BOONE, N.C. — More than a year of social isolation due to COVID-19 has caused many people to fall out of practice regarding how to be with others in person, according to Dr. Kurt Michael, the Stanley R. Aeschleman Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Appalachian State University’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology.
For those who are just resuming pre-pandemic activities, Michael first recommends getting fully vaccinated and then moving “slowly but steadily back into the social milieu.”
While data show significant surges in depression and anxiety since the pandemic began, Michael cautions against jumping to the diagnosis of a psychological condition such as social anxiety. He said COVID-19 is, in fact, an “existential threat to life and health” and the term anxiety does not necessarily capture the extent of the threat.
“I think it’s fear, plain and simple,” Michael said. “I suggest we seek to normalize an expected reaction to an unprecedented, catastrophic pandemic.”
For those feeling uneasy, gradual exposure will help ease the transition, he said. One example: Use outdoor dining options at restaurants a few times, use a face covering when not eating and then consider if you’re ready to try sitting inside.
Michael also offers ways to support friends, family and colleagues who may be struggling with the reintegration to daily, in-person life:
- Support health-preserving behaviors. Get fully vaccinated and keep a face covering on hand.
- Be patient.
- Be compassionate.
- Support a gradual and consistent reentry into daily, in-person life.
If fears and anxieties related to the pandemic are interfering with how a person navigates their daily life, Michael suggests they consider contacting a cognitive behavioral therapist, many of whom are serving patients remotely. App State offers Counseling and Psychological Services for students and Counseling for Faculty and Staff. Trained counselors at Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741-741) are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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About the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology
Appalachian’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology serves more than 1,000 undergraduate majors seeking the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, as well as 80 graduate students in three master’s programs (experimental psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management) and the clinical psychology (Psy.D.) doctoral program. Learn more at https://psych.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.