As many Brock students, staff and faculty prepare to return to campus for the first time since March 2020, and others await their first-ever visit to the University, they may be experiencing feelings of unease or hesitation.
Brock has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on its plan for a significant return to campus in September, putting measures in place to enhance campus safety while following the latest public health guidelines.
To further encourage a healthy return to campus, Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC), is providing helpful tips for the Brock community to focus on as they transition to less familiar surroundings in the middle of an unprecedented period in history.
“We are all in the same boat,” she said. “Many of us are going to be anxious and unsure about September. Coming back to campus and so many other things we have not done since the pandemic started, such as going to a movie or a concert, might feel new and overwhelming, and we will need to monitor our own well-being and the well-being of those around us.”
Pennisi has several tips to help appropriately manage well-being:
Being compassionate towards all members of the Brock community who may be experiencing heightened emotions due to the pandemic and the beginning of term was Pennisi’s first area of focus.
“We need to have compassion towards ourselves and others, including instructors, the people serving us at Tim Hortons or someone sitting near us in class or an office,” she said. “We need to be aware of our own feelings and the feelings of others, so we can create a community where everyone feels they are welcome.”
Pick a trusted source for news
While it’s important to stay up to date on the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennisi cautioned against overwhelming yourself with information.
“Pick a resource that is trustworthy, when it comes to managing fear of the future,” she said. “Inundating yourself with news might not be the best thing to do and can feel overwhelming. Follow a trustworthy resource, such as Niagara Region Public Health, to stay aware of what is going on with concern to the COVID-19 pandemic, but beware of taking in too many sources and overwhelming yourself emotionally.”
Shift your expectations
Pennisi said everyone will need to recognize that certain parts of their on-campus experience may not be exactly as they had expected or remembered.
“I experience the most anxiety when I have a fixed idea of how something is going to be, without making space for how it could be different,” she said. “The social and physical environment may not be the same as before. It’s important to be prepared and to expect that it will be different and at times beyond your control. So, the best we can do when things are out of our control is to find and identify what we are feeling and to take steps to feel safer, such as reaching out to a friend, listening to calming music, having tea or doing exercises.”
When experiencing new situations, Pennisi said it’s also important for all members of the Brock community to know they are not alone and that there are a variety of resources ready to help them.
“SWAC has lots of resources for students,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be a crisis in order for you to reach out. We have counsellors, nurses and many other experts to listen to you and help you. And, if you don’t want to talk to anyone, there are also apps we can recommend as resources. We also have a large number of similar resources and services available to faculty and staff through the LifeWorks Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).”
Students who are looking to reach out are encouraged to visit the SWAC website.
Brock faculty and staff can find EFAP resources here.
While the beginning of the Fall Term will bring many new experiences, continuing to follow these steps can help those returning to campus to prioritize their well-being and the well-being of those around them.