Maintaining Health and Well-Being During the Pandemic

    Posted on Thursday, Apr 02, 2020
    Maintaining Health and Well-Being During the Pandemic
    By: Dr. George Cunningham
    Professor and Senior Assistant Provost
    The Coronavirus has significantly altered the way people around the world go about their daily lives. This is true for Aggies, too, where classes have moved online or to alternative forms of instruction, major events have been canceled or postponed, and Brazos County residents are under a Shelter-in-Place order.
    The disruptions and uncertainty can negatively affect people’s physical, psychological, social, and educational well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress can manifest in many ways, including fear and worry, altered eating or sleep patterns, trouble concentrating, deterioration of on-going health problems, and increases in risky behaviors such as overconsumption of alcohol or drug use.
    The good news is that, even in a time of social distancing, there are many ways for Aggies to improve their health and well-being.
    Psychological Health
    Texas A&M has a wealth of resources related to psychological well-being, including Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS. The office continues to serve students and also offers a number of coping resources.
    Others have sought out ways to learn about their psychological well-being. One of the more popular avenues is through a free course offered by Yale’s Professor Laurie Santos: The Science of Well-Being. In fact, as of late-March, over 1.3 million people had enrolled in the course, including me.
    Meditation represents another way to improve psychological health. Practicing mindfulness can help people center themselves and engage in focused thought. The United Nations posted a number of guided meditative and yoga practices, including offerings of 10, 15, and 45 minutes.
    Physical Health
    Physical health is another important component of well-being. Brazos County residents are still permitted to exercise outdoors with the Shelter-in-Place directive. If your neighborhood is like ours, you have likely seen many people taking advantage of the nice weather to go on late-afternoon or evening strolls.
    There are also options for those who are inclined to remain indoors. Many fitness clubs are offering online classes for free. The Rec Center on campus, for example, offers a number of GroupRecXercise options, and people can participate live or on-demand. Similar options are available from organizations focusing on group exercise, like Peloton, or even on an exercise apps, like that available from Nike.
    Many people exercise by themselves in their home, dorm, or apartment. The aforementioned apps and streaming options allow them to still capture the benefits of group exercise. Advantages include increased persistence, motivation, and overall fitness, among others. Thus, even if you are physically by yourself, having a social component to your exercise will likely yield dividends.
    Social Health
    Shelter-in-place directives and social distancing can lead to feelings of isolation. When this happens, people’s social health is likely to suffer. Of course, social media apps offer one way to stay connected.
    There is also considerable benefit, though, to seeing others and speaking with them, even if done so virtually. In fact, researchers have recently shown that using video interface, such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime, can help to decrease depression, especially among at-risk individuals. Other researchers have shown that video correspondence can increase bonding among people. So, in addition to the other social media options, Aggies would do well to engage with others in ways where they can see and hear each other.
    Educational Health
    Finally, for many staff, faculty, and students, the move out of the classroom has represented a big change. Even though flipped and online courses are more common now, many students have not taken a class in this format, while still others prefer face-to-face interactions.
    Luckily, the Office of the Provost has developed a number of resources to help students continue to excel in their educational pursuits. The KeepLearning website includes a host of resources, including ways to get connected, internet resources, ways to stay social, and strategies to be successful in synchronous and asynchronous classes, among others.
    The key is to take advantage of the resources offered.
    Focus on Your Health and Well-Being
    The stress and uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus can negatively affect people. It is important, then, to remain mindful of your psychological, physical, social, and educational health.
    Know, too, that there are resources available and people who care about you. As President Young recently noted, “Our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff – just as your highest priority is the wellbeing of your families and friends.”

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