How to cope with the back-to-campus strain on mental health


Jane McNulty

Students, faculty and staff are entering their sixth week of classes at Simmons. But this year, settling into the rhythm of things this school year comes with added challenges. 

In addition to typical waves of procrastination, loneliness, or homesickness, Simmons students are navigating the changing landscape of everything COVID related. 

“It’s completely natural to feel overwhelmed or like the rug has been swept under you a bit during these times,” said Fit instructor Bella Carlos. “In these moments of complete change and transition, it’s important that we check in with ourselves and practice self care in whatever ways work best for us.” 

The Simmons Counseling Center echoed the idea that back-to-school is a difficult period for students, stating in an email that, “It is a very busy time for the center, as we are in high-demand this time of the year.”

These are some tips and tricks for staying mentally healthy this semester. As the Simmons community navigates being back on campus and in-person, it is important to remember that no one is in this alone.

1. Limiting social media

Too much time on social media can be harmful for self-esteem in particular, said Jenna Squasoni, the Vice President of the Active Minds club at Simmons. “By looking at someone else’s feed and comparing ourselves and our worth to someone we see on the internet, our happiness goes down,” Squasoni explained in a statement. The complex of comparing ourselves to others can be silenced by stepping away from screens.

The time social media takes up in our days can be replaced by hobbies that enrich one’s mental state, such as journaling or exercising. As a current psychical therapy student, Carlos is well-versed in the benefits of exercise, and she said in a statement that “Removing us from the assignments, exam prep, and the to-do lists, exercise can provide stress release that is both energizing and calming.” She stated that her preferred form of exercise is yoga, as it is a great way to challenge the mind and the body. 

2. Balance right and left brain

Yes, it’s important to get assignments checked off, but it’s also important to take time to be creative. In a 2014 interview with Psychology Today, Julia Cameron, the author of art therapy workbook “The Artist’s Way,” emphasized the importance of making time for creativity. She said that the act of putting pen to paper in a digital world allows us to “articulate things in our life that we may have felt vague about.”

One way to channel creativity is to bring it to clubs or causes that you are passionate about. Active Minds said they plan on fundraising for organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). This school year, Active Minds also plan on participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) walk in the spring. Active Minds meets every Thursday at 6 P.M

As Vice President of the club, Squasoni emphasized that self-care doesn’t have to be a time-consuming activity. “Anything that you can do to take care of your mental health is important, because that is the most important thing,” stated Squasoni.

3. Meditation

Starting meditation can be difficult, according to Carlos. “Being alone in our thoughts is no easy task- especially for an overactive brain,” said Carlos in a statement to the Voice. But Carlos thinks the discomfort is worth it for the benefits. 

“We are able to not only create space from these thoughts, but develop maybe a new perspective on them,” stated Carlos. 

She recommends guided meditation apps like Headspace and Calm. Headspace also has a Netflix series of guided meditations that may be ideal for beginners who are hesitant to embark on the mindfulness journey waiting for them. Carlos teaches Restorative Yoga & Meditation every Monday at 8 p.m. in Fit Studio #1 at the Holmes Sports Center. She also teaches Power Yoga every Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Self-care can be tough, especially when you have a planner full of deadlines and a growing list of what you need to buy on the Target run you can’t seem to find the time for. Carlos said it best in her statement: “All in all, my advice would be to not be afraid to to try new things… with a little exploring, you can find the right methods that work for you.”