COVID has traumatized all, OCCC counselors help

Not everyone experiences the physical symptoms of COVID-19, but many are still feeling struggles of the pandemic.

Because of this, the counselors on staff at OCCC are urging students to reach out.

To increase availability to students during the pandemic, the counseling office is currently offering in-person and Zoom meetings. To make an appointment, call 405-682-7520.

The college’s counselors advise that even those without COVID symptoms can be heavily affected by the stress of what they say has become a traumatic event.

“The stress of COVID is more than the illness,” Counselor Jenna Howard said.

“It’s also… the disappointment of not seeing family or friends, the struggle with learning how to do life and work differently.” 

Howard said people are having many different reactions to the pandemic such as powerlessness, fear, anger and disappointment. She said this is leading to conflict among groups of people.

“COVID being a traumatic event almost acted as this additional stressor that made the everyday stressors…a bit too much,” Counseling Intern Landon Sikes said.

The counselors’ concern is that students may not realize how much of their stress is coming from living through a global pandemic. They worry students are not practicing enough self-care to stay mentally healthy.

  “A lot of times people won’t listen to self-care until they feel sick,” Counselor Janey Wheeler said.

According to the counselors, the need for self-care is higher than ever. They want to help students find what works best for them, to cope with the daily pressures.

“Having someone that you can collectively come up with a plan together… can help a lot of the time,” Counseling Intern Tyler Dohrn said.

The counselors emphasize that there is no set way to cope for everyone, and that their job is to help the individual.

“When they come see us, we can help stabilize them a little bit and start teaching them new ways to cope,” Sikes said.

For the students who haven’t made it in to visit them, the counselors offer their favorite self-care tips.

“When I’m working with a client who has a lot going on in their head, I recommend that they get that out of their head and onto paper,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said using words to write down thoughts or feelings can help when a person is overthinking.

“Allow yourself some me time,” Sikes said, “Allow yourself to unplug…to say ‘no’ to other people.”

  Howard said it is important for people to “make an appointment with themselves” to help with prioritizing decisions that need to be made.

Howard said people who struggle with having to make too many decisions at once can benefit from setting a later date to revisit decisions that can wait. 

This method helps people organize their thoughts and focus on their immediate challenges, she said.

Sikes said students don’t need a specific reason to visit them. He compared it to a yearly check up with a doctor.

“You don’t need to be experiencing mental health issues to see a counselor,” Sikes said.

The pandemic has changed a lot of the normal procedures for places like OCCC, but the counselors want students to remember they are still there, assuring students that they are not alone.

“It’s okay to not be Superman,” Sikes said.