By Katherine Moore, Head Copy Editor Originally published in Issue 9, Volume 33 of The University Register on March 12, 2021
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the United State’s COVID-19 lockdown. It has been a year of masks, hand sanitizer, and most significantly, isolation.
Morris Let’s Thrive director Jeanne Williamson said that the student counseling office and Let’s Thrive have seen a rise in isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic. She noted that the necessary measures to keep the community safe from COVID-19 have left people stuck in their homes and dorms without the knowledge how to connect socially. But she and the Let’s Thrive staff have been working toward helping students get involved in the community.
During the winter, Let’s Thrive, UMM’s student wellness initiative, bumped up their focus on the “winter wellness” program that allows students to get outside. They partnered with the RFC to host snowshoeing events where students could explore the outdoors and spend time together while minimizing risk of COVID-19 spread.
“Something like snowshoeing with friends has several benefits including connection with others, physical exercise and connectedness to nature,” Williamson said.
With warmer weather other events are being planned and coordinated. One current program is the Nature Connected Mindfulness series where students can attend mindfulness and meditation workshops with plants in the conservatory on campus. Space is limited to allow for proper social distancing, so students should RSVP online to attend.
Another event in the works by Let’s Thrive Peer Health Educators is an outdoor tidying program in April. As more information is available students will receive an email with the dates and information.
To learn more about programs being offered by Let’s Thrive, visit their social media: Instagram (@morrisletsthrive) and facebook.com/morrisletsthrive.
To students experiencing isolation and loneliness, Williamson offered advice on ways to connect.
“I know it can feel scary and vulnerable to reach out to friends, acquaintances and even strangers in general but more so during COVID,” Williamson said. “I would encourage challenging yourself to take those steps and see how you feel and what benefits you might gain.”
She also recommended stepping out of what might feel comfortable to attend an event like the conservatory mindfulness workshops or the Paint, Sip and Mental Health Program, run by Brianca Smith-Austin.
Williamson also noted that it is important to not brush off the impact of the pandemic, but to recognize it for what it is.
“COVID-19 is a collective, community trauma and acknowledging it as such is important,” Williamson said. “People can tend to minimize their feelings and emotions, but the impact of the pandemic is real and is having a real and lasting impact on physical and mental health.”
To the students who feel unsure how to or if they can take steps to address loneliness, the Student Counseling office is fully staffed and operating both in person and virtually. To make an appointment call 320-589-6060 or visit their office at Behmler 235. The office also offers confidential “virtual walk in” Let’s Talk sessions on Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. To join, call the number listed above.
Image on top courtesy of People Management