#UnpluggedNCState Week 1: We’re Not OK, and That’s OK

By Maria Gallardo-Williams

Listen on Google Drive (transcript) Week 1 with Dr. Angie Smith (Counselor Education Program) and Dr. Kim Allen (Associate Professor, Youth, Family, and Community Services Program).

Welcome to #UnpluggedNCState’s first week, and thank you so much for signing up for this series! We hope to bring you some useful information, and to provide it to you in a flexible way so that you can interact with the content in ways that fit your schedule.

We open our series by stating the obvious: We are not OK. All of us have just experienced and continue to experience the most severe disruption to public life in over a hundred years. Our work, family, and social lives have been upended, and many of us have experienced losses that we are still grieving and will continue to grieve. Everything has changed, and yet we have managed to continue forging ahead with our jobs. In our academic environment, we all have struggled to find ways to meet the needs of our students and to continue our research endeavors, but it has taken a toll on all of us. We are tired. We are not OK, but at least we are not alone.

Last month I scheduled a zoom meeting with a dear friend and colleague just so we could chat and get caught up. We have very similar job responsibilities, but she works at a university in California, and we haven’t met in person since the Spring of 2019. As we greeted each other I looked forward to a few minutes of mindless venting, when I could unburden my heart and tell her how stressful it is to work from home while my husband also works from home and my 11-yr old attends virtual school. I was ready to complain about slow wifi and the lack of silence, and having to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. But my friend beat me to the punch. She told me how depressed she was, displaced by fires, living alone and working from home. I couldn’t bring myself to share my complaints; they seemed so petty and small compared to what she was experiencing, and yet, they were valid. I realized at the time that, in spite of our perceived hardships, both of us were in privileged situations, being able to work from home, and not affected by racial violence. Neither one of us was OK, and we were not OK in vastly different ways, but there were so many others that have it so much worse than we do. I hope that I helped her by listening on that day. In turn, others have helped me by listening to me.

In our podcast for this week you can hear from Angie Smith and Kim Allen. If you prefer to read a transcript of our chat, we have one available. In a very candid conversation, both of them highlight their own struggles, and the importance of acknowledging our feelings. This admission might be the first step in our path to accept that we all have survived a very difficult time. It might be a way to give ourselves grace. And that grace is central to our next act, accepting (or changing) our situation so we can move forward.

What this next act looks like is up to each one of us. Some might find that this is a good time to reach out to others. If you have teaching responsibilities, you might want to consider checking on your students (feel free to use the Wolf Wellness scale or set up an anonymous Moodle poll). Dr. Smith suggests that is a great time to explore telehealth counseling, which is available via different programs for staff, faculty, and students. Dr. Allen concurs and invites us to access some resources available to help us in balancing life responsibilities. Both of our podcast guests this week reminded me of the importance of belonging to a community of like-minded people. In the words of Dr. Allen: “We will get through this, we will support each other through it, even if it’s difficult right now”.

Wherever you are in your journey, please know that we want to support you. You can leave us a comment (if you have an NC State id), or we will be following this conversation on Twitter at #UnpluggedNCState and you can join us there. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Journaling prompts/conversation starters:

  • Can you name an emotion that you are feeling today? (you can use the Feelings Wheel if words are needed)
  • How will you give yourself grace today?
  • What resources are available to you?

Some useful links:

Suggested Reading for this week: Is the Pandemic Stressing You Out? You’re not Alone.

Mental Health Resources for Faculty: A guide for helping students in distress

NC State Extension COVID-19 Resources and Information

COVID-19 Wellness Resources for Faculty and Staff

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program

Student Emergency Fund

NC State Counseling Center (student counseling)