Dispatch 02: OVERLOAD
When everything went online I was a working in New Jersey as a Counselor at a small, private liberal arts college. Many of the students I supported came from under resourced communities. Housing, unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of access to health and social needs were ever-present concerns often resulting in increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. When social distancing mandates were implemented due to COVID-19, those symptoms were exacerbated. Mental health services transitioned to an online format requiring certification in telehealth. The use of technology as a format to conduct a therapy session was new to me. In the beginning, I found it difficult and grieved the loss of face-to-face sessions. I could see the toll isolation was taking on my students. We discussed how difficult it was to secure laptops, how to navigate unreliable Wi-Fi connections, and how they felt that their education may be compromised by an unprecedented and unexpected shift to online learning. Then sessions focused on the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests against continued instances of police brutality. We spoke about the stress and trauma of being a person of color and how that impacts mental health. We discussed how news cycles and social media were a source of information and connection however also fueled feelings of uncertainly, loss of control, and at times hopelessness. I wasn’t divorced from what my students were feeling as I felt it too. The rhythms of my day consisted of balancing the most intense and demanding sessions of my entire career, looking at non-stop media coverage, and checking in on loved ones all online and all in isolation. I began feeling directionless and unmotivated. I often discuss with my students that purpose is driven by knowing who you are and what you value. It’s living with intention. I know I value kindness, health, and peace. I began to intentionally limit my time online and curating my social media influences and news feeds that closely reflected my values. I moved more and created more meaningful connections to family and friends even if we couldn’t physically be together. When I was tired I stopped and when I had more energy I did more. I created a sense of peace and control.
For students who are feeling overwhelmed or are looking to “stay sane” in a digital world it is important to prioritize yourself and your well-being.
• Taking time to explore your values and then putting those values into action provides stability and direction when life feels uncertain.
• Maintain a regular routine to enhance stability.
• Take an inventory of how you feel when online especially over a number of hours. Notice if you are feeling increasingly anxious or tired. Then be intentional with the time you are online and limit usage, if necessary.
• Develop a wellness practice such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi to help focus the mind and calm the body.
• When preparing to go online take a moment to ground your attention by taking a few deep breaths, gentle stretches, or utilizing affirmations.
• Stay active, make good nutrition a priority, and try to sleep well.
• Talk to someone. If you are experiencing continued burnout and stress, the following resources are available:
Yale Mental Health and Counseling - (203) 432-0290 Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm. After hours call Acute Care at (203) 432-0123 and ask to speak with the on-call clinician.
Yale Chaplain’s Office - Chat with a Chaplain
Non-Clinical Counselor Krista Dobson - To schedule a meeting visit