Self-Care in the Time of COVID-19

Illustration by Drew Buchanan

Serena Bun
Contributing Writer

Being a college student is stressful enough, especially when handling a heavy workload, societal concerns, and for some, struggles with finances, family, and mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these anxieties. 

Now in the second week of remote instruction, the absence of a physical campus, friends, and organizations can leave students feeling more lonely and distressed than ever. So as students follow social-distancing guidelines, how can students practice self-care during isolation? 

Janet Osimo, PsyD, assistant clinical director and psychologist at UCSB’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), spoke with The Bottom Line over the phone about how to practice self-care during COVID-19. 

“As humans, we need to socialize with one another. We need friends, family, and eye contact,” Osimo said. “Even as children, we need socialization for our brains to develop. It goes back to our primal needs.”

Some folks might be comfortable spending their days indoors, but for those who gain energy and motivation through social interaction, social distancing is a difficult adjustment. 

Rather than the term “social distancing,” Osimo and her colleagues at CAPS have started using “physical distancing” to avoid the misconception that the former term implies a disconnect from society. 

But, it is easier than ever to keep connected while being apart. Texting can be impersonal; instead, hop onto Zoom, Skype, Discord, FaceTime, or make a phone call to connect with loved ones. 

On these calls, you can turn activities usually done alone into opportunities to socialize. Instead of reading on your own, form an online book club with your friends, or host a Netflix party and watch shows with others rather than binge seasons by yourself. 

“Sometimes we get into this ‘I’m upset because I have to do all these classes online, but I shouldn’t be upset because there are people dying’ mindset. When we dismiss our own mental health, then it’s hard to reach out to other people,” said Osimo. 

It is okay to not be okay. As Osimo explains, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and express your feelings, you can inspire others to follow by example. But this is not the only way you can help those in need. 

If you are able-bodied, financially stable, and have time to spare, you can use your privilege to help your community. Check-in on people and listen intently when you do it. Serve your community by offering to do grocery runs for the immunocompromised, elderly, caregivers, and those eligible for government aid. Smile at the cashier; they’re sacrificing a lot to be working right now. 

Being mindful of others is both a personal and collective mode of self-care.

“What can we control? Structure. Showering, giving yourself time to do things, and sleeping on schedule can bring yourself some sense of normalcy,” Osimo reminds students, stressing the importance of staying hydrated, eating healthy, and exercising. 

“This all helps with mood. Rest, sleep, elevate the immune system. Sometimes people are eating more, smoking more and sometimes this detracts from mood, so we should limit these things,” said Osimo.  

There is a lot of frustration from students due to lack of productivity, but it’s important to show yourself some compassion. We are living through a global pandemic. If you are making the effort to keep yourself and your community healthy, you are doing enough. 

As Osimo explained, “We didn’t choose this, no one chose this. We’re experiencing pain, loss, and disappointment, but we can limit this suffering. We can choose how to respond. We can choose to focus on the awfulness, but we can also choose to coexist. The choice is ultimately ours and we can focus on what we can control.”