Feeling (Even More) Anxious? As the Pandemic Continues and New Stressors Emerge, Graduate Center Experts Offer Advice on Coping

October 14, 2020

Arielle Shanok, deputy director of the Wellness Center for Student Counseling Services at The Graduate Center, offers advice for coping with this exceptionally anxiety-inducing time.

Arielle Shanok
Arielle Shanok

The sources of stress are almost too plentiful and familiar to mention: the continuing pandemic, the possibly of new restrictions and increased social isolation, pressures from school and work, anticipating and dreading the upcoming election. The shorter daylight hours and colder weather aren’t making things easier.

In this first contribution to a new series, Arielle Shanok, deputy director of the Wellness Center for Student Counseling Services at The Graduate Center, offers advice for coping with this exceptionally anxiety-inducing time:

Self-care is so important nowadays, especially for graduate students who are already six times more likely to be anxious and depressed than the general population. Stressors for graduate students are already manifold and are being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, hateful attacks on our marginalized identities, and politics in extreme turmoil.

Make sure you know the early signs of your mental health suffering. We each have our own indicators — perhaps it’s repeatedly snapping at our partner about little things, increasing substance use to get through the day, or staying tucked under our covers like it’s our full-time job. If some version of these scenarios is happening for you, stop. No, really, stop. And give your mental health some attention.

Take stock of what you need most. More social contact with supportive loved ones? More time alone? Less time glued to the news? Time outside and/or time moving your body? Space to grieve for a loved one? An activist space where you can feel some mobilization and hope? A day off from some of your responsibilities? Or something else?

While creating space in your life for one or more of these techniques might feel like shoving yet another item into your New York City apartment closet, I assure you that it’s well worth the effort. If you haven’t dropped your perfectionism yet, by all means, open your window and toss it into the autumn wind. Rather than proofreading your reflection paper for the fourth time, press send and go for a walk. Scale back your thesis or dissertation plans and be practical. Accept that maybe this won’t be the year when your child eats veggies with every meal, when your savings account gives you a sigh of relief, or when your irresistibly witty blog goes viral.

I write lightheartedly because levity can be healing. However, this topic is not one to take lightly. If you are suffering, please, please reach out for help. The Graduate Center’s Counseling Center offers a range of treatment, academic, and referral options, as well as emergency resources and a mental wellness video series. You don’t need to go through this time alone.