University Experts Offer Advice on Adapting to a New Normal

    July 29, 2020
    We all react to change and challenge with a level of stress; that needs to be acknowledged in order to move toward adaptation and resilience- Robert J. Liskowicz Psy.D.

    A new semester. A new normal. Students (and their families) might be anticipating fall 2020 with a bit of trepidation. For advice about how to approach this new normal, we talked to two members of our University community with experience working closely with students during times of change:

    Robert J. Liskowicz Psy.D. (RL), the clinical manager of the University’s Counseling Center and

    Lauren Rivera, J.D., M.Ed. (LR), the assistant vice president for Student Life and dean of students.

    Things will look different on campus when students arrive, from signage to social distancing to masks. How can students ready themselves for all the changes?

    RL: The basic issue in terms of adjusting to what will be a challenging and different semester is dealing with uncertainty anxiety, and stress. 

    First, we all react to change and challenge with a level of stress; that needs to be acknowledged in order to move toward adaptation and resilience. So, students have to be aware that things will be different and challenging, so they can adjust their expectations and prepare to move toward coping strategies. 

    LR: As we prepare for the fall semester, members of our community are experiencing so many emotions such as excitement, uncertainty, and fear. We look forward to returning to our beloved campus and seeing one another yet we know that it will necessarily be a different feel given the many precautions that are necessary in the midst of a global pandemic. 

    Do your best to connect with others to build supports; we are all in this together.- Lauren Rivera, J.D., M.Ed.

    At Orientation, I talk with students about the acronym C.A.K.E. and the idea of resilience, both of which are timely for all of us right now as we ready to transition into the fall semester.

    C  Connecting with Others is really important as these connections give meaning and purpose to our lives. Relationships are truly what sustain us. As students think about coming back to campus, it’s good to be mindful that how we form and maintain connection will look different -- 6’ social distancing, masking requirements, limitations on the size of gatherings on and off campus, and more classes, meetings, and events happening virtually than ever before. We know this can be challenging; come with an open mind and seek opportunities to connect in ways that honor your shared responsibility for the health and safety of our community. 

    A  Advocating for Yourself is a skill that students develop during their time at college. It’s particularly important right now as students have different emotions, needs, concerns, challenges, and hopes. As you prepare to come to campus, consider how you will use the many resources that are available to you. All of the University’s resources -- Counseling Center, Student Health Services, Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence, Recreational Sports, Dean of Students Office, and more --will be available to you though it’s important to understand that some may be accessible face-to-face while others will be more available via video conference (Zoom) given the need to maintain a safe, healthy campus. In the end, faculty and staff are committed to fostering student success even though this semester will surely be different than others.

    K  Knowing the Expectations is often something I talk about in the context of the Student Code of Conduct. While that’s important, in this instance I think more about the expectations set forth in the Royals Safe Together Plan: “The challenge to keep each other safe through this pandemic is a shared responsibility shaped by individual decisions.” Each of us must commit to adhere to the expectations for our own good and the good of one another. At its core, this is what it means to be people for and with others as St. Ignatius calls us to be.

    E  Getting Engaged in the life of our community will surely look different this semester given that spaces on campus are primarily designated for instruction, dining, and mission critical activities. At least initially, clubs, organizations, and events will occur virtually and utilizing outdoor spaces in ways that comply with social distancing guidelines. Sometimes we will need to push ourselves to go to a Zoom club meeting or USPB event, for example, when we just aren’t feeling it knowing that getting engaged fosters connection, cultivates relationship, and is good for our wellness.

    …and being resilient too! Resilience is our capacity to bounce back and learn from challenge or struggle. This semester will surely be one where we encounter challenge and struggle; things are different which can push us to a place of discomfort and growth. Do your best to connect with others to build supports; we are all in this together. Also try to look at the challenges we are facing with a growth mindset; this can be difficult, but recognizing that transition, adjustment, challenges and failures are all opportunities for us to learn and grow allows us to remain hopeful in the midst of this pandemic. 

    Can you tell us about some of the resources available to students as they navigate the new normal?

    LR: So many resources. I’d encourage students to realize the breadth of resources -- faculty members who teach their courses, staff members in Student Life and other areas of campus, upperclass students are all resources. Key resources for support likely include the Counseling Center (group sessions & individual session), Student Health Services, Dean of Students Office, Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence (CTLE) and more. I can tell you for sure that I’ll be holding my Friday Drop In Hours with the Dean of Students each Friday from 12-2p.m. via Zoom beginning on August 14 (see RoyalSync for details). 

    What are some sources of stress relief students might practice? 

    LR: Managing stress and worry is an important way for us to take care of ourselves and focus on our wellness. There are so many different strategies for managing stress. Students should consider what coping strategies they use to manage stress and also think about how these strategies can be safely employed given the social distancing and masking requirements outlined in the plan.

    Being active (i.e., Fitness Center, Weekly Wellness Classes), taking walks outside, listening to music, being creative, meditating, sharing a meal or coffee/tea with friends, attending a club/organization meeting or social program via Zoom or in person… 

    Knowing that others share and understand your feelings can help you feel less isolated...- Robert J. Liskowicz Psy.D.

    RL: Although there will be a period of adjustment initially, students should be aware of all the resources and tips that Lauren outlined before coming to campus, and know two very important themes within all of this; one, nothing is forever, in other words, this will come to an end and we will move back into a more normal lifestyle again; having faith in a temporary set of discomforts is a part growth and of life in general, and, although that comes with stress and sacrifice, we can survive this and thrive in small ways.  And two, we are all in this together, so there is no shame in feeling uncomfortable, anxious, stressed, depressed and worried, but knowing that others share and understand your feelings can help you feel less isolated and perhaps be more willing to reach out to any resource for some solace or comfort, even if it is momentary.  

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