It’s easy to focus only on the physical components of battling a pandemic, but Illinois State University health care experts agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that maintaining your mental health and managing stress are integral to one’s overall health.

Because the coronavirus (COVID-19) is a novel virus, meaning that people have no immunity since no one had been exposed to it until now, staying well depends on taking the necessary precautions to help limit the virus’ impact. After all, the top priorities are the health and safety of everyone who is part of the Illinois State community. With that in mind, campus experts urge everyone to pay attention to their mental and physical well-being to help stay well during this pandemic.

Nikki Brauer, director of Health Promotion and Wellness, said there are a range of measures that benefit the mind and the body, and following them or not may have a lasting impact.

“Staying well in general can lay the foundation for a successful academic year,” Brauer said. “To keep things from building up utilize self-care practices to reduce stressors, prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep per night, eat and drink healthier, and move your body in ways that feel good and can challenge you.”

Dr. Christina Nulty, physician and director of Student Health Services at Illinois State, said that because a university setting is usually densely populated there are a high number of contacts with others on campus, which makes it easier for viruses to spread. That’s why, as everyone should know by now, it’s so important to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet and to wear a face covering that covers both your nose and mouth when you aren’t able to practice physical distancing, she said. And, she added, avoiding crowds and washing your hands as frequently as possible remain effective tools in staying safe. Nulty also cautioned about the importance of being vigilant when it comes to noticing how you are feeling mentally.

“Also, remember to take care of your mental health,” she said. “If you begin noticing changes in mood, anxiety, sleep, activity levels, interest in things you normally enjoy, or decrease in motivation then please contact Student Health Services or Student Counseling Services.”

Nulty said it’s important to engage in and maintain everyday habits that keep us healthy like eating balanced meals, getting plenty of rest, and staying engaged with others even when physical distancing by utilizing Zoom or FaceTime.

The best preventive tool is to avoid exposure to the virus, Brauer said, adding that if you do have symptoms like fever, chills, shortness of breath and/or fatigue, stay home and away from others.

“Call your health care provider for guidance and treatment options,” she said. “The well-being of the ISU campus community is our priority.”

Keep in mind

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco and/or alcohol and other substances.

For more information, contact Student Counseling Services at (309)-438-3655, and/or Student Health Services at (309)-438-8655.