10:50 AM

Addressing COVID-19 Anxiety


By Mike Emery

The uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), shuttered businesses, long grocery lines and a semester shake-up have no doubt generated anxiety for some University of Houston-Downtown students, faculty and staff. One UHD professor, however, has some advice for her fellow Gators.

Dr. Susan Henney, professor of psychology, said that situations such as the one Houstonians (and citizens around the globe) are facing may incite extreme reactions, such as catastrophizing (viewing unfavorable outcomes to be completely and irreversibly disastrous) or minimizing (downplaying the severity of the crisis). Either of these reactions may actually make a situation worse for individuals.

Henney said that everyone has something within their reach to make this current situation better … or at least to offer some relief from the stress surrounding it.

“Getting outside, getting exercise and getting fresh air are just some of the things that can alleviate our anxieties,” she said. “Best of all, these things are at our fingertips, so take advantage of them. Also, gain control over the things you need to be comfortable on a daily basis. Make sure your car has gas; make sure you have home supplies and groceries. In spite of what we’re seeing in the media or even the barren shelves at local stores, we have not lost total control.”

The overflow of information surrounding the Coronavirus contributes to people’s anxieties, added Henney. The best way to stop an overload of news (whether it’s accurate or sensational), she said, is to limit screen time and make sure to select media that is providing objective, factual information.

“Avoid infotainment,” Henney said. “Choose your sources of information wisely, and schedule specific times when you will be on social media or reading the news to avoid spending too much time absorbing stories about the virus, grocery shortages and other stressful topics.”

Given the tight-knit community at UHD, people will want to provide support for friends, colleagues and students. Before offering that support, one must determine whether he or she is taken care of. Self-care is particularly important before providing a helping hand to others, Henney said.

“Make sure you are in a good place before you help others,” she said. “Also, develop a disaster relief community here at UHD—a network of voices that can provide different kinds of advice for both you and your friends. Our community has a wealth of knowledge, and knowing who to talk to about different topics can be very helpful.”

Uncertainty and anxiety are normal during this situation. It’s very easy to fall into a sense of hopelessness, but Henney advises her fellow UHD Community members to be methodical, have a plan and to be organized. Organization, she said, helps calm anxiety and increase productivity both on and off campus.

“When people are overwhelmed, people need to develop a written plan of action,” she said. “Doing this is a tried and true way of coping. Plan your day, manage your tasks effectively and take breaks. Most importantly, step back and take a deep breath; this gives you control over your body and your environment as well.”

Beyond friends and colleagues, other sources of support are available for those needing it. Students can take advantage of UHD’s Student Counseling Services in S445 (which will reopen on March 23). And Henney encourages those who are overwhelmed by depression or anxiety to seek support from the National Disaster Distress Hotline (1-800-985-5990) or Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255).

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.