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Talkspace Therapists Discuss Loss of College Campus Life Coping Mechanisms

Talkspace Millions of college graduates will tell you that the benefits of their higher education experience extended far beyond what they learned in the classroom. It’s the overall college lifestyle -- a vibrant enriching social environment -- that truly made higher education a transformative period in their lives.

college is a place where new friends are made. Those friendships often last for a lifetime. Living in a dorm for the first time is a unique experience. Joining clubs, fraternities, and sororities enrich the overall experience. College students are exposed to culture, events, and rituals they might never have otherwise encountered. Things like graduation ceremonies and sporting events engender a sense of belonging, support, and camaraderie.

That’s why the large-scale shutdown of college campus life at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been so devastating to millions of people. The socializing milieu represented by campus life and in-person college participation has been put on hold indefinitely.

Disbelief, disappointment, and sadness are widespread reactions. High school graduates who expected to be living the exciting life of a freshman have had their dreams dashed. Upperclassmen and women won’t be getting back together with the friends they made last year.

As millions have moved back home, they often must deal with the dual situation of losing the lifestyle they loved while also adjusting to a stressful situation at home. Lockdowns have created a kind of claustrophobic sense of entrapment and an almost eerie loss of freedom.

Talkspace Mental health experts and professional therapists with the online app Talkspace say they have witnessed a spike in the number of college-age adults who find that coping with "the new normal" has been a lot harder than they expected.

Dr. Amy Cirbus is the director of clinical counseling at Talkspace. She recommends that those struggling to keep up with college studies via remote learning take some proactive steps to maintain a healthy mental outlook.

She recommends that students create emotionally safe boundaries while studying at home. Make it clear to family members what your online class schedule is and what hours are being dedicated to getting college work done. Dr. Cirbus recommends going the extra mile to create a quiet safe place in your home where you have “alone time.” Other kinds of boundaries can be set as well. For example, make it clear there are certain topics you don’t want to talk about or that asking questions about key personal issues is off-limits. Dr. Cirbus also recommends leveraging digital systems to stay connected with friends outside the home. That means using social media, texting, video chats, and more to interact with your college pals. True, it’s not the same as hanging out together on campus. Staying connected is important, however. Dr. Cirbus and other Talkspace therapists have been encouraging trapped-feeling college students to get outside as much as possible while practicing social distancing and wearing masks when among people. Fresh outdoor air and some space and time away from family takes the pressure off too much-enforced togetherness.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 17th November 2020.

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