5-21-2020 Update

Academic Distress Due to COVID-19

Thus far, at least 1,102 colleges and universities in the US have closed their campuses due to coronavirus, and many have transitioned to online classes (1). It is estimated that college/university closures have affected at least 14 million students (1). Though most health experts and schools have agreed that school closure has been a necessary factor in limiting the spread of coronavirus, this abrupt and drastic measure has had a ripple effect on the academic community. For many students, the school closure and transition to online classes has been difficult and stressful. Now, more than ever, students have had to navigate a variety of challenges that may impact their academic performance including financial concerns, accessibility to online learning, shifting academic demands, family problems, and physical and mental health issues. Here is a list of academic stressors and coping resources:

  1. Financial Concerns. Many college students may wonder about their current and future job prospects and contemplate whether to continue with school or to save up for food/shelter for themselves and their families. Some students are dependent on the school’s food pantry, scholarships, funding, and/or financial aid to live and attend school. As a result, there have been many logistical challenges, especially for the low-and-middle-income students.

    TIPS: Utilize available PCC resource guide pages relevant to financial support!
    • The following PCC resource guide page contains information about:
      Food pantry & clothing
      Health care
      Rapid response emergency aid (RREA)
      Housing & shelter
      Transportation
      Financial assistance & employment
      Social services support
      Child care & after school programs
      Other support programs (CalWORKS, academic supplies, books, counseling, registration,foster care students, overcoming recidivism through education, etc.)
    • Scroll down to “Financial Aid” for the following PCC link, especially look at “Office of Financial Aid.”
    • Go to the following PCC pdf link and look at these sections: Housing Resources, Families Experiencing Homelessness, Youth Experiencing Homelessness, Local Food Resources, and Other Resources (mental health, substance abuse, child and elderly abuse, etc.)
  2. Accessibility to online learning. Not every student has the means to purchase a laptop or desktop computer and/or internet access. As a result, the transition to online teaching and learning has not been easy for many students. It is important to help ensure that all students have equal access to educational resources (5; 6). Therefore, the aim is to create and provide these technological platforms as soon as possible so that students are able to meet their academic goals.

    TIPS: Utilize PCC’s resource pages regarding remote learning/services for disabled students, tutoring, computer/Wifi access, and student services!
    • Go to the following PCC link and scroll down to “Technology For Your Remote Classes.” You may find resources for borrowing a laptop (a limited number of them) and some ways to get free WiFi access.
    • PCC’s remote tutoring service for a variety of subjects
    • PCC’s remote student services, which include the following and more:
      Admission, records, transfer, and academic counseling
      Financial aid
      International students
      Empowerment programs
      Support for marginalized groups
      Special services
  3. Shifting Academic Demands. Students across the nation are asked to sit in front of the computer for hours at a time to practice social distancing. While this may benefit some students, it is important to acknowledge differences in learning and teaching may impact learning ability. This may include differences in learning styles among students taking classes online. For example, individuals who are more introverted may enjoy online learning better, however, extroverts may not have the social support they are used to enjoying (8). Lastly, incongruence in teaching styles and orientation to online platforms may make it difficult for instructors to teach in conducive manners (7).

    TIPS: Explore tools that could assist you in meeting your current academic demands while learning online.
  4. Family Problems. Difficulties at home such as pre-existing family issues, domestic violence, and multi-family living may be magnified due to stay-at-home orders. For instance, non-traditional students with children at home, experience some of the highest levels of psychological distress (4). Additionally, for many students, the financial impact of COVID-19 may be heavy (9) and a source of worry as a well as impact their ability to concentrate and complete assignments on time (10).

    TIPS: Navigate resources that PCC has made available to your specific needs.
  5. Physical and Mental Health Issues. Social distancing due to the impact of COVID-19 has created a breadth of changes. Psychological distress such as nervousness, anxiety, loneliness, and physical reactions like sweating, trouble breathing, and pounding heart have been some of the reactions noted in research due to the current pandemic (4). Such experiences may be a result of lack of usual support systems at school, access to campus resources, and limited access to mental and physical health resources.

    TIPS: Reaching out to others in time of need can be a difficult thing. Perhaps you can begin by exploring the resources available to you “on” and off campus.

References

  1. How coronavirus dramatically changed college for over 14 million students
  2. In New York state, the black and Hispanic populations are at higher risk of dying from coronavirus, preliminary data shows
  3. As schools shift to online learning amid pandemic, here’s what we know about disabled students in the U.S.
  4. People financially affected by COVID-19 outbreak are experiencing more psychological distress than others
  5. The pandemic's impact on education
  6. Disabled Americans are less likely to use technology
  7. Time to fix American education with race-for-space resolve
  8. Learning Styles and the Online Environment
  9. About Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due to COVID-19
  10. How Financial Issues Impact Your Mental Health

5-14-2020 Update

COVID-19 & Zoom Exhaustion

Online courses, meetings and seminars are not a new concept, so why is it that we are feeling much more drained now than ever before? It is important to remember that most of our social roles used to happen in different places and now they are all being funneled together into one place. It is strange to feel that you can go to class, work, and then hang out with family and/or friends all from essentially the same location, given that the “Stay At Home Order” continues to apply.

Research shows that there is a different quality to our attention when we are online. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these take up a lot of energy. The larger the zoom group, the more processing of visual cues are required. When you're on a video conference, you know everybody's looking at you creating a social pressure of needing to perform, in turn causing stress. Overall, we need to be proactive in maintaining virtual social connections during this time; social distancing does not mean social isolation. It is important that we understand what factors into our exhaustion so that staying social does not become associated with fatigue. 

Strategies For Managing Zoom Exhaustion:

  1. Limiting video calls to those that are necessary --  Try using your phone, not your computer, to call in if you can. It can be less stressful when you “show up” in voice only mode.
  2. Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention --  Do a brief body scan.
  3. Resist the urge to multitask -- Taking notes by hand has been shown to increase retention; focus on what is being said and avoid using multiple screens at the same time.
  4. Take measured breaks between sessions -- Give your brain a chance to switch gears        
  5. Make sure that your “work space” feels different from your “living area” --  Try changing the lighting when you log off from class or group meetings, change into comfortable clothes and/or practice a self-care skill.
  6. Try choosing speaker option to focus on the person who is speaking first -- Brady Bunch-style” screen option challenges the central vision of the brain, forcing it to decode many people at once that no one comes through meaningfully.

5-7-2020 Update

Grief & COVID-19

In light of our current public health crisis, a great number of people across the world are facing (individual) losses such as illness and death as well as (collective) losses of identity, connection and sense of security. Physical distancing, for some, has taken away the ability to say good-bye and to mourn with others. This can create a sense of ambiguous loss. It is common for those who experience loss to feel frustrated and helpless, disempowered, and lack a sense of closure.

Even those who have not lost something concrete are experiencing loss of financial security, a sense of safety, social connectedness, and personal freedoms. Our work, healthcare, education and economic systems have destabilized in recent months. Researchers believe we can experience grief over anything that feels like a loss of identity. Our current crisis has resulted in a type of grieving that some psychologists refer to as a “living loss” or one that keeps going. At this time, we do not know when the pandemic and associated losses will end.

It is important to recognize that grief is natural and useful. It requires a shift toward acceptance that we must adapt to our new circumstances. While grieving, it is normal to fluctuate between sadness and mourning and moments of happiness and acceptance. It is okay to allow distractions such as entertainment to help you feel happier and even laugh. Part of the grieving process is acknowledgment of pain and feelings that come along with a loss. This allows grief to do its job, and helps us to move on. Research shows that most people will bounce back and move on with their lives once the crisis has passed.

Strategies for Managing Grief:

  1. Name what you are losing collectively and individually- it can help to provide language around the vague anxiety that you may feel. You can identify what you feel you are losing during the pandemic and what you can do to strengthen ties/mitigate loss.
  2. Social support is vital and can help you move on from grief: stay connected through phone calls, video chats (Facetime, Zoom), and social media (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat) or look for an online grief support group. Social distancing does not have to mean social disconnection. Learn about additional ways to connect. You might also try social apps like Houseparty, Netflix Party, Rave, Quarantine Together, and Bunch.
  3. Try journaling to help put words to losses and identify ways to move forward. Learn more about the benefits of journaling and some specific tips for journaling about grief
  4. Identify personal strengthscoping skills for moving on with life and utilizing strategies you have used in the past to get through difficult losses.
  5. While grief is a healthy, normal reaction after experiencing a loss, for some it can persist and become problematic. If you feel stuck, are experiencing co-occurring emotional difficulties, or need support connecting with others, refer to local PCC resources. 


4-30-2020 Update

Coping with Trauma during the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, every day the graphic details of this struggle play out in the news, on our social media feeds, and conversations with others. Although this information may help us keep up-to-date, honor those who have been lost due to this global tragedy or stay connected to the outside world, for some people the constant flow of news can be overwhelming and have a deleterious impact on their mental health.

Because April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, this may be an especially difficult time for survivors of sexual violence. Survivors of Sexual Violence may be at an elevated risk for re-experiencing trauma related symptoms, such as feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, sadness, or anger. This may trigger concerns about one’s own safety, the safety and security of loved ones, and recollections of painful memories.  

Here is a list of coping strategies and tools to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your mental health:

  1. It is okay to not feel okay.  It is important to honor how you feel and recognize that you are allowed to have emotional reactions come to the surface.  Check out this podcast on coping with emotions during this time.
  2. Practice self-care. Now more than ever, it is important to prioritize your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Check out this workbook to begin the process of self-care and try the 21-Day Self-Care Challenge
  3. Connect with others. Maintaining social connections is very important, especially during this period of social distancing. Staying in contact with people that love and support you can promote a sense of connectedness and also help you feel safer. Check out National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Resources List for Websites and Resources for Survivors of Sexual Violence. This list includes peer support groups online.
  4. Practice meditation. Research has shown that meditation may have a positive effect on PTSD symptoms for survivors of trauma. It is important to meditate in places where you feel safe, in a manner that you feel comfortable with, and being okay with your thoughts wandering or becoming distracted. Check out UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center’s free guided meditations.
  5. Use creativity. Engaging in creative endeavors can help people stay present, work thru painful emotions, and become important outlets to process trauma related symptoms. Check out free mandala coloring pages.
  6. Seek support. Sometimes we need to get additional support when going through a difficult time. Please feel free to reach out to Personal Counseling Services and schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians. We can be reached by calling (626) 585-7273 or via email at personalcounseling@pasadena.edu

4-24-2020 Update

Destigmatizing Coronavirus

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a global impact on health, physical wellness, and mental health. The psychological well-being of people of color, immigrants, LGTQ+, and other marginalized groups have been continued to be compromised due to xenophobia, racism, and oppression. The definition of xenophobia refers to one’s fear and hatred of anything foreign, including individuals (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Follow below to learn about how xenophobia and racism may impact your community during the COVID-19 public health crisis. You can make a difference! In order to combat racism and xenophobia, there are several ways one can become part of the solution such as reporting hate crimes or discrimination, validating victims’ experiences, and even becoming an ally to combat prejudices. Learn ways to navigate healthy coping strategies if xenophobia impacts you and others around you.

  1. First-hand Experiences. Hear and read about the impact of xenophobia and racism from people in our extended community, including brave healthcare workers

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRDXsH8p4mk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfvS3Opr-6o

    https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_AHijQHYa5/?igshid=1smgvd83mvzyd

    → Links: https://www.kut.org/post/spike-prejudice-asian-americans-dfw-face-racism-coronavirus-spreads

  2. Psychological and Physical Effects of Xenophobia and Racism. Research shows that experiences of xenophobia and racism have a negative impact on psychological well-being of targeted groups (Yakushko, 2009). These experiences are often associated with an elevated risk ofPTSD, Anxiety, Depression, and other forms of oppressions such as violence and microaggressions.
    1. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the media, PTSD often invokes images of war veterans or people who have gone through more visible and sensationalized experiences, but the reality is that research has also shown implications that xenophobia and racism can be associated with the development of PTSD (Carter, 2007). Experiences of marginalization can be painful and traumatic. Xenophobia and racism are seen in many forms – microaggressions, verbal and physical threats, actual violence and even death. Additionally, for those who have experienced xenophobia and racism in the past, the current climate may trigger their distressing memories, anxiety, hypervigilance, paranoia, difficulty focusing, avoidant behaviors, detachment, lack of motivation, insomnia, lack of affect, and persistent negative emotional state.

      TIPS: You are not alone, seek out your community, help when you can, and be aware!

      Recognize your experiences of racism and xenophobia are real, that you are not being “oversensitive” https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/responding-racism-during-covid-19-outbreak

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201509/the-link-between-racism-and-ptsd
    2. Anxiety. The outbreak of COVID-19 can be stressful for a lot of people. It can potentially impact everyone emotionally, physically, and economically. Fear and anxiety about the virus can cause a lot of strong emotions. People can feel anxious about where they touch, the air they breathe, the people they come in contact with, their own health, their children’s health, their jobs, and their future. Unfortunately, sometimes these complicated and challenging emotions get projected onto certain groups as means of scapegoating or gaining a sense of control. For these targeted groups, they face an extra layer of stress. They may worry about experiencing racial microaggressions or verbal assault, so they may avoid certain situations and behaviors. Their routines and sleep quality may be disrupted. They may worry about their families’ and their own physical safety.

      TIPS: Prepare, consult, create safety/emergency plan, stay calm, and report!
    3. Depression. Imagine when you walk into a store or on a street, you are being stared at negatively, verbally insulted with negative names or telling you that you do not belong in America, physically threatened or assaulted, and arrested or kicked out of a place all because of the way you look and sound or the way your friend looks and sounds. Even more, every day you wake up thinking if the above will happen to you, your family, and friends. You might start to ruminate negatively, feel tired, have difficulty focusing, eating and sleeping, have low motivation, and have feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness or even thoughts of death. If you are already having these symptoms then you may be experiencing some signs of depression as a result of racism and xenophobia.

      TIPS: Strengthen the positives and step away from negative rumination, be protected by your community and be a social justice ally, prepare and create safety/emergency plans.
    4. Impact of Violence. Physical violence among people of color has consistently been on the rise in the United States, posing potential issues for individuals since the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). (https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018). Due to cultural mistrust, among other factors, violence may not readily be reported within communities of color (Terrell & Terrell, 1981). Statistics show that rates of violence are typically underreported (Acierno et al., 1997).

      TIPS: Stay safe out there and be aware of your surroundings.
    5. Microaggressions. When we think of crimes, we may think of overt criminal activity such as physical violence. The reality is that other forms of Xenophobic and racist behaviors occur such as microaggressions. Microaggressions are defined as brief, intentional or unintentional, implicit behaviors expressing hostility towards an oppressed group (Nadal, 2014). According to Nadal (2014), as microaggressions towards people of color increase, so does the potential for exacerbated symptoms of depression.

      TIPS: Self-awareness of biases and prejudices can be helpful. Remember, knowledge is power!

4-16-2020 Update

Amidst the recent Coronavirus outbreak, local, state, and federal entities have suggested practicing social distancing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the practice of social isolation in an effort to further prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The following outlines the normal reactions to isolation as well as tips to overcome each:

  1. Loneliness. Isolation could increase perceived loneliness. Put things into perspective and know that we are all in this together. Challenge your negative thoughts as they can lead to negative feelings. It is true that social isolation can carry risks. Reach out to your close friends and family for support and encouragement. We are all in this together. If you have a pet, do not forget your pet! Studies have shown that pets can teach us mindfulness, appreciation of the simple things, lower our emotional and physiological stress, renew our sense of purpose, encourage socialization, and a better sense of physical safety.
    TIPS: We all need each other, support one another!
    • Risk of loneliness

    • Do not carry all this burden, distribute the stress

    • Use the text/phone help lines

    • Your pet can be your best friend and teacher

  2.  Lack of contact. Humans are social beings and a lack of human contact can affect one’s mental health. Stay in community through virtual outlets. Engage in phone calls, texts, group chats and consider reaching out to old friends.
    TIPS: Meaningful Relationships = Happiness
    • The longest standing study found that meaningful relationships have been found to be related to happiness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI
    • Here are some virtual outlets to check out: Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, House Party, Zoom

  3. Isolation. Perceived isolation can lead to negative physical and mental health consequences. It is important to keep your mind and body busy as indicated on the following link https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation. Continue routines such as taking showers, making your breakfast, and starting (school) work. Exercise as much as possible such as with online tutorials or virtual exercise groups.

    TIPS: Keep your routine. Exercise.

    • FREE exercise trial apps:  Yoga with Adriene, Sworkit, MWH Method,   Tone it Up app

    • Lifehacks to stay in routine: Dropbox, Toggl, FREE (Passion Planner) Downloads

  4. Poor sleep. Feelings of loneliness could create poor sleep hygiene. Poor sleep hygiene can lead to a compromised immune system. It is more important than ever to have a good sleep routine. Lack of sleep can actually make you sick! https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757

    TIPS: Use alarms to stay as close as possible to your routine.

  5. Vicious cycle. Loneliness can potentially lead to maladaptive coping (i.e. drinking, smoking, withdrawal), which could escalate negative thinking patterns and behavior.

    TIPS: Practice healthy coping techniques.

    • Exercise

    • Guided meditation through apps like Calm, Headspace, UCLA Mindful App

    • Staying connected

    • Journal or Blog

    • Arts and Crafts

  6. Mental health. In more severe cases, loneliness has been found to affect our executive functioning, which can compromise our memory, attention, self-regulation, and self-motivation. Again, continue exercising your brain through reading, studying, and relaxation. Try your best to not overindulge in social media or things that will continue impacting your health.

    TIPS: Incorporate as many TIPS as possible.

    Learn more by visiting the following link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/obesely-speaking/201412/the-truth-about-loneliness

  7. Depression. A sense of loneliness can lead to or increase symptoms of depression (e.g. lack of energy, change in appetite, apathy, thoughts of harming oneself or others, low self-esteem, loneliness, crying spells). If you are finding yourself “stuck” and having difficulty while isolating or quarantined, please connect with our resources and reach out to someone.


    TIPS:
    Remember, we are all in this together!


4-9-2020 UPDATE

Since March 19th, 2020 California has been under a Stay at Home order in an effort to mitigate the impact of the current outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). While these social isolation measures are in place to protect us during this public health crisis, they also have the potential for having an impact on our mental health. For example, Fear, uncertainty, and anxiety may become heightened during the COVID-19 outbreak. This can be normal. Reading, hearing, and watching the news about the ongoing changes due to the Coronavirus can be overwhelming. The uncertainty of this novel virus can cause one to become anxious. However, to further promote overall health, it is essential to care for your own physical and mental health needs especially if you are finding the fear and anxiety are beginning to interfere with your daily routine. The following are signs of increased anxiety as well as tips to try to overcome them:

    1. Fear of the unknown.  The novelty of the coronavirus can instill fear of what it is. However, it is important to carefully choose your sources of information as overindulging in social media can heighten such fears. Stay informed by credible sources and avoid overindulging in social media posts about COVID-19. Limit the time you watch the news from 30 minutes to a maximum of two hours a day.

      TIPS: Clean up the mental clutter!
    2. Cognitive distortions. While it may be easy to assume the worst, negative thinking patterns will only heighten one’s fears and anxiety. There is a difference between overthinking or catastrophizing a situation and being prepared for a potential negative situation. Examine the type of thinking patterns you are having. Are they negative? Realistic?

      TIPS: Practice positive thinking and take a step back!
      • Challenge your own negative thinking patterns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk
      • Healthy food, exercise, and solid sleep boost give your willpower to think more clearly
      • Meditation practice helps you to take a step back

    3. Fear and worry. During this public health crisis, many people worry about their own health and that of their loved; which tends to consume a lot of mental energy and psychological resources. However, stress can compromise one’s physical health as well. Overall, take care of your body!

      TIPS: Use the body as an anchor and be compassionate to yourself and others!
    4. Change in sleep or eating patterns. An increase in anxiety can lead to sleep disruption and poor eating habits, which may have a negative snow-ball effect impacting other areas of daily living. It is important to develop a consistent, positive, and healthy daily routine, which can help stop the negative daily reactivity and build a positive flow throughout the day and into the night.

      TIPS: Write down your self-care and safety plan!
      • Practice good self-care by relaxing, resting, and eating a well-balanced diet https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips
      • Pre-planning helps you to do more positive activities and avoid the negative ones
      • Create a safety plan for emergency situation, so you can put your mind to rest and be more effective when it happens

    5. Difficulty concentrating. Fear, worry, and anxiety can be consuming and create difficulties in concentrating on our daily tasks. Focus on today and not so much on the past and/or future. Although this can be difficult, meditation, continuing your daily routine, and breaking the challenge into bite size can be helpful in focusing on the here and now.

      TIPS: Build your inner and outer ecosystems and slow it down! 
    6. Increase in use of substances. If you notice an increase in maladaptive coping (e.g. drinking, smoking), this may be a sign that you may be having difficulty coping with the pandemic. Explore other coping techniques that you may not have tried before such as meditation, yoga, virtual gatherings, or keeping a gratitude journal and reach out to professionals if needed.

      TIPS: Become aware of your triggers and find more positive replacements!

Lead Psychologist: Jason Vasquez, Ph.D.
Advanced Doctoral Practicum Trainees: Jackson Hsu and Sara Villegas-Boykins