Maintaining your Mental & Physical Health During a Pandemic

January 14, 2021
Hannah Manis
University of Dayton
Hannah Manis is a second-year master’s student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Dayton. She will graduate with her M.A. in May of 2021 and expects to enter a PhD program in the fall. Hannah was diagnosed with T1D when she was three years old, is a spokesperson for Abbott Diabetes, and serves as the mental health resource for the Budding Betas, a program through TheBlondeType1 for newly diagnosed diabetics. She is passionate about promoting mental health, helping individuals thrive with T1D, and consuming delicious food (any and all of it).

Do you have a running list in your mind of everything you need to get done but cannot seem to make yourself do anything? Do you find yourself feeling like you are never actually leaving work/school because you now live there? Has your anxiety about living with diabetes as a college student increased because you are in a “high risk” category during a pandemic?

If you answered yes to any of these, you are not alone. Living in this COVID-19 era, we have all had to juggle working from home, switching to remote classes, and safely grocery shopping or seeing loved ones, let alone managing a chronic illness. Continually being bombarded with information and the fear surrounding the pandemic (and having diabetes) has made it a lot harder to deal with this transition.

As a clinical psychology graduate student, these are some of the skills I teach students at the school counseling center. Most of these you have likely heard, but it is always good to have a reminder!

1. Stick to a routine (for school and with your diabetes management)

Make sure you are going to sleep and waking up within around 30 minutes of the same time every day (this is important for your brain and sleep cycles), have a routine for eating snacks and meals to help stabilize your blood glucose levels, and schedule break times to get up and walk around.

2. Make your study space worth working in!

  • It is hard to be productive while sitting at a desk covered with snack wrappers and notes, so make sure you have a clean, specific area where you do your work. This helps your brain know that when you sit in that spot, you are in work mode.
  • Also, do not do homework or remote class in your bed! If you do, your brain will not associate your bed with sleeping and it will be harder for you to get restful sleep.

3. Find ways to practice self-care

  • Engage in activities through which you can holistically take care of your mental and physical self. This might be de-stressing with a warm bath while listening to music, doing art/playing musical instruments, yoga/taking walks, cooking a nice meal for yourself, or taking time to practice mindfulness.
  • When we engage in self-care on a regular basis, it gives us the break we need and makes us more productive when we return to our work. This can also help you manage your BG!
“When we engage in self-care on a regular basis, it gives us the break we need and makes us more productive when we return to our work.”

4. Keep in contact with friends and loved ones (and make some new ones!)

  • Make sure you are keeping your social-soul’s needs met by keeping in touch with the people you care about.
  • Making friends during this time can be difficult for college students, but there are still ways that you can connect with others. There are clubs that are meeting via video chat, social media groups for your university, or you could even set up a messaging group and send a mass email to people in your classes to get to know people in your major. There are even CDN Chapters getting started remotely!

5. Do everything on a day-by-day basis.

  • It is easy to get caught up in worrying about everything going on tomorrow, this week, or this month. Then you get overwhelmed stressing out about future things you have no control over.
  • This is your gentle reminder to just take life right now day by day. If you have a “bad” blood glucose day, take it for what it is and start the next day fresh. If you have a lot of assignments due all in one week, make a list of things to accomplish each day so it is more manageable. Only giving our brains today’s tasks allows for us to get more done and be less stressed while doing it. Less stress = more stable BG.
“If you have a "bad" blood glucose day, take it for what it is and start the next day fresh.”

6. Seek services to talk with a mental health professional.

  • There is more access now to speak with psychologists and mental health workers about your stress, anxiety, depression, etc. There are online services, university counseling centers, and many psychologists who are now doing telehealth from their own practices. Remember, THERAPY IS FOR EVERYONE!
  • There is a psychologist locator through the American Psychological Association (APA) where you can locate psychologists in your area. If you find a psychologist that you like, but the practice does not take your insurance provider, call your insurance company to see if you can be reimbursed.
  • If you are looking for a mental health provider who has a specialization or extra training in working with people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association also has a similar locator that you can use.

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