The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strain on the mental health of students, but psychologists have bound together to promote strategies on how to deal with feelings of depression and anxiety in this troubling time.
The University Health and Counselling Services are currently still operating under Ministry of Health and Medical Council Advice. You are still able to book counselling appointments if you are in need of support, and these will take place virtually. To discuss your needs with the University Health and Counselling team, call 0800 698 427.
Due to social restrictions, the feeling of isolation has become prevalent, particularly among younger generations. Socialisation, according to the government’s COVID-19 website, “helps us feel safer, less stressed and anxious”, therefore it is important to keep connected to friends and whānau you feel comfortable talking to. Talking is a common technique used in psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) to help relax and develop coping strategies; even just chatting to friends over the phone about how you’re feeling, or the problems you’re facing, can be beneficial to your wellbeing.
Trying to limit time spent on social media can also contribute to improving your mental state. A study by Fudan University in China shows that social media exposure, particularly for under 30s, may significantly increase feelings of depression and anxiety. Neil Greenberg, a King’s College London psychiatrist says to “limit your exposure to media stories about the pandemic… because it can cause anxiety”; meaning that avoiding trivial articles that are not purely factual or beneficial to your personal needs may be helpful. The World Health Organisation have also suggested minimising your news feed, therefore eradicating articles that make you feel upset or guilty rather than educate you about the topic.
Richard Bentall, a clinical psychologist from University of Sheffield, suggests “Maintain[ing] regular rhythms: wake up, eat and go to sleep at the same time you normally would. Find a project to keep yourself going”. Maintaining a sense of normalcy in a time of crisis is a necessity for achieving a balanced life. It is important to keep to a schedule for health and work requirements, but it is also important to leave time to relax and destress with healthy activities such as connected with nature.
In light of the New Zealand binge drinking culture as a response to anxiety and depression, Campbell Emmerton, a consultant psychiatrist and medical director at Auckland’s Re-centre, said “it’s really important that people accept and acknowledge when they are feeling that way and not try to suppress, avoid or drink it away”. Monitoring alcohol use can minimise the risk of harmless enjoyment escalating to an unhealthy coping mechanism. The Mental Health Foundation suggests staying active through any form of physical exercise, whether that be with a HIIT workout or some calm yoga, will release endorphins to provide a natural sense of positivity.
Students in need of mental health support during this time are encouraged to contact the University Health and Counselling team on 0800 698 427.
The website justathought.co.nz/covid19 offers a course guide to relaxation (including meditation), how to problem solve and track your worry in a manner that doesn’t cause stress over being stressed. If you need to contact someone to talk with you can call or text 1737 for 24/7 support from trained counsellors. Other numbers include Youthline’s free call line at 0800-376-633, or free-texting to 234.