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Director of Auburn University's Psychological Services Clinic provides insight, tips and resources

Nadia Bhuiyan, an assistant clinical faculty member at Auburn University and director of Auburn’s Psychological Services Clinic, offers her insight and several resources and tips for how the university community and others can cope with anxiety and possible depression associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In her role as clinic director for Auburn’s Psychological Services Center, or AUPSC, Dr. Bhuiyan provides on-site and on-call supervision, didactics and training. The AUPSC assists clients seeking services for therapy and psychoeducational assessments, including young children, adolescents, adults, college students and families.

As a professional in the field of mental and emotional health, what would you consider the most important issue surrounding COVID-19?

As a professional in the field of clinical psychology, I think it’s important to highlight that everyone’s experience and reaction to this crisis is going to be different, depending on the person’s background and situation. It’s important to realize that it’s OK to have different reactions, and to reach out to others for support at this difficult time. Common topics people may worry about are fears of one’s own health, and the health of loved ones, change in daily routines and campus activities, financial stressors, worry and fear of getting necessary groceries and medical items needed during social distancing, isolation from loved ones, and difficulties with sleep, eating and concentrating.

One important issue surrounding COVID-19 is raising awareness on the impact that this crisis and the related uncertainty may have on both our mental and physical wellbeing. I think it’s important for each of us to be patient and kind with ourselves and others as we as a community navigate these unprecedented times. This is also the time to make sure that we are paying attention to our own reactions to this challenging time, as well as the reaction of our friends and loved ones. It may be important to seek professional care should you or someone you love mention feelings of depression, anxiety or fears of self-harm or harm to others. 

If you or a loved one are in immediate need of assistance, please call:

  • 911
  • the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
  • the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 741741
  • East Alabama Mental Health Emergencies at 1-800-815-0630
  • East Alabama Medical Center - Emergency Service at 334-528-1150

Watch interview with Dr. Bhuyian, below:

What do you suggest people do who are suffering from anxiety or depression and cannot get into the clinic to talk to their provider/therapist?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Psychological Association, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, among many others, have several recommendations for people who may be experiencing anxiety or depression at this time. Common recommendations include:

  • Paying attention to your physical and mental health. Pay attention to any changes to your routine, sleep and eating habits. It’s important to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. We are all figuring out a new “normal” and life will be different for a while. It is important to figure out a new daily routine and schedule that may follow a similar structure to your routine prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Consider waking up at around the same time as normal, scheduling times to have meals, exercising and changing out of your sleepwear into daytime clothes to maintain appropriate levels of activity. 
  • Take breaks, particularly from the continuous coverage of COVID-19 across social media and news outlets. The CDC discusses how it can be distressing to read, see and hear the same things regarding the crisis repeatedly. Rather, make sure to take breaks to do enjoyable things, including going outside to spaces that allow for appropriate social distancing.
  • Seek out mental health resources when needed, particularly if you notice continued feelings of distress in yourself or loved ones. It’s important to notice changes to your physical health (e.g., headaches, stomach pains, muscle aches and rashes), difficulties with concentration, changes in your sleep and eating habits, continuous worry and fear and decreases in your daily energy. Many providers are offering telehealth resources at this time. 
  • Remember what you can and cannot control. It can be helpful to remember and focus on what we can control versus what is out of our control. While we can control our own experiences, actions and reactions, it’s more difficult to control what others do or say in a time of crisis. When you find yourself frustrated by things you cannot control, give yourself an opportunity to step away, take a deep breath and take a break to engage in an enjoyable activity. 
What resources are currently available for Auburn students, faculty and staff needing help with emotional health matters?

If you are an Auburn University student and need support or are in crisis, please call Auburn University Student Counseling and Psychological Services at 334-844-5123. Auburn faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to Auburn University’s Employee Assistance Program for behavioral health services at 1-800-925-5EAP.

Is there a typical time frame for how long someone can “social distance” before they start to feel the effects mentally from this change in their normal routine?

Everyone is different, and depending on their background and situation, will have a different response to “social distancing.” Like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s an important time for each of us to pay attention to our physical and mental health, particularly for any changes or difficulties with daily functioning as this crisis continues.

What signs should someone look for in their behavior to let them know their emotional health is changing due to either working from home, remote instruction or being quarantined?

Common signs of stress can include increased worry about your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others. It’s important to also pay attention to changes in sleeping and eating habits and your level of energy each day. Stress can also manifest as difficulties with concentration, increased irritability, anger and frustration, and worsening of ongoing health problems. Pay attention to any increases in your use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

Tags: Expert Answers Faculty Community and Outreach Psychological Sciences

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