Self-Care and Mental Health Panel

Student Senate
November 3, 2020

Panelists: Dr. Maya Akinfosile, Professor Kenneth Allen, David Dorsey, Matthew Hayden, Eddie Gisemba, and Kourtney Arcaba
Moderator: Arman Luczkow

(Timestamps included)

Managing Anxiety and Stress

What advice would you give to students for managing anxiety and stress, given our current situation (the election, COVID, racial injustice)? What are healthy ways to deal with the results of the election? 5:15

Election 5:25

  • Focus on what’s in your control & what’s not
    • Ex: election - you can control what you vote for and advocate for, but not others
    • Recognize the limitations of your control
  • Take slow deep breaths
  • No matter the outcome, you have a support system, and you are not alone

Academics 10:40

  • Now is a good time for any of you with perfectionistic tendencies to dial that down
    • Keep the importance of a class/assignment in perspective 

RAs & Student Leaders 11:10

  • You all refer people to resources on campus → the admins really need that connection to function effectively
  • If you need to take a break to stay functioning and healthy, please do so!

Racial Injustice 6:45

  • You don’t need to constantly defend and represent your race if it’s exhausting - set healthy boundaries, maintain them
  • Your hate is VALID 13:35
    • There is a lot to hate & feel deeply upset about
    • Rather than shutting it down, find channels to direct it through so it doesn’t get vented against other people

Over-do the self-care right now! 7:50

  • Get that ice cream! Why not? You’ve been working hard.
    • Self-care is not selfish 9:35
      • Listen to music
      • Take a nap
    • Even if people around you are “pushing through,” that should not take away from how you feel, your exhaustion, and what you need.
  • Self-care vs. “Maladaptive Avoidance” 8:30
    • More a matter of degree than qualitative 14:45
    • Ex: ice cream can be a pick-me-up, but if you struggle with disordered eating, be conscientious how you are using eating to cope
    • Pay attention to behaviors that are relieving in the short-term, but may be harmful in the long run
  • Lean into your community 12:40
    • Your “circles of care” and support system that you identify with can be comforting

Handling Coursework and Burnout

How should students handle coursework and burnout? What should professors do with deadlines and expectations, to take the load off of students? 16:40

“Oberlin faculty care more about your well-being than your performance in our course… It’s not going to derail your career, your future. Keep things in perspective! Please reach out to your teachers. I’ve had lots of conversations that help me understand what a student is going through; it’s much easier to justify extensions if you reach out and let us know when you’re struggling.” 18:05

  • But HOW?
    • Meet with a SHARE advisor 19:30
    • They can help you write that email (what to include, not to include, etc.)

“It can be helpful to have something to occupy your thoughts, if you’re in the right environment to do so.” 20:40

  • Sometimes if we put things off, or a number of things off, it can actually increase our stress
  • Break academic tasks into smaller tasks
    • “Can I do something really small to get started?”
    • The fear of not getting started can be a bigger barrier than the work itself
  • There are some things that ARE in our control right now 22:30
    • Use school work as a distraction against the madness of the world right now

For people in a creative major of the Humanities: “You can’t really rush creativity. If you have a project that involves individual thought, putting time limits on yourself might not be constructive. So, yes, please break things down into smaller tasks!” 21:40

Dealing with Burnout

  • Bath, foot soak, hot shower, essential oils, go for a walk, take a nap 23:20
    • When the world is beating down on you, in an internal burnout kind of way, try utilizing more concrete forms of self-care
    • It doesn’t have to be major! Just take a ten minute walk, then try again. :)
  • Make a playlist for yourself that makes you happy (Instead of turning on the news first thing)
  • Rest can help you be productive and creative; be gentle with yourselves!
  • The value of getting OUTDOORS 25:30
    • Nature has healing tendencies
      • Being in nature at all is better than not! (Statistically/psychologically speaking)
    • Oberlin is surrounded by cornfields in all directions; there are some beautiful places to explore
    • Engage in a sense of “play”! 29:30
      • Even in the winter! Bundle up and play! Like you’re a child again.
  • Screen fatigue 26:00
    • Step AWAY - let the outdoors, fresh air, and land be a part of that!
    • Like taking a run; if you take the first step, you might go farther than you thought
  • Sleep and Activity are critical for regulating your mood 27:30
    • Activity: can be something as simple as going for a walk, yoga, jumping jacks 
    • Sleep: reserve your bed for sleeping!
      • Try to avoid lounging or hanging out in bed
  • Take advantage of the time change! 28:45
    • You’re going to get sleepy earlier than before → embrace it and SLEEP!
  • Proactive Preventative Model rather than Reactionary Model 30:10
    • Once you’re burnt out, you’re kind of stuck until you allow your body and brain to get that rest
    • Small things, like breaking things into small tasks, can help you stay on top of things → gives you a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENTS (important), which rewards important parts of our brain
    • If you’re IN the burnout phase, engage in intentional self-care → don’t just “zombie out,” try to be intentional by treating yourself actively and reaching out to your support system
  • Vitamin D deficiency 32:30
    • Ohio is in the top 5 least sunny states in the U.S.
      • Take a supplement! The effects of the D deficiency can contribute to the feeling of burnout
  • Burnout falls on a spectrum 33:20
    • Initial Stressor → Burnout
      • If you can identify that you’re in that process, on the way, try to address and rather than continuing on that path
  • Be Present! 34:25
    • Don’t dwell too much on the past nor stress too much about the future
    • Planning ahead can help reduce stress and anxiety
  • The Nike Approach 35:35
    • “Burnout is conceptually related to depression” 
      • One of the treatments for depression is “behavioral activation” → DO THE THING that you don’t feel motivated to
      • We are all struggling with diminished levels of motivation
    • Do something productive. 36:30
      • Clean your room. Do your dishes.
      • All of that can create a feed-forward loop that can propel you to complete bigger tasks later on
  • How to HELP someone who is struggling with burnout 37:00
    • It may be unpleasant or even aversive to encourage someone to get out of a funk, but try to encourage them to engage in the little tasks!
      • Ex: find 1 reference for a paper instead of writing the paper
    • Openness & trust 37:40
      • Keep your channels of communication such that there’s no shame, judgment, or burden → living in a high-critique, high-performance culture, we can sometimes either hide ourselves from those we love and feel a need to appear bigger than we are
    • How do we balance doing things for people and empowering them to do things themselves?
      • Trust is key. Choosing to be vulnerable gives trust. Be honest, and make it easier for loved ones to communicate.
    • “We are never the only person that can help someone” 40:30
      • ASK FOR HELP. Somebody else can step in
      • Professionals don’t work alone either; they rely on a network of support.

Building a Support Network

How do you build a support network during the pandemic? How can we handle isolation? A lot of people are living in less than ideal situations and are separated from friends and family. 41:30

  • Importance of Community 42:10
    • Check in with your friends
      • Just because you go home, it doesn’t mean your friendships at school should stop.
    • Mindset of Socializing
      • Make plans! Otherwise, you and your friends may not hang out.
  • Loneliness 44:00
    • Be Intentional
      • Deepen friendships with neighbors, dormmates, friend from high school
    • Plan Ahead of Time
      • Be aware of your circumstances so you can make the best of it
      • You can make the process of transitioning home less daunting
  • Friends are the family you choose 45:55
    • Family may not be supportive, BUT you still need support from someone
      • There’s a difference between chosen and given family
    • Virtual Communication
      • Your social network isn’t limited to who lives near you
  • Think about how you are connecting 47:40
    • We miss hearing peoples’ voices
      • Talking on the phone can be better than texting regularly
      • Make your interactions more rewarding.
  • Take The Leap 48:25
    • Don’t psyche yourself out! Reach out to people you’ve lost touch with. 
      • You’re saying “I like you, I miss you, and I’m thinking of you
      • Most people won’t focus on “you didn’t call me before”
  • Bravery in asking for Help 49:05
    • Reach out those who are isolating in unhealthy ways
      • Get help to them
    • Students are often the first to spot problems.
      • You don’t have to bear the burden alone, but take the first step.
  • Trusting Staff 51:00
    • We need to invest our trust in professional staff
      • Suspend your doubts for a moment and trust
    • If they’re not the right person, they’ll help you get to them
  • Zoom Hygiene 52:50
    • Keep work related meetings to Zoom
      • Save personal contact for other forms of communication — FaceTime, phone conversations, etc.
  • Isolation during Winter 53:20
    • Write letters to people, reconnect with people from the past
    • Pick up a new hobby, something you’ve always wanted to try. Reconnect with values.
      • Connect with a likeminded community
      • Online forums, chats — strength and support from those relationships
  • How to manage mental health with seasons 59:30
    • Multivitamin
    • Brings benefits from outdoors indoors
    • Plants in room, reduce anxiety and depression
    • Light boxes 1:00:15
      • Can buy on Amazon, maybe CVS
      • Helps with seasonal depression

Mental Health Resources

What mental health resources can students turn to? 54:55

  • Office of the Dean of Students, SHARE, Kourtney Arcaba 55:15
    • One on one support from a staff member
      • Ex: Time management, concerned about someone down the hall
    • Great place to start if you’re not sure where to go
  • Counseling Center, Maya Akinfosile 56:20
    • Let’s Talk: Tuesdays and Fridays, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
    • BIPOC Support Group: Mondays, 1:30 p.m.
  • Mental Health Toolkit, Eddie Gisemba 57:25
    • Primarily created for students of color, but there are resources there that can help anyone
    • Available 24/7
    • Calm App - reduce stress, meditate, improve sleep
  • Center for Student Success, Matthew Hayden 58:25
    • Academic resources
    • Tutoring, executive functioning workshops
  • Peer Support Center - virtual
    • FB page, will be on College calendar soon
    • Nondirective space - support and listening, not advice
  • Religious and Spiritual Life, David Dorsey 1:02:40
    • Offer pastoral care individually and in support groups
    • Volunteer staff - 14 religious life affiliates, represent 6 religions
    • 2 colleagues employed by the College 
      • Maysan Haydar, Muslim Life Affiliate and Multifaith Coordinator
      • Linnea Halston, Sustained Dialogue Coordinator
  • Barefoot Dialogue
    • Looking for a small circle, 10-12 students
    • Coming in doesn’t require that you know anyone