from getting worse."

Students can access a counselor 24/7 at Counseling and Psychological Services.

View a full list of virtual and remote services offered by the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services.