“Back to WAC”: Maintaining mental wellness on campus

By Kaitlin Dunn

Elm Staff Writer

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country, it is important that people maintain habits that limit the spread of the disease, including maintaining one’s mental health.

This also means that this semester has brought a host of changes to residential life for those both on and off the Washington College campus, including students living in single rooms, attending classes via Zoom, and following consistent updates from WC Contingency Planning Group on the College website.

With these changes, many students may find themselves wondering how to maintain mental wellness during the semester, especially amid self-isolation. 

Although COVID-19 means that this semester looks rather different in terms of how people interact and maintain relationships, this does not mean your mental health has to suffer as a result of it.

According to the CDC, “Public health actions…are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely… Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.”

WC has several services available to help students maintain mental wellness during the semester. 

Counseling services are still available and students can schedule appointments through health services. 

In addition to counseling offered through WC, there are other proactive measures students can take to promote mental wellbeing.

Exercise is be a great way to not only promote mental, but also physical health.

According to the CDC, “physical activity can make you feel better, function better, and sleep better…While it may be difficult to remain physically active while social distancing, it is possible and important.”

The Johnson Fitness Center is open to students, which can be accessed via reservation through a SignUpGenius link that was sent out via email earlier in the semester. 

In addition to accessing the JFC, there are other methods students can use to maintain their physical health.

Despite the current chilly temperatures, students can still walk around campus and Chestertown, along with partaking in other mental wellness activities. In addition to exercise, the CDC also recommends meditating, healthy eating, and avoiding excessive substance use.

The WC Contingency Planning Guide also has recommendations for students to maintain mental health during the semester under the Counselling Services page on the College website.

The CPG Guide recommends that students “bring a tailgate-style chair so you can easily set up outside for some social time; find a fitness app and some personal workout gear that travels easily…[and]…learn and practice meditation which is a great stress reliever. If you need support, reach out, either to a friend or family member or through the Counseling Center, [and] know that you are not alone.”

Activities such as spending time outside, indoor and outdoor workouts, and mediation can be great in promoting mental wellness during the semester. 

Social distancing and quarantine have also had an impact on how we interact with other people, which can cause feelings of loneliness or isolation. 

“During times of social distancing, it is especially important to stay connected with your friends and family. Helping others cope with stress through phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely or isolated,” the CDC said.

While it might be harder to maintain mental wellness, there are things in place to help the WC community maintain mental wellbeing while being safe. 

Above all, the National Alliance on Mental Health recommends that everyone be kind to themselves, “as this time is challenging for everyone. But you don’t need to compound the difficulties by neglecting your mental health… you can face this crisis — you may even come out of it stronger in the end.”

Featured Photo caption: While this year has brought on several changes for the Washington College community, one of the biggest has been effects on students’ mental health — here’s what you can do to better your wellbeing this semester. Photo Courtesy of Tim Mossholder.

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