top of page

MENTAL HEALTH DURING A CRISIS

JUNE 2020

Change. Panic. Frustration. Isolation.​


The COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down at the start of the year. Recent events of racial injustice have further shaken us, particularly our Black community. Crises like these exacerbate underlying mental health conditions and instigate new ones, as well as drive our communities even more apart.

 

As graduate students, we can’t focus. We feel lost during these times without our benchwork and regular classes, and some of us are unsupported and unheard by our institutions. As humans beings, physical, social and emotional isolation challenge us at a fundamental level.


By navigating these challenges today, we can be better prepared to walk through future crises individually and together.

Through the following four modules, you will learn how to cope with constantly-changing current events and embark on a 5-day meditation challenge. You'll establish and maintain daily routines that will support your mental, physical and emotional health. By redefining productivity, you'll learn to set realistic, achievable goals. Lastly, you'll interact with others and share ideas for staying connected while in isolation.

Image by Perry Grone

Image by Perry Grone

Image by Estée Janssens

Image by Estée Janssens

Image by Dayne Topkin

Image by Dayne Topkin

Mudra Meditation

Mudra Meditation

Image by kike vega

Image by kike vega

Image by Marten Bjork

Image by Marten Bjork

Image by Helloquence

Image by Helloquence

Image by Isaiah Rustad

Image by Isaiah Rustad

MODULE 1

Coping with Current Events

June 7-13, 2020

Many aspects of crises are often out of our control.

 

Read the article Like COVID-19, fear, anxiety are infectious and here is how I'm fighting back, written by Brittany Uhlorn.

 

Become aware of what you’re feeling - without judgement. What about the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly worrisome to you? Explore those emotions in the safety of your journal

With the trauma of COVID-19 still hot on our heels, another crisis struck the Black community: another death, specifically a brutal killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by the police.

 

In addition, the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have added more fuel to the already excruciating fire that has been burning the backs of Black people for over 400 years. These traumatic events under the ongoing pandemic made matters worse and our mental health plummet even more. Police brutality and racial injustices has been at the forefront of Black minds for decades, but it is becoming more apparent to everyone since recent police brutality events.

 

Read this story written by an individual who has experienced police brutality first hand.

 

The task you are challenged with is to try understand her experience and think about your definition of justice. How does that definition coincide with the visualization of “justice” that we see today in the current events? If you have or have not been affected directly with the wrong side of justice, how are you coping with that?

 

Also, here is a list of podcasts curated by individuals who share their experiences in navigating academia and maintaining good mental health practices as students of color. 

While your personal experiences and emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice crisis are valid, you might not be aware how these same circumstances are affecting those of other identities, especially if you are white.

 

Seek out resources, such as books and podcasts, to educate yourself on the lived experiences of others, and share these resources with others in a forum post titled “MH During a Crisis - Module 1.”

 

Then, reach out to those who are different from you - in terms of gender and sexual identities, race, ability, etc - to learn how these crises are affecting them. By providing a safe space to share lived experiences, we can begin to support one another and navigate these circumstances with strength. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the ever-changing current events that we forget to be aware of ourselves and how we are feeling during this time.

 

Meditation can give us an ability to deal with challenging circumstances by staying grounded, centered and at ease in times of discomfort.

 

Join our 5-day meditation challenge, led by Lynn Curry, director of the McNair Scholars Program at Central Michigan University and certified meditation teacher, at the link below. A new video will launch each day starting Monday, June 8!

MODULE 3

Establishing and Maintaining Routines

June 21-27, 2020

fact vs feeling mhc m3.png

MODULE 2

Making and Maintaining Support Networks

June 14-20, 2020

It can be challenging to maintain close relationships during a crisis, especially when we can’t be in the physical presence of loved ones and colleagues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Mandated social isolation may also have you feeling anxious, sad or lost.

 

In your journal, explore these emotions. Who do you miss the most? How has the lack of in-person social interaction affected you?

While you might be isolated, it’s important to remain connected - and you can get more creative than the normal text message or phone call!

 

Host a Netflix Party, take an online group fitness class, cook dinner with friends over FaceTime, or just chat in your pj’s with some popcorn, wine and snuggles with pets.

 

In a forum post titled “MH in a Crisis - Module 2,” recommend some Netflix hidden gems that will make a great watch party for others to enjoy.

 

Check out the free yoga class below, originally taught by ST team member Brittany Uhlorn via Zoom on Thursday, June 18. 

The current racial injustice crisis might be making you feel like you are alone and that your voice is oppressed.

 

Think about your network - family, friends, colleagues.

 

Who can you reach out to when you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to? Journal about these people and the supporting roles they play in your life. 

Although the term “allyship” isn’t new, we’ve seen a surge in its usage over the past few weeks.

 

But what does it mean to be an ally?

 

Read this short guide on what it means to be a dutiful ally. For Black students who might feel particularly shaken by racial injustices and want to galvanize support for the Black community, return to the  forum post titled “MH During a Crisis - Module 2” to share what you need in an ally

Life as we know it has indefinitely changed by the current crisis.

 

As researchers, many of us have had to transition away from the bench or field to work remotely. Because of this, our productivity may have taken a nosedive.

 

Journal about the emotions you’ve been experiencing regarding your productivity - or lack thereof - during this time.

Our thoughts tend to cloud our realities, having a negative effect on our self-perception.

 

Using the table below as a guide, write down the facts - tangible actions you've done or tasks you have (or haven't) accomplished this week.

 

Compare them with your feelings about those hit or misses.

Anxiety can arise when we feel unaccomplished or have to change our “productivity standards.”

 

However, it’s important to maintain our self-peace while redefining productivity.

 

Read this article about taking care of yourself while you make these necessary changes.

Now that you’ve explored how this crisis has affected your productivity, it’s time to get creative and redefine your standards!

 

Using these two infographics as a guide, pick one goal that you would like to work on this week. It might take more than a week, and that’s ok - be gentle with yourself during this process.

 

In a forum post, share your progress and tips with others. Title your post “MH During a Crisis - Module 3.”

Wrap-Up

Support Networks

In Collaboration with Dr. Zoë Ayres

July 3, 2020

Design by @zjayres

Content by @BrittanyUhlorn

MODULE 4

Redefining Productivity

June 28- July 4, 2020

fact vs feeling mhc m3.png

Life as we know it has indefinitely changed, from both physical health and equality perspectives.

 

As researchers, many of us have had to transition away from the bench or field to work remotely, and those of us representing marginalized identities might not feel safe or have the mental strength to focus on our work.

 

Because of this, our productivity may have taken a nosedive.

 

Journal about the emotions you’ve been experiencing regarding your productivity - or lack thereof - during this time.

Our thoughts tend to cloud our realities, having a negative effect on our self-perception.

 

Using the below table as a guide, write down the facts - tangible actions that you’ve done this week. Contrast them with your feelings about those actions. 

Anxiety can arise when we feel unaccomplished or have to change our “productivity standards.”

 

However, it’s important to maintain our self-peace while redefining productivity.

 

Read this article about taking care of yourself while you make these changes.

Now that you’ve explored how these events have affected your productivity, it’s time to get creative and redefine your standards!

 

Using these two infographics as a guide, pick one goal that you would like to work on this week.

 

It might take more than a week, and that’s ok - be gentle with yourself during this process.

 

In a forum post, share your progress and tips for others. Title your post “MH During a Crisis - Module 4.”

PhDBalance_ConceptArt_StrongerTogetherSe
bottom of page