Dear MIT students—Hello, I'm Nadia Damani-Khoja. I am one of the staff
psychologists and the Outreach Coordinator at the MIT Student Mental
Health and Counseling Services. As COVID-19 continues to present us with these
unprecedented times and numerous challenges, many of us find ourselves in
unfamiliar, often complicated and stressful situations. This worldwide
stress has definitely affected some of us more than others.
This is especially true for all of you, our students at MIT. Most of you now find
yourselves living miles away from MIT trying to manage studying and working—
everything remotely. Those who are still in the Boston area or on campus may find
yourselves living a student life that is drastically different than how it was
pre-COVID-19. Many of you had to pack up your dorm rooms, your labs, your lives, and
had to say goodbye in such a haste. Some of you may be struggling with a
host of other concerns and may be living in places that are not safe,
maybe spaces that are not conducive to keeping up with good mental health. Some
of you may be experiencing relationship and intimacy stress. Maybe some of you
are noting a higher intake of substance use, struggles with food, finances,
immigration issues, housing insecurities, maybe missing the human
connection that the video platforms—no matter how convenient and available they
are—fail to provide. I'm sure you miss your roommates, friends, faculty, advisers,
the community you worked so hard in creating, and just the normalcy of living a
typical MIT student life. You may be thinking, "When can I come back?
Will I be coming back to campus this fall?" This is true not only for our
international students and our incoming students, but for all of our students. You
all are handling so much uncertainty at this time. I want to acknowledge all
such struggles and would like to remind you that such uncertain times
inevitably bring a wide range of responses and emotions. Be mindful of the fact that all
of us handle stress differently, show our struggles differently, and tend to have a
different toolbox of coping, especially during stressful times. So while some of
you might feel okay for the most part, may even welcome this forced break and
may prefer working remotely. And yet others might experience a sense of loss,
a sense of isolation, and maybe some unfamiliar symptoms such as anxiety,
depression, generalized stress. Some of you may be feeling the sadness that
resembles more like a feeling of grief and loss. And it makes a lot of sense.
Because think about it. It is the loss of student life as you knew it back when
2020 was just starting. So there might be days when you feel overwhelmed with
worries—worries about your own health, that of your loved ones, about your
future career options, you name it. I want you to know that it is okay to feel a
wide range of emotions at this time. So don't be scared of your internal
responses and all these mixed emotions. However, I would strongly
encourage you to find a way to process these emotions and thoughts in a safe
manner. If you already have a mental health provider, that's great, wonderful.
Utilize that resource. If not, then this would be a good time for you to get an
appointment. This is the time to gather more coping tools, to do things
differently, and to pay more attention to your well-being. Times like these require
us to take good care of ourselves and others, to be kind, to be generous and
forgiving. So spend your energies on effective self-care, which again may look
very different for all of us, and that's okay too. Focus on your overall well-being—
physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. So for
example, have a set schedule of what time you go to bed and when you wake up,
what time you eat. Eat healthy and don't skip any meals if you can help it.
Don't forget to wash up and dress every single day. Engage in some kind of
physical activity—any workout—walking, jogging, whatever is doable given your
circumstances. Right? Any physical activities that keeps you healthy and
fit. Take note of all your emotions. Write them down if it's helpful. Maybe
cut down on news about COVID-19. Maybe cut down on your social media time if
that is affecting your mood negatively. Remember, social distancing doesn't mean
social isolation. So I would encourage you to reach out to people, to friends
and people that you haven't reached out in a while, right? Offer your support to
those who need it, but please reach out for support if you feel like you need it.
Take a note of your overall well-being. A very good, simple strategy is to just
scale it every day, one to ten, one being the worst. Find your sweet spot of
well-being, which is different for everybody. Right? And take one day at a
time. Above all, know that the students, faculty,
staff—we're all feeling similar worries. It may feel discouraging at times, but
we're all in this together, all trying to find effective solutions for MIT
students and and the rest of us. And things will get better.
Above all, know that students, faculty, and staff are all feeling similar worries. It
may feel discouraging at times, but we're pulling this together, trying to find
solutions that work for all of us. And things will get better.
Please know that the MIT Student Mental Health and Counseling Services is here
for you your overall well-being, and especially your good mental health is
our top priority. Now we are currently working remotely
but you can call us on our 24-hour phone line which is 617-253-4481.
Any inquiries, any urgent concerns, or if you'd like to
get connected to us or to a local mental health provider wherever you are, we can
help you with that. Please know that we're thinking about you and your
well-being. Don't hesitate to reach out. Remember to be kind, to yourself and take
good care. We hope to see you all in person soon. But for now goodbye and stay safe.