Maintaining your mental health during a pandemic

A Philadelphia counselor gives advice to students struggling with mental health in the new COVID-19 reality.


Tori Ruth has struggled with adjusting to learning remotely. 

“I told myself I was going to clean to keep myself busy — not doing that. I used to have my job to help me keep a routine, but that’s through the window right now,” said Ruth, a freshman psychology and classics major.

Due to the global COVID-19 outbreak, Temple University moved to online-only instruction earlier this month. Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stay-at-home order for 26 Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia, according to a press release on Mar. 30.

With more than 100 universities adjusting their spring semester plans, whether that be dismissing students from campus or switching to online learning, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of students around the United States, according to USA Today. 

The abrupt end to a spring semester has not been an easy transition for students, Ruth said. In two weeks, Temple University students were told to move out of on-campus residence halls, to continue their courses online and that graduation would be postponed, The Temple News reported.

Junior finance major Jose Rosario said that even though his assignments have stayed the same, remote learning has added another layer of stress to his work, especially when it comes to getting homework done.

“I’m used to going to the library or staying active while doing my school work and making sure that I change my environment so I can keep learning. But now it’s just in my room or my living room and I just have to do it, like it’s just dreadful to get the work done,” Rosario said.

For students like Ruth and Rosario, the biggest concern has not solely been physical health, but academia, consequenting in mental health challenges. 

“My biggest stress is academics but that definitely encompasses mental health because I am known to stress out about school a lot,” Rosario said. 

For Ruth, academics and day-to-day life have been nothing short of a constant battle. Living with dyslexia and bipolar disorder, Ruth has found it difficult to keep up with her Temple courses as well as receive therapy from La Salle University, which has since indefinitely shut down in-person sessions during the pandemic. 

Allowing students are still in Pennsylvania, Temple University’s Tuttleman Counseling Services have done the same, permitting students to continue their appointments online and encouraging them to join daily group Zooms. 

“I can’t get the same kind of help I was used to getting, and that’s stressful,” Ruth said. “I went from, like, having an A in my stat class to, I have a low C now, just with all of this.”

Students around the globe have been forced to deal with the overwhelming stress of completing their semesters or degrees online, Huffington Post reported. 

“All of our workloads have increased, so on top of all of this being stressful, you have even more stress for school,” Ruth said. “I know I’m not the only one.”

Ruth’s mental health has begun to bear the brunt of her deteriorating academic stability. 

“My pre-existing physical issues are getting worse with the stress, and because of that, I’m even more worried about getting sick. It’s this messy cycle that sucks,” Ruth said. “I would say that my mental health is more worrisome at the moment because it’s making me vulnerable with the stress.”

Amanda E. White, a licensed counselor from Therapy for Women, said the pandemic is affecting individuals already struggling with poor mental health. This is a frightening time for many people, she added.

“This is some of the worst things to be having to deal with because it’s actually really valid. So it can almost prove your anxiety or your OCD right and feels very scary from that point of view,” White said.

For those losing cherished traditions, events or plans, it’s OK to grieve the losses, she said.

“I think the world right now is kind of going through this collective mourning of things that we had planned, things that were going on. And I think it’s really important to give ourselves space and remember that we can feel multiple things at once,” White added. 

But, there is hope for stability even during this unparalleled time, she said. She emphasized the importance of routines and maintaining as much normalcy as possible, like eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, virtually socializing and keeping track of time spent on media.

“I think limiting the amount of time you spend watching the news and trying to do it only once or twice a day, because it can kind of feed this false sense of control we have which leaves us kind of going back and constantly checking the news,” White said. 

To keep spirits up, Ruth said she has been watching shows she enjoys, playing new games, and talking to friends. 

White recommended following counselors on Instagram and seeking out therapy if it can be afforded. 

“Talk to people. Don’t give up on friendships or people that are in your support network,” White said. 

For students struggling with mental health during this time, Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services, Wellness Resource Center and other campus organizations have dedicated their time to providing remote support. The WRC is hosting webinars on Zoom, focused on advising students with tips to maintain a healthy mental state during quarantine.

White urged communities to continue practicing “compassion and understanding.” 

“We’re all doing the best we can right now,” White added. 

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