How To Stay Calm During Quarantine – Helping College Students Deal With Pandemic-Related Depression

How To Stay Calm During Quarantine – Helping College Students Deal With Pandemic-Related Depression

College can be stressful on its own, but what happens when you add coronavirus to the “curriculum”? Short answer—you get a lot of uncertainty.

Understandably, many young adults feel anxious and depressed as they navigate these challenging circumstances. In fact, recent data suggests there has been a 21% increase in antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions between February 16 and March 15.

To help you better understand these tough times, we thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at the correlation between COVID-19 and mental health issues. After looking at some of the latest findings, we’ll share a few science-backed strategies you and your college student can use to remain calm.   

Please remember that all of the suggestions in this article are no substitute for professional medical care. If you or a loved one shows signs of a serious mental health issue, you need to seek immediate medical attention from your family physician or another medical provider.

The Emotional Challenges of the Coronavirus – What Does the Data Say?

According to data from the US Census Bureau, 34 out of every 100 Americans now have anxiety or depression. Considering this is double the 2014 rate of depression, it’s safe to say COVID-19 is a significant driver behind this rise. 

When the US Census Bureau examined how COVID-19 affected different age groups, it found that younger people had a far higher rate of mental health challenges. For instance, look at how reported anxiety levels decrease for older age groups: 

  • 18 – 29: 42%
  • 30 – 39: 34%
  • 40 – 49: 32%
  • 50 – 59: 31%
  • 60 – 69: 22%

Unfortunately, it appears many college-age patients might be self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that roughly 55% of college students between the ages of 18–22 admitted to drinking in the past month. Researchers also found about 20% of college students could be diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder.

These statistics have undoubtedly increased as a result of the pandemic. According to Nielsen, sales of alcohol increased by 55% in mid-March. There are also now over 86,000 Instagram posts promoting “quarantine martinis.”   

Where Can College Students Go For Help?

Thankfully, there are many resources young Americans could use to help cope with anxiety and depression. Indeed, telepsychiatry has become an increasingly common phenomenon in our socially distant world. 

Mass General recently said that demand for its telepsychiatry program increased from a paltry 5% in 2019 to an incredible 97% in 2020. Be sure to ask your medical provider about telemedicine programs available for you.

If you need immediate help for a serious depressive episode, please call any of these hotlines:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: (800) 662-4357
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: (800) 985-5990

or visit either of these websites:

In addition to the suggestions above, we strongly recommend uploading the Umergency app. Already used 40,000 times in the past nine months, Umergency provides resources to effectively manage health and safety emergencies in the U.S. or Canada. To learn more about the invaluable safety features in the Umergency app, please click this link.  

Three Science-Backed Strategies To Hack Your Anxious Mind

In addition to working with a medical professional, there are many at-home strategies everyone could use to boost their mental health. Here are three of the most effective, evidence-based tips that you can use in tandem with professional guidance.   

1. A “Mind Full” Of Joy! – Practicing Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation practice is not a matter of faith. Today, scientific evidence supports this ancient spiritual practice’s healing benefits.  

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study examined the stress response of a group before and after an eight-day meditation retreat. Not only did the meditators show less of the stress hormone cortisol after the retreat, they also had a significant reduction in bodily inflammation. 

Although we still don’t know exactly how meditation works, neuroscientists suggest it has something to do with taming the brain’s amygdala. Psychologists believe our amygdala plays a central role in processing strong emotions like fear and anxiety.   

Please note: you won’t see tremendous benefits from meditation unless you make it a daily part of your life. Like any other skill, meditation requires dedication, persistence, and patience. It’s far better to practice every day for 10 – 15 minutes than to only schedule a few long weekend sessions.

2. Got The Boredom Blues? Take A Hike!

Another easy way you could bust your blues is to get off your butt! Research shows a strong correlation between regular exercise and mental health.

So, how much activity should you squeeze into your schedule? According to the CDC, adults should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.  

3. Volunteering Is Good For The Heart (Literally)

While the above tips are excellent self-improvement strategies, let’s not forget that we’re all social creatures. Now more than ever, we need to stay in touch with others to maintain a sense of normalcy. 

One of the best ways you can avoid falling into isolation during COVID-19 is to join a volunteer organization. Not only will volunteering make you feel good, but it might also extend your lifespan. 

There is, however, one caveat: you can’t expect a reward when you’re volunteering! Scientists at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis found that volunteers who experienced psychological benefits wanted to help others. When you’re researching a volunteer organization, be sure it’s something you’re passionate about. 

Let Your Inspiration Guide You To Brighter Days 

To end on a positive note, we thought it’d be fitting to share a positive story that might inspire you to get involved. Even though volunteers can’t enter senior centers due to COVID-19, there’s one Bay Area organization that’s helping keep senior citizens connected. Called Youth x Senior Buddies, this novel volunteering platform helps seniors and young volunteers chat via Zoom. 

During these challenging times, there are plenty of ways you could put your volunteering spirit to good use. We encourage you to research volunteer organizations in your community to find a way to feel connected during these socially distant times. So, happy volunteering, and stay safe!