Social Work Warrior Student Wellness: Coping

The past year has challenged all of us. From a global pandemic to devastating events highlighting racial inequity and a very contentious election – we've all had a lot on our plates. At times it has been difficult to concentrate and to figure out this 'new' normal, but we are here to help. Our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series highlights student experience accounts acknowledging the physical, social and emotional toll of the last year, while at the same time recognizing the resilience displayed by our social work student community. Throughout the series, we encourage students to identify their stressors and challenges, acknowledge loss, be open to new ways to cope, invest in themselves, keep moving forward and remember the first step to helping others is helping yourself.

In the past year I started yoga. I also reached out to CAPS. Having a judgement free space to talk made a real difference. 

In a recent survey, Social Work students indicated they have tried a variety of new ways to cope with the stress, anxiety and loss they have experienced in the past year. Some examples of coping mechanisms students have tried include: connecting virtually with friends and family, trying out yoga/mindfulness activities, establishing accountability partners, obtaining tutoring help, joining student organizations, listening to podcasts, reading something positive daily, getting organized and finding fulfillment in reaching out and helping others.  In the third installment of our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series, we examine the various ways fellow students have learned to cope. Are you open to trying something new?

My warrior story

I have known since the beginning of high school that college was where I wanted to land. I grew up in a home with a father who struggled with mental illness and a social worker was assigned to help me and my brother understand his struggles and learn to cope with the situation. I didn't realize it at the time, but that social worker made an indelible mark on my life and sparked a desire to help others just as she had helped my family. When the time came to decide what career path I wanted to take, social work fit the bill. I was so excited to enter the BSW program at Wayne State and experience learning not only in the classroom, but also through hands-on experience at my field placement. All that changed when COVID hit.

As COVID-19 spread around the world and across Michigan, I recall thinking this would all be over in a few weeks and we could get back to normal, I just needed to be patient. That ended up being just a dream and over a year later, we are still struggling with it and the devastation is has caused. Between the pandemic and onslaught of racial tension and violence, I have felt stressed and alone. Not being able to connect with fellow students, friends, family and teachers has been a surprising struggle for me – I did not realize all that those personal face-to-face interactions brought to my life. As the days, weeks and months dragged on, I began to feel increasingly lonely and yearning for ways to connect and handle my feelings around all that has taken place.

One of my classes required a group project that gave me the opportunity to meet some fellow students in the program. I was chatting with a group member after a Zoom meeting about our project and he mentioned that he had attended a virtual CAPS meeting that gave him a private space to chat with a counselor about his feelings and gave him a few options of activities to try to manage his stress and cope. So the following week I logged on and spoke to a CAPS counselor. It was a big help to have a judgment-free space to talk about how I was struggling to keep up with my virtual classes and homework, experiencing anxiety about our "new normal" and the stress of trying to balance my personal safety with the need for a paycheck and human interaction with my family and friends. My counselor suggested I try a few new activities to help manage my stress and focus on the things that I could control. I began taking virtual yoga wellness classes that are offered for free through the School and tried to limit the amount of negative news I was reading and hearing about daily. Disconnecting and taking some self-care time with yoga has made a big difference. I feel healthier, am losing some "COVID pounds", and feel more in control of at least part of my life. My next goal is to connect more with fellow students, so in the coming year, I plan to join a student org to make friends and work towards a cause that resonates with me. This past year was definitely not what I expected, but I am trying to focus on the positives with the knowledge that this too shall pass and there is help out there when I need it.

Resources

Warriors have your back

  • If you need confidential support, you can make a request online for telehealth counseling through CAPS. You won't have to leave your home to talk to someone, it is free for enrolled students and offers one-on-one, groups, workshops, and so much more. The School of Social Work has also partnered with CAPS to offer virtual private counseling sessions on Tuesday's and Thursday's from 4 – 5 pm – learn more via Get Involved.
  • The W Food Pantry supports students with food and toiletries to those currently enrolled in classes.
  • The HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program helps financially stressed students reach their goal to graduate with housing support, textbooks and other school supplies, clothing, transportation, and child-care assistance.
  • Feeling under the weather? For student health care services to prevent and treat common physical illness visit Wayne State's Campus Health Center.
  • Are you looking for energy, financial, food, health, housing, internet and cell phone service, mental health counseling, transportation, unemployment, and water resources in the Detroit area? Check out our Detroit area community resource lists for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
  • Are you looking for a job or need help determining your career path? Visit our career resources page that includes our online job board.

Stay connected

  • There are a variety of student organizations where you can connect with fellow students and explore a passion.
  • Consider participating in Social Work Peer Support (SWPS), a peer-to-peer student-led learning community aimed at supporting Social Work Warriors through their academic and field education journeys. SWPS hosts individual discussions and group activities including virtual Sunday Funday's.

Academic support

  • Your advisor can be an invaluable source of motivation and support. If you haven't been seeing your advisor at least once per semester, make an appointment today at advisingworks.wayne.edu.
  • Are you looking for writing or research support? Learn more about our specialized writing and research coaches offering free support to Social Work students.
  • You are always welcome to visit faculty during office hours or email them to inquire about assistance with course deadlines.

Financial aid and scholarships

  • School is expensive and there are a variety of resources both in and out of WSU to help: start at the WSU Office of Student Financial Aid to see what options are available to you, check out WSU private scholarships which open March 1st each year, use the Michigan scholarship search tool for those who reside in the mitten state, ask your supervisor if your employer offers tuition assistance and lastly chat with your advisor – attending part-time may be a more affordable option and WSU offers an Installment Payment Plan.
  • Are you nearing graduation? Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which can provide loan repayment relief to those at qualifying 501(c)3 non-profit employers.