Be Kind to Your Mind: Mental Health Services and Tips for Returning to Campus
"Coming back to campus may be exciting, especially at first, but it may also involve feelings of anxiety and stress," said Carie Forden, professor and chair of AUC's Psychology Department. News@AUC asked Forden to describe the different mental health services AUC is offering its community members as everyone returns to campus.
You conducted a survey in order to decide what services to offer. What are the overall results?
The survey we conducted showed that faculty, staff, and students were both excited and worried about coming back to campus. Some in the University community will have lost loved ones to the virus, and many have struggled with loneliness, isolation, fear and other difficult feelings over the past year and a half. People may experience difficulties with focusing, lowered motivation, exhaustion and burnout. This is a normal response to dealing with a worldwide pandemic. Most of us will be able to deal with these challenges through self-care and social support.
The survey also showed that the main source of worry people had about coming back to campus was the fear of catching the virus and passing it on to vulnerable loved ones. Therefore, one of the best things we can do to support each other as we return to campus, is to wear a mask at all times, socially distance, and follow the safety guidelines. These things help people both feel safe and stay safe, and will reduce anxiety and stress for everyone.
What services will be offered to the AUC community based on the survey results?
The Psychology Department and the Center for Student Well-being created a stress management toolkit which can be found at https://www.aucegypt.edu/coronavirus/stress-management. It provides self-care strategies and tips for supporting friends and family who are experiencing stress and anxiety. In addition, both the Center for Student Well-being and the Psychology Counseling Training Center will be providing a number of workshops and seminars on these topics in the coming semester.
What tips can you give to the AUC community about going back to campus?
Some people will need professional support to help them cope with anxiety and stress. If you find that anxiety is interfering with your ability to do your normal daily routine, if it is causing you a high degree of discomfort, if others are expressing concern about you, then it may be time to see a counselor. Students can receive free and confidential counseling through the Center for Student Well-Being, faculty and staff can contact Medical Services, and the Psychology Counseling Training Center has MA counseling students who provide services to faculty, staff and students as part of their training.
We are not simply resuming normal campus life after a break, we are different and the campus is different. As we return and adjust to these changes, it may be helpful to think about how we can become more resilient as individuals and as a community. This includes building good relationships, listening to each other and supporting each other. It also includes taking care of ourselves by exercising, eating well, resting, and saying “no” when we need to.
In the survey, many people mentioned the importance of flexibility, and this is also key to resilience. We need to become comfortable with change, and to make the best of it when it happens. And finally, finding meaning is vital to resilience, and the pandemic has given us an opportunity to learn about what makes our lives meaningful. As we return to campus in this challenging time, I think it's helpful to remember how our work and study here helps us achieve the goals that matter most to us, and how our colleagues and friends, the students, teachers, and staff, enrich our lives. If we can build better relationships, practice self-care, be flexible, and find meaning, we will not only cope more effectively now, it will help us develop the resilience we need to meet future challenges.
To learn more, join us at the next Campus Conversation on Thursday, September 23, featuring Forden; Ola Morsy, chief clinical counselor, Center for Student Well-Being; Yasmine Saleh '91, associate professor of practice, Department of Psychology; and two graduate students from the psychology department.