UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With the transition to remote learning approaching on Nov. 20, students are encouraged to prioritize their mental, emotional and physical wellness by making transition plans, signing up for COVID departure testing, and identifying areas where they might need additional support.
There are a variety of academic, technology, housing and other resources available to help students prepare for the shift to remote learning, as well as virtual wellness, exercise and mental health resources that will be available for all students during the remote learning period and beyond. In addition, as part of the Return Home plan, students are urged to sign up to complete COVID-19 departure testing to help alleviate stress, protect family members, and provide sufficient time to quarantine or isolate, if needed, prior to returning home for Thanksgiving.
“In a year full of many changes, we know each student is facing a unique set of challenges. As we transition to remote learning, we want students to know we’re here to help you during this period so you can return home and have a healthy and productive finish to the semester,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “There are a variety of resources available to help you meet your goals and prioritize your wellness, including your holistic mental, emotional and physical well-being, as we look to the last weeks of the semester, which in ordinary times result in additional stress for some students.”
For many, levels of stress and anxiety are elevated amid ongoing changes at home, school and work. Ben Locke, senior director for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), offers the following strategies for prioritizing well-being during this time:
- Mindset: Focus your mindset on what you can control. As we live through challenging, unprecedented times, focus on what you can impact — while still allowing yourself to acknowledge feelings and experiences, grieve losses and acknowledge frustrations.
- Prevention: The best treatment is prevention. Each day, intentionally do the things you need to do to be well and to navigate your transitions, including sleep, eating healthy, exercise, social time, work time and more.
- Conversation: The transition home can raise challenges. Plan ahead and have conversations with those you interact with in advance to talk through any concerns, extend mutual understanding, and sort through potential difficult experiences before they come up.
- Kindness: Be kind to yourself — it is OK to not be OK all the time, and there are resources available at Penn State for those who need support.
Planning your transition to remote learning
To help alleviate potential stress that may come with the transition, students are encouraged to make a plan, identify helpful resources, and to seek guidance and stay in contact with instructors and adviser, as well as friends.
As students plan to transition to the remote learning period, there are a variety of Penn State resources available to offer guidance and support. The following guides, available on keeplearning.psu.edu, offer a starting place if you have questions, need more information, or are curious about where and how to get support or access services:
- Transition to Remote Learning information, which offers information on academic, housing, technology, financial, wellness support and more.
- My Pivot Plan worksheet
International students with questions or who need support can contact Global Programs by emailing DISSA-Adviser@psu.edu; visiting “iStart” and using the “submit a question” link; or by calling DISSA at 814-865-6348 (option No. 2) and leaving your name, email and phone number.
Healthy support options
“Knowing when to seek mental-health services is different for every person,” said Locke. “However, in general, if you are experiencing distress that is causing significant impacts on your ability to function or be successful, and if you also have tried to make changes over several weeks that haven’t worked — then now is a good time to reach out and consult with CAPS.”
CAPS will be open through the remote learning period, with virtual self-help options and crisis support always available to all students, including when the University is closed for the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
GET STARTED WITH SELF-HELP RESOURCES FOR VARIOUS ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE: Virtual resources will be available to students at all campuses during the remote learning period and while the University is closed for the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
- Students at all campuses can get started by evaluating their overall well-being and learn about resources matched to their areas of need using YOU@PSU, available at you.psu.edu.
- In addition, CAPS is now able to offer a tech-based coaching/counseling program, Ginger, for some students dealing with non-urgent issues, including, but not limited to, emotional issues related to social anxiety, academic struggles such as test anxiety, concerns with time management, procrastination and more. Call 814-863-0395 if you’re in need of support and would like to learn more about Ginger.
These additional free virtual wellness resources also are available to all students:
- Healthy living resources from Health Promotion and Wellness, including free wellness sessions on topics including stress, sleep, nutrition, sexual health, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
- CAPS Chat: Free, virtual consultations with CAPS counselors (available when CAPS is open)
- WellTrack: Interactive, self-help therapy
- Online Mental Health Screening: An anonymous, online screening that provides key information about factors of your mental health
- CAPS Virtual Library: A video library that offers support on a variety of health topics
- Life Hacks at Home: Presentations led by CAPS clinicians about coping strategies for decreasing stress and increasing well-being
SEEKING ADDITIONAL SUPPORT: Counseling services, including individual counseling through telehealth appointments, clinics, and support groups, will continue during the remote learning period. Students who think they would benefit from counseling or therapy over the Thanksgiving or winter breaks, should plan ahead and reach out to CAPS now to discuss options.
- To get started, call CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a conversation or contact your campus’ counseling services.
- In an emergency, use the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line at 1-877-229-6400 or access the 24/7 Crisis Text Line by texting “LIONS” to 741741.
- In addition, Thriving Campus is an online directory that can help students find a mental health provider in their community. The site provides a list of off-campus, licensed mental health clinicians, many of whom specialize in working with students, and resources and tips for securing care.
“We work really hard to meet students where they are — to understand what their concerns are and how they are experiencing them, to help reduce their distress, and gain new skills to enhance their well-being,” said Kate Staley, CAPS outreach director. “It's not just a job for our staff, it’s a passion. We think of wellness and mental health on a continuum, so we offer a range of services to meet student needs — from prevention services to early intervention options to treatment services.”
Along with signing up for COVID-19 testing prior to departure, students are encouraged to schedule a flu shot to be administered in the Student Health Center through myUHS. Many of the steps that help stop the spread of COVID-19 can also help protect against flu, but the best way to help prevent flu is to get vaccinated every year. For more information and to schedule, visit the #FightFluPSU page. Students at Commonwealth Campus locations are encouraged to contact their on-campus health service or local provider to inquire about clinics in their area.
Prior to the transition, students can consult with University Health Services (schedule is available online) at University Park or the campus health services at their Penn State campus location for any medical needs. At University Park, UHS specializes in outpatient student health, treatment of medically urgent problems, telemedicine, and physical therapy, as well as provides prescriptions through the UHS Pharmacy, which can mail prescriptions to students in Pennsylvania.
During the remote period, Campus Recreation will continue to offer virtual fitness classes for students at all campuses. In addition, Health Promotion & Wellness offers a variety of virtual events and programs to help students manage their mental and physical health, including Well-being Wednesdays; Weekly Wellness: Strategies to Manage Stress and Enhance Your Well-Being; Stress Management 101; yoga and meditation sessions; and more. Students also can connect with a dietitian, for free, to learn healthy eating strategies.
The following wellness resources, in addition to those listed above, are available:
- On-demand virtual fitness classes curated in a YouTube playlist
- The Healthy Penn State blog, featuring nutritious recipes and fitness, stress reducers, mindfulness and sleep tips
- A Health and Wellness Guide for students during COVID-19
For the latest on Return Home, visit virusinfo.psu.edu/return-home.