Stressed? Help and Healthy Resources Are Available

An interview with the UMKC counseling director about coping with COVID-19

The strain of starting a new school year combined with the personal and global effects of the coronavirus pandemic may be unavoidable. But there are resources available to help manage stress and anxiety. Arnie Abels, Ph.D., director of Counseling, Health, Testing and Disability Services at UMKC, suggests strengthening your assets may help you manage your emotional needs.

“One thing to remember is that every experience is individual,” Abels said. “For some people, the continued isolation is a huge blow. Those folks may need to be creative – trying new activities or using Zoom or online activities – to stay connected to other students, friends and family.

For others, the physical constraints may be more challenging. Especially at the beginning of a new academic year, they may need to figure out how to get enough sleep, the best way to exercise and create a routine. Others’ primary concerns may be financial as they try to find jobs and possibly change living situations.

All of this is valid. Each of us needs to understand that all of these things are important and manage our own individual emotional needs.”

“One thing to remember is that every experience is individual.” - Arnie Abels

He notes that returning students may be feeling completely differently than freshmen.

“For first-time college students, adjusting to everything new can be exciting and challenging,” Abels said. “Returning students may be frustrated and disappointed that campus life is still disrupted.”

Noticing an increase of posts on social media related to alcohol and drugs, Abels cautions about turning to substances for relief.

“First, smoking cigarettes or cannabis creates vulnerability in your lungs, which we all need to avoid,” he said. “We don’t judge, but we want to encourage people to make healthy choices. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink – if you’re of legal age – but drinking to excess can create difficult situations with difficult consequences, especially if you are using it to avoid feelings.”

There are healthier ways to deal with stress.

“Getting enough sleep is very important,” Abels said. “One of the things that may help with this is regular exercise. Eating healthy will feel better. But not everything needs to be productive. Along with online exercise videos, Swinney Rec is offering a video-gaming competition. That could be a great escape as well.”

Abels encourages people to take the opportunity to see how we can grow and become better individually and as a group.

“Personally, I’m writing letters to the people I care about. It’s a creative process for me and it allows me to let people know in a way that may be out of the ordinary and maybe more special than an email or text.”


Mental Health Resources
Personal counseling

Counseling Services provides several opportunities for students. Walk-in crisis hours for any student weekdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Most group meetings are available on-line and counseling appointments are telehealth as well. Mind Body Connection will be reopening with limited services as soon as student staff workers are hired.

Movement Matters

Fitness classes available on campus, Instagram stories and Esports including PS4 and X-Box Fifa and Madden

Help at Your Fingertips

The Sanvello app provides on-demand help for stress, anxiety and depression, including videos for coping with COVID-19.

Additional Resources

Roos for Mental Health has additional resources, including the recordings of their topical lunch-n-learns.

Disability Services is open from 8:30 a.m. to  5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the office is encouraging virtual visits. To set up an Accommodations Plan or address questions about accommodated exams or notetaking, details are available on the site.

The Employee Assistance Program has a wide range of resources related to both work and life, including tools for coping with COVID-19.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK.)

Published: Aug 21, 2020

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