Coping with COVID: Dana Whittlesey

Photo: Dana Whittlesey, left, speaking with a student at De-Stress Fest in 2019.

Dana Whittlesey, the program coordinator for the Center for Student Wellness and Counseling Services, submitted the following reflection.

How are you coping with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to hear, whether you’re a student or a member of the faculty or staff. Send your thoughts and photos to The Pulse. Visit the news page, title it "Coping with COVID," fill in your thoughts, and submit.

Coping with COVID has been become easier as time goes on. The fear of the unknown when this all started naturally had me anxious and wondering all the “What ifs?” As a result of that anxiety, I found myself getting immersed in the negativity surrounding it. Slowly as my family sorted out our new lives at home, work, and school – keeping our routine as normal as possible plus purposefully steering away from the negativity – coping became easier. But it took a lot of willpower and determination.

We live in the country, so there is not much traffic or neighborly activity; everything in our neighborhood felt the same. It was only when we would go out to run errands that we noticed the eerie feeling of people not being around, with little or no traffic and so many businesses closed. That is when reality set in that this “thing” was real.

Losing my father during the stay-at-home orders was probably the most difficult to deal with; coping with grief while maintaining some normalcy was and still is a balancing act. But adding restrictions to that grief makes it feel 10 times worse. The most difficult part was not being able to visit my father in assisted living and often wondering if he thought I had abandoned him. But I place my faith in God and believe that there is always a plan for everyone. Keeping that faith base is truly what helps me cope with my grief.

Adding some fun elements into the mix of emotions helped a lot too! We celebrated Easter as usual, with a big dinner that I enjoyed cooking (but with 15 less people and a ton of leftovers!) Having periodic family video chats, food delivery, letter writing, window/door visits with my surviving elderly relatives, virtual commencement and a surprise college graduation parade for my daughter, getting outdoors during the nicer weather days to places like Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, and organizing my late parents’ home to prep for selling have all helped make life feel a little more normal during all of this.

Being a part of the Center for Student Wellness also helps me cope. Our counselors provide weekly newsletters to the students on how to manage during the COVID pandemic. As I create those newsletters, I take advantage of reading the content that the counselors provide and sometimes share those same concepts with my family and friends.

As Ohio slowly reopens, I remind myself not to become complacent and continue to follow the physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing guidelines to help keep the curve flattened and the spread of the virus contained. But I do have to say, for me personally, discerning much of the information out there in all the media channels – information that often can seem contradictory – is probably the hardest part of coping with this pandemic.

-Submitted by Dana Whittlesey

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