COVID-19: Recommendations for management of panic & everyday accessible psychological support for students

Dear international students, guests at the University of Rijeka,  

Following the rapid spread of the coronavirus, for the past couple of weeks, we have been overwhelmed with information. In the whole array of bombastic news titles, we often focus more on the negative and the frightening ones, while neglecting the positive ones. Increased focus on negative information is an innate survival mechanism. Perceiving danger fosters concern and helpful behaviors focused on our protection. Still, in this new and unknown situation, we can experience excessive fear and even panic. Intense emotional reactions make us ignore positive information and overestimate the real risk (in this case from virus infection and transmission to illness and possible health consequences). While trying to control the uncertain and unpredictable situation we may be prone to irrational and useless behavior. Being away from home and your loved ones can make you feel even more anxious. 

We usually seek comfort from people who are close to us so try to be in contact with them as much as possible. Use the telephone, social media and other technological solutions to reach them, especially people who know how to talk to you and keep you calm.

Some of you are feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of not having classes regularly and/or being unable to fulfill your study obligations. Being preoccupied with negative thoughts can keep you away from concentrating on your everyday tasks. 

Although fear is understandable, panic is useless, so here are some tips to help you deal with fear in this unprecedented situation.

Recommendations:

  • Get the facts straight, rely on trustworthy sources and follow their instructions. Stay informed (several times a day), but limit the news intake if it is bothering you.
  • Regarding your study obligations, proceed according to the instructions and notices published on the official website of the University, Faculty or Department. Avoid rumor and speculations.
  • Avoid reading sensational texts that just induce panic.
  • Be aware of the real danger, but do not catastrophize, try to react rationally.
  • Rely on facts, not on assumptions and wrong conclusions.
  • If you experience panic, try to breathe calmly (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgTL5G1ibIo) and focus your attention on something in the room or outside your window.
  • Try to stick to your daily routine as much as possible. If some of the usual activities get canceled and/or postponed, try to replace them with something else, e.g. watching movies, reading, cleaning your room, doing the dishes, taking a shower or cooking/trying out new recipes. 
  • Communicate with your loved ones. If they are far away, use different communication tools to stay in touch.
  • Talk to others, but avoid those who tend to panic. Try to talk about different topics, not only the coronavirus.
  • If you have roommates or colleagues who live nearby, organize fun activities with them, e.g. play board games (different games available from the Student Center; contact Kruno Topolski, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., by Phone: +385 99 490 76 26 or via email kruno.topolski@scri.uniri.hr)
  • Remember, panic may be “contagious”. Try to control and dissolve your fear and help others who might panic and react irrationally.

If you feel overwhelmed with fear and cannot follow your everyday routine, the University of Rijeka offers professional psychological help. The University Counseling Center has organized long-distance therapy during the weekends. You can call +385 99 486 7293 from 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and from 5.00 to 8.00 p.m. Our psychologists would be happy to talk to you.