5 Ways to Start Forming Your Support Group on Campus During COVID-19

As students come back to campus this fall, it can seem almost unrecognizable. Colleges are enforcing strict social distancing guidelines to guarantee the health and safety of their students and staff, and as important as these guidelines are, they can bring feelings of loneliness, fear, and stress. That’s why having a support system of multiple people you love and trust is so important, but building one is challenging in normal circumstances. Adding on all of these different barriers can make someone feel like they have no chance of meeting new people and all but give up on creating their own community on campus. At a time where mental health struggles are at an all-time high, finding ways to help yourself build a support group is harder than ever but more essential than ever. Here are five tips on how to help start forming a support system to help yourself as you get onto campus during a worldwide pandemic:

 

1. Utilizing Counseling Services.

On campus counseling resources are there for a reason, use them! While it may be intimidating to approach a service like this, understand that everyone is experiencing things they never have before and these are professionals trained to help you work through how to deal with all of that. Even if it turns out it isn’t the best resource for you personally, it can be a perfect jumping-off point. The staff at counseling resources are going to be able to direct you to an entire list of other resources and people to reach out to, and the counselors themselves will be able to teach you tricks and techniques that you can use for the rest of your life.

 

2. Fostering Your Existing Relationships.

COVID-19 has made seeing and interacting with the ones you love harder. Keeping those relationships alive, however, is incredibly important. Whether it is with your family, friends, partners, roommates, whoever, as a culture, we are being shown how important the people in our lives can be. By isolating ourselves we are taking out a pillar from under us and making things harder for ourselves. Keeping in touch with the ones you care about, even something as simple as arranging a video chat once a week or shooting them a text every few days, keeps us all active and engaged in our relationships. When we support and care for other people, it makes us feel good and can help negate a lot of those feelings of loneliness and abandonment the pandemic can make us feel. 

 

3. Attending Student Gatherings.

The move from home to college can be difficult when you don’t know many people. While keeping your existing relationships is important, making new ones are just as important. COVID-19 regulations make regular social events practically impossible so attend student gatherings arranged for you on campus. This assures that guidelines are in place so you can feel safe while attending and meet lots of new people who are in the exact same situation as you. These can include welcome week events, holiday events, and, if you’re living on campus, dorm/residence hall or floor specific events. 

 

4. Being Open with Your Professors.

Everyone knows college work is stressful and difficult and now with the added stress of the pandemic on top, it can get overwhelming fast. Professors are people too and they recognize how hard this can be so reaching out to them could be a lifeline. Actively going to office hours to clear up confusing information, asking questions, and asking for extensions can help lift some of the stress off of your shoulders. Even going to them to appropriately vent and explain why you’re feeling so overloaded can help them better understand where you are at and will start the conversation about what can be done on both ends to make sure nothing gets to be too much. Sometimes things can feel set in stone that just aren’t, so making that extra leap and reaching out for help will be able to help your situation and make it manageable.

 

5. Make Time to Check in with Yourself.

At the end of the day, the main pillar of your support system is probably yourself. If you don’t know how you are feeling there’s no way you’re going to know what you need and what steps it’s going to take to feel better. Taking time out of each day to sit and listen to yourself will help keep you grounded and aware of your situation as a whole. This can be as simple as a few minutes while getting ready in the morning or before you go to sleep at night or as extensive as taking an hour a week to write out a reflection on the last few days. Sometimes physically writing things down is helpful and can be used as a log to look back on and notice patterns of high stress to help you figure out how to avoid it in the future. Anything that allows you to feel whatever you are feeling and owning your emotions to work through them, no matter how big or small, will help take stress off of you and ensure you’re not stuffing things down until you explode.

 

Mental health is one of the most important but neglected things in today's society. In the middle of a pandemic, all of those challenges are amplified but it is important to remember that it can be manageable (as impossible as it may feel). Never be afraid to ask for help; it is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and self-awareness. Everyone is deserving of all the help they can get right now so don’t be shy about asking in multiple places and ways. It is more important than ever to come together in all of your communities, if we can do that, we can get through this.