Can the texts. Try the call button. A Drew expert’s ‘quarantivities’ for pandemic mental health

Psychologist James Mandala, of the Drew University Counseling Center. Photo: Drew University
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By Jamie Lynn Connors

Can the texting. Forget Snapchat.

Try your phone’s call button instead.

Those are among psychologist James Mandala’s tips for staying mentally healthy while you try to dodge the coronavirus.

Mandala, who works at the James A. McClintock Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at Drew University in Madison, said 75 percent of university students suffer from intense loneliness–and that’s during “normal” times.

With social distancing and self-isolation, that figure is likely to increase.

Calling family and friends is more important than ever, Mandala said.

Dr. James Mandala speaks at Drew University winter screening of a film about an attempted suicide. Photo by Jamie Lynn Connors.

“Replace text messages with voice or video calls, so your brain’s mirror neurons can create a deeper sense of connection with the person you are communicating with,” he said.

Additionally, to reduce anxiety and depression, Mandala suggests establishing daily routines: Setting a good sleep/wake schedule and getting dressed each morning.

“Dress for the social life you want to have. Don’t spend the day in pajamas and sweats,”  he advised.

If you’re quarantining with family members or friends, he also recommends participating in “quarantivities” to reduce stress. These include doing something creative, exercising for 30 minutes, going outside (while adhering to the CDC’s guidelines), playing games, and practicing meditation and yoga.

Although most students no longer reside on campus–classes have shut down during the pandemic–Mandala said staying connected to school is vital for them.

Drew’s Counseling Center is offering teletherapy and remote therapy for students. These can be group or individual sessions. For those without Wi-Fi, the center is also hosting phone sessions.

More resources are available at Drew Counseling’s website and Instagram account .

Before the campus closed, Mandala spoke at a screening of Suicide: The Ripple Effect, which followed Kevin Hines’ journey after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Last year at Drew in the counseling center we saw about 420 students,” said Mandala. “Out of those students that we saw, 120 of them reported thoughts of suicide in the two weeks before vacation. That’s a huge number.”

Anyone experiencing such thoughts should call the Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicide warning signs.
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