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Neighborhood strolls, playing video games with family, and Korean Dramas – college students across the nation are finding ways to cope and stay physically sane during the pandemic.

Chelsea Delos Reyes, a senior at UH Manoa, made sure to find activities that benefit her mental health too. 

“I’ve made it a habit to go for a walk around the neighborhood at least three times a week because prior to COVID, taking long walks is actually my way to relieve stress,” said Delos Reyes. 

Delos Reyes picked up the habit of writing journal entries every day as well. 

“That’s actually new because I usually would only write a journal entry whenever there were good, really good or really bad things in my life, but writing one everyday really helped me,” continued Delos Reyes.

For fun, Delos Reyes turned to Korean Dramas and playing Animal Crossing with her brother. Though she can’t physically interact with her friends, Delos Reyes messages them every so often and communicates by mailing letters. 

As an officer for the Travel Industry Management Association (TIMSA) and a peer student for incoming Travel Industry Management (TIM) freshmen, Delos Reyes hopes their virtual events will be a success and students benefit from them. She plans to gain virtual interview skills as everyone adjusts to this new normal.

During these unprecedented times it is important to keep everyone’s mental health intact because according to Alexander Khaddouma, a staff psychologist at the Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC), better mental health can lead to academic success, retention and later success in careers after college. 2020 brought interesting ways for students to interact with friends and new hobbies to get them through the day.

“It might sound a little weird, but I’ve rearranged my room at least three times since COVID started,” said Kristen Bornios, a junior at UH Manoa. “I switched around furniture, threw furniture out; that was one of my ways of keeping myself busy,” continued Bornios.

Bornios also communicates with her family more, something she never did before the pandemic. Instead of large gatherings, Bornios and her friends relied on group FaceTime and the app Houseparty, where you can interact and play games. Since they all live close by, she and her friends would drive by each other and say hi. 

Bornios hopes for smoother classes (less technical glitches and confusion) as another semester of online classes begins. Also, to get back on campus and interact with people again. 

Students’ mental health needs to be prioritized now more than ever as the pandemic has added numerous stressors to their lives.

“Across universities nationally, incoming students report a variety of concerns related to the pandemic and its effect on their daily lives and success in school,” said Khaddouma.

“Recent surveys have shown that students are concerned about the risk for COVID-19 spread on campus and how this might affect them, as well as their ability to perform well in their classes under uncertain and challenging conditions,” continued Khaddouma.

Khaddouma discussed how students are placed in difficult situations in terms of lack of opportunities for work and uncomfortable living situations with minimal alternatives.

The Counseling and Student Development Center is designed to serve the mental health of students at UH Manoa. They provide individual and couples counseling services, group therapy and walk-in appointments. With their new adjustments, students must call ahead of time in case walk-in appointments can be done remotely, counseling sessions will be done over Zoom and students can sign up for online self-help workshops that can be found on the CSDC website. The CSDC is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and located at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services, Room 312.

"Currently the numbers [number of cases] in our State are higher; they have been this past month and that’s stress producing for students and all members of the UHM campus community. But I still think it’s important to remember that most students have been doing the right thing in terms of reducing risk for the spread of COVID-19 and the vast majority of people are trying to protect themselves and others,” said Kristen Scholly, Chair of the University Health Services Health Promotion Program.

Scholly believes that everyone needs to keep up the effort so that the island can reduce the amount of COVID cases and safely return to life before the pandemic.

The Health Promotion Program is designed to do educational outreach; giving presentations on stress management, sexual health, body image and lowering alcohol use, etc. The Health Promotion Program is open by appointment Monday through Fridays and located at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services, Room 313-D.

For more information on the CSDC and the Health Promotion Program, visit http://manoa.hawaii.edu/counseling/ and https://www.hawaii.edu/shs/health_promotion/