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Helping students cope with extracurricular uncertainties

The fall 2020 school semester has begun, and in no way does it resemble years previous. Due to COVID-19 concerns, extracurricular activities been saddled with restrictions or cancelled altogether.

According to James Houle, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Columbus, the pandemic means that athletes might compete, but in empty stadiums; musicians might play, but in isolated rooms; and actors might perform to empty seats. He indicated that students will most likely experience various feelings of grief, sadness, anxiety and anger.

“They may feel a sense of loss of identity, confusion and uncertainty about the future,” he said.

Houle advised that students can weather this period of uncertainty and disappointment by:

1. “Controlling what you can control; focusing on what you can do, and not factors that are out of your control.“
2. Slowing down: “When we worry about the future we tend to speed up in our thoughts, feelings and actions. Slowing down can allow us to think wisely.“
3. Thinking through how realistic the worries might be.
4. Observing options, such as other opportunities to get noticed by a university.
5. Planning “small and reasonable goals” so there is something to focus on other than current circumstances.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in April pinpointed some ways that students can stay active, especially if their extracurricular activities are on hold this semester:

‒ Make an individual practice or conditioning plan and stick to it.
‒ “Think outside of the box. If you can’t play your sport, choose other sports activities that may make you better at a sport that you normally play.”

Houle conveyed an upside to diminished or cancelled extracurricular school activities: “COVID-19 has allowed for more space to focus on academics, which is almost always a good thing.”

UCLAhealth.org on July 31 cautioned parents to seek professional help if a child shows significant changes in mood and despondency about the future: “Above all, they should remind their child that the current hardships won’t be permanent and that better times lie ahead.”