Supporting your health during this time of uncertainty and transition

Announcement Date: March 20, 2020

As students transition home from across the globe, SIT Study Abroad and the CDC are recommending that every student self-quarantine upon arrival home for 14 days and practice social distancing. Should you become symptomatic, please contact your local medical practitioner for medical advice. SIT Study Abroad asks that all students refer to and follow CDC guidance upon return after travel at this time. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html

While SIT continues to work to get students home at this time of transition and support students who are currently “sheltering in place” due to travel restrictions, many students are undoubtedly experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety. For every SIT student, this has been an extremely abrupt shift in expectations for the semester. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the globe, which means that our family and support network that we rely on are also experiencing stress and anxiety at this time.

This anxiety can take many forms, including panic attacks (an uncontrolled feeling of anxiousness often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, feelings of nausea/vomiting), fears of going out or being with other people, and an inability to think clearly or make decisions. It can also express itself in emotional de-regulation, which means that moods and feelings can swing out of control, bouncing from high to low, with the corresponding inability to regulate (control) the feelings. Fears can also lead to withdrawal and a profound sense of sadness and hopelessness. These are natural responses, and it is important to know that there are ways to cope with the stress, fears, anxiety and sadness you may be experiencing.

Despite the safety restrictions in place both in The United States and in countries across the world, there are concrete things to do to keep our heads on straight and reduce anxiety and stress.

1. Physical exercise. Although not all options are available, this is one of the most important things we can do to feel good physically and mentally. Exercise provides us with a calm mental space, away from all of the frightening news, fears and frustrations. Taking a daily walk outside with a member of your family, homestay family or a friend is enormously beneficial. Other forms of more rigorous exercise—such as running, if conditions allow, or even a 15- 20-minute rigorous workout in your room every day—can have extremely beneficial effects. If you practice yoga, throw down a towel and consider an online yoga class. Any kind of physical exercise is better than none. Try to motivate to do some.

2. Deep breathing. When feelings of anxiety are mounting, it is important to step back, find a private space, and practice some deep breathing. This means breathing in slowly and deeply, holding your breath, and even taking a bit more air in before breathing out slowly. A few minutes of deep breathing can be calming and help reduce anxiety.

3. Meditation. For those who meditate, this is an important resource for clearing your head and finding a moment of mental calm. For those who don’t, there are online guided meditation exercises that might be worth exploring.

4. Being in nature. The options may be limited. Sitting in a park, walking up a mountain path. Wherever you are, spending some time outside, in a natural setting can be soul nurturing and anxiety reducing. Try some deep breathing while you are there. Or just take in the beauty and enjoya moment of quiet and calm. Spending time outside, in natural beauty, is one of the best mental health actions you can take.

5. Contact with others. This is really critical. It is important to be in touch with friends and family, to feel their support and love, even if you aren’t in the same physical place. However, also be aware that the concerns and fears of family members may be affecting your state of mind as well. It is natural that parents would want their children to be home, even knowing they are safe where they are. Spending time with friends is also important … to the extent that you can, make sure to engage with your families (homestay family if you are still in country) and friends.

6. Studying/other mental activities: Focusing our minds on other mental endeavors can greatly reduce the tendency to get stuck in anxiety-provoking mental circles focused on the current situation. Mental activity can provide great emotional relief. Studying (once online courses are active) and reading (for pleasure as well) help to refocus our mental energy and thereby provide relief from stress and fears. This is a good time to be mentally active.

7. Other artistic activities: This is the time to draw, write, sing, dance, read, and engage in the types of activities that nurture your soul. For those who like movies, try to watch films, series, documentaries, all definitely recommended.

8. Stay informed about the situation but try to limit the amount of time you spend reading about the pandemic. Everyone in the world is anxious and afraid right now, and although much of what is being shared on social media is helpful, anxiety can be greatly augmented by spending too much time focused on coronavirus.

9. Seek counseling if you are struggling or need help processing this experience. SIT’s mental health counselor is available to all students and can set up meetings via Whatsapp or skype. Please contact counseling@sit.edu.

*If you are still on program due to the inability to get home, speak with program staff if you feel overwhelmed by the situation and need help navigating what is happening. We are here to help you.

Finally, it is important to remember that this situation is temporary. Every day there are changes in public health recommendations, travel restrictions and risk that directly affect your situation. Although the restrictions in place in many parts of the world right now feel overwhelming, things will return to normal. Take each day as it comes, trying to not project too far into the future. So much is up in the air right now. The most important thing is to stay safe and healthy.