Self-Care in the Time of Social Distancing

By Theresa Woods

At the start of the Spring 2020 semester, no one expected that universities around the world, including USF, would be moving courses into an online format and urging students to stay away from campus. With the spread of COVID-19 and the unprecedented actions of national, state, and local governments across the nation, students, faculty, and staff in our university communities are faced with unprecedented changes and constantly evolving circumstances. 

At its core, the faculty and students of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS) focuses on research and services that strive to create better lives for individuals and communities. This has never been more important than it is right now as we face a global pandemic together. Dean Julie Serovich of CBCS has been working with university leadership and college faculty to facilitate the necessary rapid changes to continue education for students during this period of social distancing, and to help support our community’s mental health as these changes are made. 

Here are Dean Serovich’s tips for taking care of yourself and staying positive while practicing social distancing. 

Focus on positive habits and productive thoughts
“Breathe!” is Serovich’s advice to those experiencing stress and anxiety as the COVID-19 situation evolves. “Stay focused on the present moment and not the past or a future that is clear as mud. What is important is keeping focused on the healthy things we are doing and thinking each and every moment.” 

During this time, activities such as meditating, practicing yoga, exercising, and seeking experiences that make you happy (like reading or watching your favorite movies) are vital to supporting your own wellbeing.  

Spend as little time on the media as possible
While remaining informed is especially important during a crisis, constantly watching the news and consuming media is not always the best option. You don’t need to be constantly consuming the news when you can review the information and updates every few hours. Set a few minutes in the morning and evening to review the news and then do your best to distance yourself from it and focus on your work or on less stressful activities. 

Make your own mental health a priority
“Like they tell you in an airplane: Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others,” says Dean Serovich. Be aware of the resources that are available in your community, whether it be local or virtual, and be open to linking your loved ones to mental healthcare professionals. “Remember,” Dean Serovich says, “doctors are not allowed to treat their families as patients for a reason. Mental health is no different.” 

If you or a family remember is in the high-risk category for COVID-19, explore your telehealth options for mental healthcare through your employer, school, insurance company, or on your own. 

Consider positive outcomes
It is possible that life may change as people go back to work and resume their normal lives. This may be especially true in the field of mental healthcare. “I think telehealth and telementalhealth are going to show us a new and potentially more affordable platform for quality care,” says Dean Serovich. Though there is a lack of research behind these emerging platforms and apps, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing these systems to operate and grow, and more people are leaning how to manage their health and mental wellbeing remotely. “It may be a very good thing.” 

Dean Serovich has also published the following video full of tips to help you support yourself and loved ones during this time.  

Remember during this time that there are resources available to you through your community and USF. If you or a loved one are in need of help, please reach out to professionals in your community.

Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
University of South Florida Counseling Center
University of South Florida Coronavirus Page
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