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NMSU doctoral students develop guide for coping with self-isolation

What was originally a way to say farewell to members of a New Mexico State University Counseling and Educational Psychology group counseling practicum has turned into a helpful guide for people still trying to cope with the mental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Group photo
Three New Mexico State University Counseling and Educational Psychology doctoral students – Ellen Ijebor (top left), Cory Cascalheira (top right) and Shuo “Coco” Wang (bottom left) – developed the “Self-Isolation Survival Guide: Getting Through the Pandemic” with the help of their adviser, Na-Yeun Choi (bottom right), after the university announced it would temporarily close campus facilities to the public. The guide lists tips for stress management and self-care, dealing with grief and loss, and maintaining mindfulness, as well as several mental health resources. (NMSU photo)

Three CEP doctoral students – Ellen Ijebor, Cory Cascalheira and Shuo “Coco” Wang – developed the “Self-Isolation Survival Guide: Getting Through the Pandemic” after the university announced it would temporarily close campus facilities to the public, and that all courses would adopt an online-only format. The guide lists tips for stress management and self-care, dealing with grief and loss, and maintaining mindfulness, as well as several mental health resources.

“We actually had this assignment (in NMSU assistant professor Na-Yeun Choi’s class) where we were talking about creating some clinical topics that could benefit the students and the clinicians at the same time,” Wang said. “We were also doing groups with undergraduate students, and I remember we were talking in class that based on what is happening right now, students will need a lot of information on how to deal with this quarantine.”

Wang said she had heard from students who expressed difficulty in finding the motivation to concentrate on their coursework, while others struggled to balance work, home and school life while in self-isolation.

“We wanted to create something that can help the students, and at the same time we also think this can be helpful to use as well,” Wang said.

Cascalheira said when some of the student counseling groups moved to an online format, many of them found it difficult to log on because they didn’t have a comfortable, private space or they had internet access issues.

“We were really trying to figure out how can we say goodbye to them ethically,” Cascalheira said. “This was one way we could do that.”

Choi said that while the guide was meant for a specific group of people, it evolved into something that could be of value to the entire community.

“When this quarantine happened, they couldn’t say goodbye, so we talked about how we could benefit group members but they (the doctoral students) took it to a whole other level. It almost became like a survival guide for every student, and we felt that it might be beneficial to send out to the whole community,” Choi said.

Ijebor said that as she, Wang and Cascalheira worked on the guide, they were inspired to include information that would apply to a variety of people, not just students they worked with.

“As we started creating it, we just got so many ideas,” Ijebor said. “Even though it’s for students, there are so many students from different walks of life. We wanted to do something that encompassed all their struggles and identities. I think that’s why it became so applicable to a lot of people.”

The guide is available at https://www.cjcascalheira.com/docs/handouts/Self-Isolation-Survival-Guide.pdf.