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Trevor Yuhas, director of counseling services, sits in front of a bookcase

Counseling Services offers tips for adjusting to new year during pandemic

Every new school year brings a jumble of emotions: Students, faculty and staff are invigorated yet anxious, filled with both anticipation and trepidation.

But this year, after individuals’ sense of familiarity and comfort was shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic, those competing emotions are heightened, said Trevor Yuhas, director of counseling services. People may be more eager than ever to rekindle relationships and return to normalcy, but are overwhelmed at the uncertainty about the future.

“There has been a lot of exhaustion, a lot of burnout,” he said. “An interesting term that has come up, particularly to describe students, is called ‘languishing.’ It’s this idea that students have not necessarily been depressed … but also not flourishing. It’s sort of that space in between.”

Students may have decreased motivation and lessened interest in things, he said. They might feel sluggish and find it hard to concentrate.

At the same time, many students are excited to be back on campus and while “certainly we don't want to discount” that, “we need to be able to manage that and be realistic with our students in terms of it’s going to take time to really readjust.”

Yuhas has three suggestions for how faculty and staff members can help students – and one another – adjust in the new school year.

One, form relationships and check in on individual students. Be a source of connection.

Two, display empathy and compassion. Extend grace to others “as we all figure out how to navigate this new normal together.”

Three, serve as a gatekeeper for students’ mental health. Counseling Services offers Mental Health First Aid training to faculty and staff members who wish to learn about how to respond to students in distress and refer them to appropriate resources. 

He also suggests that everyone:

  • Undertake resiliency and self-care practices, such as eating healthily; getting sufficient sleep; exercising; and establishing and maintaining routines and schedules. Some may benefit from mindfulness practices, such as meditation, visualization, yoga or journaling.
  • Validate for one another that, though it has affected different people in different ways, the pandemic has been hard for everyone.
  • Recognize that “we have all experienced struggle in distress through this. In that sense, we are we are all in it together.”

Counseling Services has prepared a Tigers Take Care wellness checklist that will be distributed to students. Its points:

Take time to familiarize yourself with campus.

Identify support resources and offices.

Get connected with others.

Establish health self-care and resiliency practice.

Remember to be kind to yourself.

Information about DePauw’s Counseling Services is available here.

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