The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

As I search for ways to begin this blog, I am struck by the amount of effort it now takes for me to even recall what day it is, what time it is, what my daily responsibilities are.

This pandemic has altered both time and space for me. It is quite disorienting. I also find myself tapping in and out of the reality of the situation. I look outside, and all is “normal.” Yet, I can simultaneously recognize a deep sense of worry and anxiety.

So bear with me as I share my experiences.

As a licensed clinical psychologist, I am responsible for dealing with the mental and emotional concerns of our student-athletes. This has been particularly challenging, as our student-athletes now are mostly in their homes, scattered across the globe. It is also challenging because normal and healthy reactions to the current situation are varied.

Some of our athletes experienced a bit of relief initially, while others were devastated by the sudden and abrupt end to their collegiate seasons and careers.

Some who were initially relieved are now bored, lonely and depressed. Others are now moving into the acceptance phase of their situations and appreciating the extra time with their family.

Most are concerned with learning how to teach themselves from home and other academic concerns. And all are at least a bit concerned about the health and well-being of themselves and loved ones.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first became “a thing” for us, our student-athletes were on spring break. Then our university suspended classes for a week while in-person classes transitioned to online. Now, we are chugging along with online-only courses.

Initially, I did not have many clients interested in meeting for therapy. I think most of our athletes were focused on finding a way home and adjusting to the end of their seasons. This was convenient for me, as it allowed me time to switch my practice online in a way that met ethical and legal obligations.

A few weeks ago, however, my schedule has quadrupled in business. I think that as the initial chaos has settled, folks are recognizing the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. I imagine the need will continue to rise as the virus spreads and depression and anxiety increase.

Personally, there are times when I feel confident in my ability to maintain my professional obligations to my student-athletes while also helping to manage my household and children.

It is difficult with two therapists in one home — my wife, Claudia, is also a therapist — trying to find privacy to treat our clients, while also trying to keep two children under the age of 3 quiet. Sometimes I feel like we are doing great. Other times, I find myself breaking into tears as I feel desperately out of control of the situation. It is exhausting to feel as though I not only have to take care of myself and my family but also the 450-plus student-athletes I no longer can meet with face-to-face.

Here’s what I have learned or relearned over the past few weeks:

  • Being home does not mean being safe.
  • Mindfulness can be, literally and figuratively, a lifesaver.
  • Grief is confusing and hard but also provides opportunities for beautiful reminders of what we still have.
  • Student-athletes are even more resilient than I already knew them to be.
  • The mind is a powerful thing.
  • There are no good camera angles for Zoom meetings.
  • Self-compassion and balance are now more important than ever.

As we all work to figure this time out, I encourage everyone reading this to be compassionate to yourselves and others. Stay safe and well!

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