Have your hands started getting clammy as you walk down the grocery aisle? Or maybe you noticed your heart starts racing while you wait in line? None of these things happened before the lockdown. Why now? These, now common, symptoms of social anxiety and stress have rapidly been on the incline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic January 2020.
Those who struggle with social anxiety may fear rejection or embarrassment leading them to avoid social interaction. As the stay-at-home order, social distancing and events being cancelled may be short term relief from interpersonal interactions, however, this lack of exposure may lead to maintaining the disorder as well as develop new struggles. During the pandemic, in a study released by the official COVID-19 page, 56.2% of young adults ages 18-24 have reported increased symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder.
“Only taking online classes due to COVID […] you don’t leave the house for days and do nothing but homework,” sophomore business major Jake Wiggins said. “I just don’t think that teachers understand that this is especially mentally draining for students.”
Students also feel the burden of financial strain, worry about their health, safety, having enough supplies and feeling lonely in isolation–all unforeseen effects of the pandemic. Butler Counselor Nancy Hamm explains how students have also had to adjust to online learning and missing the in-person social aspect that they really enjoy. She also explains because of social distancing the normal recreational options for fun, stress relief have been limited this year, and financial issues and unemployment have been a stressor.
The University of Rochester released a coping technique they have found helpful for those with anxiety. Trending on social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram, it is refenced as the 5-step grounding technique. Start by listing five things around you that you can see. Your shoes, a desk or even a spot on the ceiling. Then list four things you can touch: hair, a soft blanket and a hard desk. Next move to three things you can hear. Lastly, you will end with two things you can smell and one thing you can taste, such as the gum in your mouth or a hint of coffee. Practice deep breathing as you do these mental exercises to maintain clarity and a focused mind.
Hamm explains how she has also experienced mental health struggles as an unforeseen side effect of the pandemic.
“I practice deep breathing at least once a day, and I also close my eyes and practice mindfulness when I’m feeling overwhelmed,” said Hamm.
She also suggests techniques young adults can use when feeling stressed.
“Try to continue connecting with family and friends, give and get hugs, get outside in the sunshine, go on dates, take a drive, find a part-time job to help with finances and practice meditation,” said Hamm.
Moving virtually, Hamm has taking advantage of new technology and offers virtual drop-in group counseling sessions. Contact Nancy Hamm at (316)-322-3162 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the Zoom meeting ID for group therapy every Monday night at 4 p.m.
A positive ripple effect of the pandemic proves to show telehealth for counseling is becoming more of an option. Counselors have been able to meet with students, who before Covid-19 would not have considered virtual sessions.