Student riding a bicycle on campus.

Chapman Mental Health Experts Offer Tips During Mental Illness Awareness Week Improve wellness and manage day-to-day pandemic stress with these tips and visit Chapman’s new Health and Wellness website.

When it comes to managing the daily stress of living through the pandemic, some suggestions are offered so often they’ve almost become white noise – get enough rest, breathe, meditate.

All good. Actually getting started is another thing, though. To help with that, Chapman University mental health experts offer a few tips and tangible techniques to try out as the university observes Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 5-10.

In addition, the university assembled comprehensive resource lists at its new Health and Wellness website. Anyone who feels they or someone they know needs urgent help can find phone numbers for immediate help, too.

Whatever their level of need, everyone should know they are not alone if they’re feeling anxious or fatigued by these challenging times, says Jay Kumar, director of Contemplative Practices and Wellbeing at Fish Interfaith Center, and instructor in Wilkinson College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

“All this uncertainty and not having clarity brings so much havoc to that part of our brain that wants safety, security and stability,” says Kumar, Ph.D. “My mantra is when your outside world feels out of control, let’s learn to control our inside world.”

Here are a few techniques that can help.

Start a Gratitude Practice

“The goal of this “gratitude” exercise is to help you put on the psychological brakes when you feel driven by anxiety, stress, or overwhelmed. By reminding yourself of all that you’re grateful for in life, it does something remarkable for your brain — it tricks it into focusing on the positive, and dwelling less on the negative,” Kumar says.

  • Jot down on a sticky note three to five things for which you are grateful.
  • Notice if there are any you take for granted.
  • Write two or three more post-it notes with the same or different items and place each one someplace where they are visible throughout your day. The more places the better.

Kumar shares more about the mental health and wellness programs at Chapman:

Beware of Digital Overload

The digital technology that keeps us connected can also wear us out, says Sophie H. Janicke-Bowles, Ph.D., psychologist and assistant professor in the School of Communication, where she researches media impacts on wellbeing.

She shared several coping strategies as a guest presenter during California Congressman Lou Correa’s “Wellness Wednesdays” program on Facebook, including phone-free meals, frequent eye breaks — look out a window at something green — and less multitasking, which reduces productivity and leads to end-of-day frustrations that deepen over time, Janicke-Bowles says.

And try what she calls a triangle breathing exercise. Inhale at a comfortable pace to the count of four, hold to a count of four, exhale to the count of four and repeat.

Psychological Counseling Services is Here to Help

Kumar and the chaplains and staff at Fish Interfaith Center offer tutorials, yoga videos, guided meditations and a reading series, which can be viewed on the Fish Student page.

Learn More

Visit Chapman’s new Health and Wellness website, a centralized location for students, faculty and staff to access Chapman health and wellness resources, tools, and events.

Dawn Bonker