The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Students may struggle with social interaction post-pandemic

As California continues to reopen, some students are nervous about socially interacting in person again since the closure of the El Camino College campus.

Since El Camino College (ECC) moved to online learning on March 12, 2020, many students faced challenges throughout the entire pandemic, many experiencing struggles with their mental health.

“The types of challenges that students have been coming to the Student Health Center with are pretty similar to what it’s been like pre-COVID, but just more intense or more severe,” ECC clinical psychologist Maria Nazarian said.

One of the challenges that students have faced as COVID-19 restrictions lift has been participating in social interactions and feelings of increased anxiety with people in the real world.

“I’ve been talking to students who’ve either gone back to work in-person or have started interacting with friends socially-distanced or wearing masks but seeing people in-person,” Nazarian said. “It’s natural for us to be apprehensive at first when we haven’t practiced some of these skills for over a year now.”

Some students, like Associated Student Organization Director of Student Services Katherine Bonilla, are a little hesitant about interactions with friends after having little to no social interaction for so long.

“It would be weird because personally. I haven’t seen my friends since last year,” Bonilla said. “But obviously I would be very happy to see them.”

Although students are experiencing hesitation and anxiety with in-person interactions, Nazarian mentions how it is a part of the growing process.

“It’s important to not avoid [interaction], it’s important to practice just gradually, slowly exposing oneself to social interaction once again,” Nazarian said.

With regards to going back on campus, Nazarian said, how it increases or remedies anxiety would vary by each students individual struggles. Being aware of the signs that someone has anxiety may help them understand what they need.

While some students need some additional help transitioning back to campus, students similar to English major David Becerra are not having any problem with social interaction.

“I would feel really excited and happy just to talk with my friend face-to-face, you know it’s very difficult to find that exact happiness when you’re basically seeing each other through a screen or tablet,” Becerra said.

For students that do need additional help, one should look into why they are feeling certain emotions when it comes to being back in a social environment.

“The first clue would be if they want to avoid a social situation altogether,” Nazarian said. “Is it a matter of convenience, like logistics, or is it that they’re experiencing some sort of discomfort in reintegrating to a social situation?”

Nazarian also mentions that anxiety from social situations comes from fear of failure or judgment, which can leave people with low self-esteem and self-doubt.

One should look at their thoughts about going back on campus and challenge the thoughts that are not very helpful, Nazarian said. Use facts and evidence to disprove doubt and fear and practice gradual reintegration into social settings, get out of comfort zones and be kind and compassionate to oneself.

ECC has resources for any anxiety that students may be experiencing, with psychiatrists hosting special programs to help students with their mental health.

Nazarian has special group meetings, including “Mindfulness Monday” on Mondays at 9 a.m. and “Coping with Depression and Anxiety” on Tuesdays at 4 p.m.

“It gives [students] a sense that, ‘oh, this [anxiety is] an actual thing. I’m not crazy,'” Nazarian said.

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