The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives in significant ways. We’ve lost the rituals embedded in our work and school. We may be suffering from secondary losses, too, like financial security, connection with loved ones, and certain freedoms. With these losses may come feelings of grief.

We asked two of our resident mental health professionals from the Integrated Behavioral Health and Addictions Counseling graduate programs, Debra Wamsley and Fiyyaz Karim, about ways to stay healthy during this challenging time. The first fact to acknowledge is that we all recognize and process our emotions in different ways, and we cope with those emotions in different ways.

Q: Many of us are feeling detached and unengaged. What are some ways we can stay motivated?

Debra Wamsley

Debra Wamsley:

  • Make a list of things you want to do—tasks or even things you just enjoy doing, like art, cooking, or organizing.
  • Create a daily routine to maintain a sense of purpose.
  • Keep track of what you are grateful for.
  • Go outside safely, during less populated times, in less crowded spaces.
  • Stay connected to people through online meetings or games.
  • Take the opportunity to donate if you can.
  • Reach out to people who you know are alone.
  • Record your thoughts. It will be a part of history that you may want to look back on.


Fiyyaz Karim:

Fiyyaz Karim
  • Break up the monotony of being online all the time.
  • Choose your sources carefully. There are a lot of tips out there, but some may not be practical for you.
  • Be kind to yourself. You’re not failing if you’re not following all the tips.
  • Put healthy boundaries around social media consumption. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Set minor goals for your day: it can lead to a sense of accomplishment.
  • Engage in self care, and that’s different for everyone.
  • Grief can be isolating. Students can reach out to classmates, instructors, or an advisor. We want to know where students are struggling: it’s a misconception that we don’t want to be bothered. 


Q: How can we sensitively reach out to someone who may be having a particularly tough time?

DW: When you talk to someone with an addiction or a mental health issue, put the person first. That struggle is not what defines them; we all have things we struggle with. Speak in general terms, but do reach out. Open the space to talk. Invite the conversation.
Q: What are some ways we can remember a loved one we’ve lost during this time?

Woman looking out window

FK: Our culture, background, and family upbringing, and possibly religion/spirituality all play a part in how we honor someone. Faith can be a risk factor for some, but it can also be a protective factor in helping others cope. You can pray, meditate, light a candle, take a moment of silence. It is very individualized.

Write them a letter, especially if you weren’t able to say goodbye. Write in a journal with no filter. Do art, blog, or another type of writing that is therapeutic to you. Make a donation to a cause they supported. This pandemic has freed us to be creative with our strategies, to find new rituals.

Q: Some of us are just feeling blah. Is that grief?

FK: You may have the symptoms and not recognize it as grief, like lethargy, sleep problems, irritability. Grief is physical and emotionally draining. Recognize what grief looks like for you; it will help with what strategies to use. The goal of grief therapy is not to get over it, but to explore tools to use when the symptoms arise.

It’s natural for people in the helping professions to constantly think about others and neglect themselves. But we can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves first.


Explore the University’s resources for more tips on well-being.