As students prepare for another COVID semester, Lindsay Bays and Mary McDaniel Anshutz, Directors of the Student Wellness Center for Counseling and Health Services, explain what COVID fatigue is and offer advice.
“For mental health, it is just the lengthy amount of constant, I think emotional stressors,” Bays said. “One of the buzzwords we have heard since March is ‘uncertainty.’ I think that creates more anxiety within folks anyways, and then just to topple that on to uncharted territory that none of us have had to navigate through before.”
Bays thinks of people in situations like rehabilitation programs, where people in recovery who sometimes relied on the physical touch and social aspect of meetings - they do not have that option anymore.
“Oh man, (and) just the divide people have within our own families and friends on what the prevention and how to conduct ourselves as humans during COVID,” she said. “I think it has just caused significant conflict in people’s lives.”
Anschutz compares the pandemic to a scary movie when people are hiding and then decide it is safe to leave - when it was not safe to.
“But you can only stay hidden for so long, and after a while you do not hear anything,” she said. “So, you think it is safe to come out, and we are watching the movie saying no. I think that is where we are at, ‘okay, it is safe to come out. I am still alive, it has been this many months, it is safe to come out.’ I hear that from so many (people), ‘oh, I have made it this far I am fine.’ I think that is kind of where maybe a lot of students are at."
Especially in young adults, contracting the virus is less likely to occur, but Anschutz explains that the pandemic requires one to think outside of oneself.
“Perhaps you would infect someone else without knowing it,” she said. “A lot of students even have no symptoms at all and do not even know they are sick, and infect people who then become very sick.
“I think that sometimes - even though it is difficult - to look beyond yourself and how it affects you. If ever there is a time, a pandemic is a time to look and be yourself and look at not just what is happening to me, but what is happening to us. Not just what can I do to make my situation better, but what can I do to make our situation better.”
Every action and behavior has a negative or a positive consequence. Bays encourages students to take a moment to reflect and evaluate their own behavior and actions as students prepare for the spring semester.
“Just take a moment to play the script we like to call ‘all the way through,’ and just like Mary said, just looking at that bigger picture and how our behavior impacts the community rather than ourselves individually,” Bays said. “Even with our own individual choices, I could end up becoming sick by the way I conduct my behavior.”
Despite vaccinations beginning to roll out across the state and country, the vaccine is just a tool to help combat the pandemic. Together, everyone still has to wear a mask, socially distant, follow basic hygiene practices and get vaccinated, Anschutz attributed.
“I do believe this will be our last (COVID semester),” she said. “I have the sore arm to prove it, by golly.”
Bays highlighted the hope and progress the country is making by people stepping up to get vaccinated, like Emporia State’s health services staff. She advises students to continue to stay physically distant and safe, to get creative and find new ways to socially connect and engage safely.
The Center for Student Involvement is offering many virtual events throughout the semester and the Wellness Center is offering counseling workshops and groups to help students come together safely online.
“Lets hang in there. Let’s do this. We got this one semester left of COVID, I am hanging onto that,” Anschutz said with a laugh. “I will be really disappointed if it is more than this semester, because I think we can do it for this one more semester. It is tough, I am right there with you all. It is rough. I think we can do it, I think we can do it one more semester. Let’s work together, find those ways to connect with each other without being physically close.”
She hopes that students are prepared to come back and do the semester all over again, like the fall semester. Anschutz advises students to be here for each other and to check on friends.
Students can visit emporia.caresforyou.org to speak to a counselor anonymously about COVID fatigue, anxiety, depression, academic struggles and functional impairment. Counselors are also available for appointments at the Wellness Center.