The pandemic of COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds as schools shut down and move to online learning, and students are asked to stay home and practice social distancing – but some students experience loneliness in this new reality.
Andrea Del Angel, an SMU undergraduate, has been quarantined since mid-February at SMU’s request. She came back to Dallas from a trip to Seoul, South Korea that coincided with the early spread of COVID-19 in that country.
“I self-quarantined because SMU told me to,” Del Angel said. “I didn’t want to freak anyone out, so I just stayed at home and did my schoolwork from there.”
Del Angel says that it was helpful that her teachers have been so flexible and accommodating. She’s been using technology for all her outside contact.
“I haven’t really met up with anyone. I’ve really just been in contact with my family face-to-face since February,” Del Angel said.
Although Del Angel is with her family and stays in contact with friends via technology and handwritten letters, she says that she still experiences loneliness.
“This has made me value getting together with people more. We take so many things for granted,” Del Angel said. “When we can reunite with people again, we can be more conscious of what a gift it is.”
Del Angel’s story echoes Kristina Murri’s, an SMU graduate student. Murri left Dallas to see her fiancé in Utah during spring break. She has been feeling small amounts of loneliness, but is keeping herself busy doing schoolwork, spending time with her fiancé, and taking walks at night.
“I’m grateful that I have people around me, but it is difficult to accept because the first two weeks were really rough,” Murri said.
Murri made the decision to stay in Utah due to the increase of cases in Dallas County and to protect her family.
“We had to cancel our flight because my dad has a weak immune system and gets sick really easy, so it wasn’t worth the risk,” Murri said.
Dr. Donna Gober, Director of Wellness at SMU’s Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness, says exercising and getting fresh air are the most important steps to reduce stress. She suggested engaging in enjoyable activities or bringing back activities into your life you haven’t had the time to do. It is also important, she says, to practice meditation and mindfulness, and to put into practice feeling gratitude throughout the day. Dr. Gober says to remind yourself every so often that this situation is temporary.
“It’s natural to feel displaced and off-center since these events have taken place, but we are fortunate to have so many ways to connect with others and more time to connect fully with ourselves and our loved ones,” Dr. Gober said.
If you are experiencing loneliness and need counseling, the SMU Health Center is currently scheduling all appointments by phone during regular business hours. Please visit the Health Center website for more information. To make an appointment, call 214-768-2141. However, if it’s an emergency, call 214-768-2277 to access the 24/7 crisis counselor.