Coping with Isolation and Creating Connections

Unprecedented challenges have arisen in association with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mental Health Awareness Month is a good occasion to address the underlying issues and social stigmas that the majority of graduate students and other researchers currently face. This article provides suggestions for ways to cope with isolation and continue to create meaningful connections.

Rebecca Hendrickson, MS

Rebecca Hendrickson, MS

Academic Editor (MS, Civil/Structural Engineering)

Wellness Content Contributors:
Mary Anderson, Melissa Schumacher, Molly Amador, and Sheila Vieira

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique situation, and social distancing has encouraged isolation and seclusion. Researchers are now faced with many challenges associated with social distancing, such as a lack of daily interaction with peers and increased difficulty communicating with others.

In addition, the pace and rigor of graduate and tenure-track programs can often create feelings of isolation among students and faculty, and these feelings are especially prevalent now. In response, many people are exploring ways to remain in contact remotely via videoconferencing. Universities, research facilities, and companies are using various technologies to facilitate remote communication for business purposes, and you can take advantage of the same technologies to create and maintain social and professional connections.

Although many face-to-face conversations and scheduled meetings are no longer taking place, continue to talk with fellow graduate students, research group members, and others. Graduate students should maintain a line of communication with faculty advisors and mentors to discuss options for moving forward given the current circumstances; advisors and mentors, in turn, should check in with graduate students during this stressful time.

At AJE, we suggest that you:

  • Schedule video calls and meetings with peers and group members.
  • Stay connected and positive.
  • Discuss your worries and concerns and also provide feedback and advice to others. Communicating with others who are experiencing a similar situation can ease feelings of isolation and create a sense of connection.
  • Don’t feel that you need to have all the answers—listening to and empathizing with someone can be as helpful as giving practical advice.
  • Network via email or LinkedIn if you are a graduate student who is close to completing your program and wondering what steps to take to advance your career and studies. Networking offers a great opportunity to maintain and create new connections that may lead to future opportunities.

Published on 05/05/2020

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