CPDC advises students to focus on their mental health

The Counseling and Personal Development Center said they advise students to focus on their mental health, especially during midterms.

“This semester, ‘good enough’ is great,” Director of the CPDC Trae Yeckley said. “We know that students are tired. We know that students are stressed out, so taking time to make sure that you are okay and taking time to take care of yourself ensures that you can finish this semester.”

Last week would have been fall break, however due to COVID-19 calendar changes, the break was canceled. 

“Our students are very academically rigorous and push themselves, but they look forward to a break, which we did not have this semester,” Yeckley said. “With everything else going on in the world it is a very stressful time. (Students) have the stress of what is going on with the pandemic and the country, and on top of that they are students — (being a student) is a stressful situation. It is really hard to navigate all of those stressful situations and perform at your absolute best without taking care of yourself.” 

Yeckly advises students to take time out of their day to unplug from electronics and put down the textbooks to focus on themselves and their mental well-being.

“You can push yourself and burn yourself out by the end of October to get the grades that you want,” Yeckley said. “By the end of October, though, you will be burnt out. We want you to finish this semester strong. It is okay to take a break. It is okay to tap out. It is okay to recharge so that you can finish this semester.”

Students can schedule a counselling session or call the 24/7 Line if they would like additional support. This semester, the CPDC has changed operations to accommodate COVID-19 regulations.

“It is a really lonely time right now, and it has been for the last six months,” Trae Yeckley said. “We want to reiterate that even if we cannot be physically close to each other … we can still connect — virtually or from a safe distance apart.” 

This semester, therapy sessions have been moved to remote sessions and all associated paperwork can be completed online. The 24/7 Line is available as usual and the CPDC plans to introduce drop-in hours for students again ahead of the presidential election in November. 

Yeckley mentioned that there has been an increase in the amount of students interested in attending a counselling session, including among seniors who have never attended a session before. 

“Last year, we served 270 students with at least one session by the end of the fall semester,” Yeckley said. “As of Thursday (Oct. 15), I believe we had already served 206. That was 45 students more than the previous year by this time (in the semester) … We are also seeing an increase in the number of students using the 24/7 line.”

To accommodate the increase in requests, the CPDC staff have filled their schedules and also rely on outside hours to check in on quarantine students. 

“We do not want students to think that just because our schedules are full that we do not care about them,” Yeckley said. 

In addition to traditional operations, the CPDC has been training Residence Life staff to be equipped to handle residents’ mental health needs. 

“This is a really unique situation, especially with first-years coming in and trying to get connected (on campus),” Yeckly said. “This is something that most of our (Resident Advisors) have not had to deal with before.”

CPDC has hosted several events to reduce stress this semester, including both remote and in-person events, Yeckley said.

“With first-years, we did a meet and mingle, which was a physically distant event where students were able to get to know and meet each other,” Yeckley said. 

It is important to distinguish between “physically distant” and “socially distant” because they imply two very different meanings, Yeckley said. The first-year event was only physically distant, not socially distant.

“When this all started nationally, we had this concept of socially distancing ourselves and staying six feet apart, but that implies loneliness, isolation and being separated from people — not just physically, but also socially,” Yeckley clarified. “We do not want that. We want people to be physically distant and be safe, but we want them to be connected — connected with us, with peers, with family and with professors.” 

On Oct. 10, the CPDC and Spiritual and Religious Life hosted “Yoga on the Lawn,” which was a physically distant event as well. Students brought their own yoga mats and the session was held on Murray Lawn. 

The CPDC has hosted other events such as “Work out your Stress” and “Gator Care Week.” Both of these events were hosted remotely. 

Counselor Danielle Pecar hosts virtually cardio and yoga classes on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. and strength training classes on Fridays at 3 p.m.. The sessions are held over Zoom, and interested students can access the link on the CPDC Instagram. Students must sign a waiver to participate in the session.

“Don’t let COVID-19 derail your physical or mental health,” the flyer reads. “These group classes are designed to improve fitness, lower stress and elevate your mood.”

The classes can be taken anywhere because it is remote, and no additional workout equipment is required to participate. 

The CPDC hosted “Gator Care Week” on Instagram from Oct. 12 to Oct. 16. The account featured videos by the counselors offering self-care tips and advice to manage stress and prioritize mental health during midterms and COVID-19.

On Oct. 13, the video featured ways to create goals for oneself.  

“The first thing you always want to do when setting up your goals for the day is to do a self check-in,” Counselor Charity Grace said. “This means that you assess ‘where am I at today?’ ‘What is my mood?’ ‘What is my energy level at?’ ‘How many resources do I have to give today?’ (After this), you adjust your goals for the day based on that.” 

Grace advised students to use the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym — Specific, Measurable, Achievable or Attainable, Realistic and Timely — when creating goals for the day. 

“Students need to recognize that as much as you are putting out, you need to put back in or the next day you will start with less resources than you had today,” Grace said. “Self-care is always important so make sure that you are building that time in your schedule.”  

Other videos featured topics such as positivity, meditation and unplugging from technology. 

“We are spending so much more time in a virtual world and that is more mentally fatiguing for our brain,” Grace said. “The amount of stimulus that we have to take in really compounds that fatigue and energy loss and is increasing our rate of saturation. This means that we are looking at the information, but it is not really being encoded.”

Grace advises students to take at least four hours over the weekend to unplug from electronics and meet with friends in a physically distanced manner.  

“Gator Care Week” also included the first bi-annual self-care competition. Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to submit short videos of them engaging in self care activities. The winner of the first bi-annual self-care competition was Aadaya Davis, ’24.

“There is no time like the present to choose you,” Grace said. “Take some time out for self care in your schedule.”