Highline counselors are stepping in to help students struggling with social isolation during quarantine.
Counselors are offering help via telephone and Zoom, trying to help students get through the months of quarantine and social distancing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tom Humphreys is a faculty counselor at Highline and is still doing counseling services online, during the pandemic.
“I would encourage students to utilize all the resources they can to connect,” Humphreys said. “If you have access to telephone and internet service, use them.”
And the isolation and upset to normal routines is challenging for some students.
Like many students at Highline, Niya Fowler has goals in life, like pursuing a degree in environmental science.
“I have been less motivated in my day to day routine,” student Niya Fowler said. “Staying inside has allowed me to reflect upon all the choices I have made concerning my academic future.”
Fowler, who is majoring in environmental science, has struggled with motivation in her day-to-day routine and when studying.
“Everything I am used to has changed, and so quickly,” Fowler said. “I think that the fact that the change was so sudden and drastic has been a shock for me.”
Fowler said she struggled to maintain a balance between her homework and her sleep schedule.
“I used to have a pretty healthy sleep schedule before the quarantine started,” Fowler said. “However, during the lock-down I have been going to sleep around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.”
Besides sleep schedules being upside-down, students, like Fowler, grapple to cope with social isolation. Fowler has had to rely on FaceTime and social media to communicate with her friends.
“I would be lying to myself if I said that social isolation hasn't affected me at all,” Fowler said. “Since the quarantine has started, I have been more vulnerable to more anxious feelings and depressive thoughts.”
Fowler said she began to struggle with anxiety and thoughts she wasn’t used to because of the isolation. She often worried that things wouldn’t get better and that the stay-at-home order would go on forever.
Dr. Gloria Koepping is another Highline faculty counselor who is available on Zoom or by phone. She said Fowler is not alone.
“The challenges I think that people face during this time are isolation, uncertainty, and managing their anxiety,” Dr. Koepping said. “I suggest reaching out and maintaining our connections, keeping to some kind of schedule or structure for our schoolwork and rest times, and getting accurate information on the pandemic.”
Dr. Koepping suggested some techniques and ways to manage stress or anxiety.
“A simple mindfulness technique like focusing on your breath can do wonders in calming a person, as well as a good cup of tea,” Dr. Koepping said. “I find it helpful to get out in the sunlight for a bit every day I can.”
Finding things to be hopeful for while feeling stuck inside can be a mood-booster as well, she said, along with going for walks outside or exercising could help clear the mind.
“Notice what is blooming and budding around us,” Dr. Koepping said. “Spring is awakening the planet and I find that hopeful in this time of uncertainty.”
Student Grace Bowers said the pandemic has made it harder for her to get the full learning experience at college.
“Quarantine has made doing school very difficult,” Bowers said. “I have trouble in general staying focused, and now it’s even harder now that I’m forced to do all my work from home.”
Learning online is harder for people who get distracted easily, like Bowers.
“I’m most worried about what life will be like after this is over,” Bowers said. “I just want some normalcy back.”
Counselor Tom Humphreys said it can be useful to check out, even from social media.
“News and debate and opinion can all be invigorating, but sometimes also exhausting or alienating,” Humphreys said. “It is OK to disengage from a process or connection that is costing you more energy than you can give.”
Humphreys mentioned the importance of practicing self-care, especially during lockdown. “Try, in this difficult time, to be kind and forgiving, be creative, and be flexible.”