As we find ourselves in a disturbing, irregular situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that we follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to shelter in place. Although this is essential to help mitigate the spread of the virus, it can take a toll on our mental health. Jennifer Quine, counselor at Kilgore College, shares her insight and tips on how to cope with common mental illnesses such as anxiety, stress and depression in these times of quarantining.
“Quarantining does affect everyone differently. The change in routine does affect our mental health because we are creatures of habit. We like to do the same thing over and over and know what we are doing from day-to-day, and we don’t in this situation,” Quine said. “We don’t have the routine, the everyday this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be, and then you throw in the President, the governor, and the mayor, and waiting to see what they’re going to say next is very anxiety-provoking.”
Anxiety and stress:
According to Quine, reports of increased cases and levels of anxiety, stress and depression are to be expected. She believes it’s important for those practicing shelter-in-place to be able to identify the symptoms that their mental health is being compromised in the process.
Identifying symptoms of mental problems:
“The main symptoms to look out for that indicate a person is being affected by being quarantined include excessive eating or not eating enough when they’re anxious, worried, depressed or scared. Also, disruptive sleep – not being able to go to sleep and stay asleep because your mind is racing, worrying and/or thinking – is common,” Quine said. “Irritability is also common. If you’re fearful or anxious in any way, it is typical to get too worked up and then have an anger outburst or a mental breakdown and cry.”
Consuming social media:
Quine believes social media and news consumption can contribute to excessive, unhealthy amounts of fear and stress, for which she recommends people consume it wisely.
“When it comes to social media, the fear, the dread and the uncertainty are constant. Although we can use social media to our advantage and stay connected and support each other, I strongly recommend we limit our social media and news consumption to what’s essential,” she said. “It is good to get news from accurate sources such as the CDC, but having [the news-alert] popping up every time, reading how somebody makes some comment about COVID-19, is going to overwhelm and stress you. I recommend you get your news from reliable sources, and then turn it off and live in the moment.”
Enduring social distancing:
“Routine is the best coping mechanism in this case. Make sure you have a routine,” Quine said. “Allow yourself some flexibility and have some things scheduled that don’t involve technology, electronics, TV or social media so you’re not stimulated all the time. Also, get outside. Soaking in Vitamin D from the sunshine is great for both your mental and physical health – as well as your mood. Quarantining does not mean you’re locked in your home. You just have to stay away from people, so go play Frisbee and catch in the backyard, or have lunch outside with your family. Get out of the four walls, but rotate that. Come back in, do some work, have a scheduled lunch break, and a scheduled bedtime. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep is another thing that’s adding to people being depressed and anxious, not necessarily because they’re stressed, but sometimes because they spend all night on Netflix.”
Taking advantage of leisure time:
“It’s a great time to catch up on groups and organizations you haven’t been able to participate,” Quine said. “Try to find normalcy, but also try to find purpose. Maybe there’s a craft or a hobby you’ve wanted to pick up, or a project you’ve wanted to finish. Find a meaning. Find a purpose and something to do other than worrying about COVID-19 and its implications.”
Resources for those with pre-existing mental health issues:
For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, as well as those suffering from extreme levels of anxiety, stress, and/or depression, Quine recommends making use of the available resources offered online.
“For those who have doctors and therapists in place and are struggling with their mental health, those services are still considered essential, which means they’re more than likely still open. If not, they are probably revamped by using the technology (Google Hangouts or Zoom meetings) to maintain regularity,” Quine said. “I recommend those struggling with their mental health to maintain the habits that they already know work for them. Don’t skip medicines, and don’t let medicines relapse. Pharmacies are open, and with some of them, you don’t even have to go in the store. Some pharmacies deliver for free. It’s also important not to isolate. Isolation is a big trigger for anxiety and depression sufferers, so make sure you stay connected to someone using technology.”
“For the KC community, as a licensed professional counselor, I can do Zoom, phone calls, or whatever the student is comfortable with, while not encouraging people to come to campus,” Quine said. “There are also other available resources such as the COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line, the Crisis Text Line, the National Parent Helpline or the Suicide Hotline. They are all legitimate, national crisis hotlines you can call and text.”
“Check on each other, care about each other, be gentle with each other in your own home and stay connected,” Quine said. “That’s going to be what keeps us all going – the fact that we are still connected. We are all going through similar things. So care and love on each other. We will get through this.”
List of crisis hotlines:
- COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line: (833) 251-7544
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741. Special keyword for students of color: Text STEVE to 741741.
- National Parent Helpline: Open to parents and caregivers of children and youth of all ages. Contact: (855) 427-2736
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
Photo and story by Adriana Cisneros Emerson
CALLIE BLAKELEY - FACE IN THE CROWD, March 2020
Callie Blakeley, of Longview, is an admissions counselor in the Admissions & Registrar office on the Kilgore campus. She has been working with the admissions team since September of 2017. She graduated with an Associate Degree at KC, and then transferred to UT Tyler, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration.
On a typical workday, Blakeley starts out catching up on emails, and sometimes she gives a few campus tours. She also processes incoming student documents.
When she’s not working, Blakeley enjoys spending time with her family—especially her nieces and nephews—friends, and her two dogs. She also enjoys watching shows on Netflix, such as Madam Secretary, Gilmore Girls and This Is Us.
Blakeley believes that one of the most valuable lessons she has learned from working at KC has been that it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to let the fear of failure keep you from succeeding.
“It is near impossible to pinpoint one specific lesson [this job has taught me], because I have learned so much. Since joining the Admissions team in 2017, I have seen myself grow in ways I would not have imagined, and have built so many unlikely friendships that will last a lifetime,” Blakeley said.
Blakeley has several role models, including family members such as her mother, who has taught her “how to love deeply and unconditionally, and how to serve others” and her sister, who, being a foster parent in addition to raising her own children, “is a constant example of selflessness,” and has taught her “the beauty of the vulnerability found in opening your heart to give love to those who need it most, even when it hurts.”
When it comes to her professional aspirations, she also looks up to KC's VP of Institutional Planning, Dr. Staci Martin and Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Success, Chris Gore.
“All in all, coming to work at KC has been the best decision I have made in my professional life so far," Blakeley said. "This job continually pushes me to grow both personally and professionally, and I look forward to many great years ahead.”
BAILEY LOTHROP - FACE IN THE CROWD, JANUARY 2020
Bailey Lothrop, freshman psychology major from Kilgore, is set to graduate in the spring of 2021.
“I came to KC because it is close to my family, and I also believed it was the smartest decision financially,” Lothrop said. “My dream is to become a clinical psychologist.”
Lothrop works as a cashier in the bookstore on campus. What she believes makes her job amazing is that she gets to meet a lot of people on campus while working.
When Lothrop is not at KC working or studying, she spends her time doing yoga, reading, writing or hanging out with friends.
“I enjoy reading poetry, young adult fiction, and fantasy books. My favorite book would have to be The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Lothrop said.
Lothrop also said what she enjoys the most about KC is that it seems smaller than other colleges, so it is less intimidating.
Similarly, when it comes to her music taste, she listens to R&B/soul music as well as alternative and pop.
Lothrop’s said her role model is her Nana.
“She (Nana) has shown me how important it is to still be kind to someone even when they are not necessarily nice to you. She taught me that everyone is battling something we can’t see,” she said.
A typical day in Lothrop’s life is going into work at 7:30 a.m. and getting off at 2 p.m.
Then, she usually works on her online class’ lessons and homework. After that, she works out. Finally, she just spends time with her family and friends or gets some rest.
Sophomore Jordan Norris, from Liberty, majors in Corrosion Technology at KC where he will graduate in the spring of 2020.
“The main reason I came to KC was for the Corrosion Technology program, because it is one of the best programs in the nation,” Norris said.
Norris plans on getting a job in Houston once he graduates in the spring of 2020.
He also plays guitar in the Baptist Student Ministry Praise Band on Thursday evenings.
Norris began playing the drums when he was 11 years old, and began picking up other instruments when he was 15 years old, including the guitar.
“I play the guitar, piano, drums, ukulele and the bass. I would have to say the drums are definitely my favorite, because they’re the heartbeat of the song and you’re in a lot of control,” Norris said.
Norris said his favorite type of music would have to be alternative rock, plus music from the 1970s including Queen, The Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith and Def Leppard.”
When not studying or listening to music, Norris enjoys fishing and spending time with friends and family.