Stressed? Help and Healthy Resources

By , April 15, 2020 11:29 am

An interview with Dr. Arnie Abels, Director of UMKC Counseling Services, by Patricia O’Dell.

The strain of the personal and global effects of the coronavirus pandemic may be unavoidable.  But there are resources available to help manage stress and anxiety.  Arnie Abels, Ph.D., director of Counseling, Health, Testing and Disability Services at UMKC, suggests strengthening your assets may help you manage your emotional needs.

“One thing to remember is that every experience is individual,” Abels said.  “For some people, isolation is a huge blow.  Those folks are learning to be creative – trying new activities or using Zoom or online activities – to stay connected to other students, friends and family.

For others, the physical constraints may be more challenging.  They need to figure out how to get enough sleep, the best way to exercise and create a routine.  Others’ primary concerns may be financial as they lose jobs and may need to change living situations.

All of this is valid.  Each of us needs to understand that all of these things are important and manage our own individual emotional needs.”

He notes that students graduating this spring may be feeling completely differently than underclassmen.  “Having the experience of virtual graduation and the opportunity to walk at a later date may be more helpful than some people realize,” Abels said.  “It may ease the grief of not experiencing that ceremony.  For some, it may be a wonderful addition.”

Noticing an increase of posts on social media related to alcohol and drugs, Abels cautions about turning to substances for relief.  “First, smoking cigarettes or cannabis creates vulnerability in your lungs, which we all need to avoid,” he said.  “We don’t judge, but we want to encourage people to make healthy choices. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink – if you’re of legal age – but drinking to excess can create difficult situations with difficult consequences, especially if you are using it to avoid feelings.”

There are healthier ways to deal with stress.  “Getting enough sleep is very important,” Abels said. “One of the things that may help with this is regular exercise. Eating healthy will feel better. But not everything needs to be productive.  Along with online exercise videos, Swinney Rec is offering a video-gaming competition.  That could be a great escape as well.”

Abels encourages people to take the opportunity to see how we can grow and become better individually and as a group.  “Personally, I’m writing letters to the people I care about.  It’s a creative process for me and it allows me to let people know in a way that may be out of the ordinary and maybe more special than an email or text.”

Mental Health Resources

Personal counseling:  UMKC Counseling offers several resources to students, faculty and staff to promote mental health.  There is currently a waitlist, but Abels and his team are working with the Missouri Governor’s Office to try and suspend licensing restrictions so that they can provide online counseling to students who are now outside the state.

Mind Over Mood:  A three-week workshop focused on grief and anxiety.  The counseling office is working to provide ADA- compatible transcripts and videos on the site as additional resources.

Movement Matters:  Swinney Recreation is offering fitness classes available through Instagram stories, and Esports including PS4 and X-Box Fifa and Madden.

Help at Your Fingertips:
The Sanvello app provides on-demand help for stress, anxiety and depression.
Roos for Mental Health has additional resources.

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