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This semester on The Hill has been unlike any other. WKU students are balancing the familiar anxieties of the school year with added confusion and stress brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. Excitement permeates the WKU community despite these challenges, but navigating a system completely changed by a pandemic can be hard on a student trying to maintain a level of normalcy.

Betsy Pierce, the outreach coordinator for the WKU Counseling Center, said she thinks most people, not just college students, are more anxious due to the pandemic. 

“If a person already suffers with depression, the current virus concerns could exacerbate the depression. Signs that a persons’ mental health may be deteriorating could include struggling to cope with daily responsibilities, more than just the occasional lack of motivation,” Pierce said.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research published a study in June that found that students during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic were “more sedentary, anxious and depressed.” 

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The WKU Counseling Center is a resource on campus for students who feel a range of concerns, including depression, anxiety, relationships, trauma, adjustment and stress, Pierce said. In order to safely accommodate students this semester, counseling sessions and outreach programs are completely online. Students can call the center at 270-745-3159 to schedule an appointment, and more information can be found at https://www.wku.edu/heretohelp/ or by emailing at counseling.center@wku.edu.

“If a student is struggling with a mental health concern, regardless of what is causing or exacerbating the struggle, it is of primary importance to attend to self-care,” she said. 

Pierce said that specific techniques to help with self-care include relaxation techniques, mindfulness, proper nutrition and sleep habits, avoidance of drug or alcohol abuse, exercise, healthy internal self-talk and healthy relationships.

Pierce described mindfulness as “being aware of our experiences in the moment, without judging ourselves or those experiences, and simply allowing ourselves to be present.”

 She added that being mindful leads us to “decreased worry about the past or future, because we are being in the moment.”

Pierce recommends both Mindfulness Exercises and the app InsightTimer for working on improving mindfulness. InsightTimer is an app for guided meditation with community groups from beginner to expert. 

Louisville senior Hannah Hoerlein expressed how important it is for her well-being to make time for herself. She said she has experienced burnout with online classes and with sorority recruitment being virtual this semester. 

“I get energy from being around people, and with everything going on I’ve really had to take time for myself whether that is cooking dinner with my roommates or inviting a few of my sorority sisters over,” Hoerlein said.

To avoid that feeling of burnout, Pierce recommends looking further into resources offered at WKU, such as The Learning Center, as well as spending less time on devices. 

The Learning Center is continuing to take appointments for tutoring, which are offered both in-person and online. Their website details which classes they offer tutoring for, as well as study tips and contact information.

“I think it also helps to have a variety of activities to use so that we don’t get bored by doing the same one every day,” Pierce said. “It has been my experience that we do not lose the reasonable time we take for ourselves because we return to our demands in a refreshed, more productive frame of mind.”

Javier Lopez, a senior from Columbia, Cuba, said that not much had changed for him during quarantine, but the biggest challenge he faced was trying to have a social life while keeping it safe.

Lopez, who is working on a thesis film entitled “El Camino Hacia la Nada,” experienced several setbacks during production, including crew members graduating and needing to be replaced. His film was ultimately postponed until spring 2021.

“I’m just realizing I’ve only got a year left, and it has definitely made me think about the future,” he said. 

He is trying to go into that future with the people he trusts the most.

“In terms of hanging out with friends, I’ve only done that with people that do take social distancing seriously and wear masks when they are outside of their home,” he said.

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