Teagan Neveldine knows the power of seeing a friendly face and hearing a familiar voice.

“It just gives you that little bit of happy you need right now,” said Neveldine, a graduate student studying public health. “And that’s especially important because being at home all the time, you can get in your own head a little too much. You can get down, and you can get lonely.”

At a time when staying physically distant is a must due to the COVID-19 outbreak, maintaining a level of virtual connection has become very important. People around the globe are using apps, such as Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangout, as tools for adding connectivity and creating a sense of normalcy in their day-to-day lives.

“My friends and I have even been putting them into our Google calendars,” Neveldine said. “I think that’s important because of the structure it adds. A lot of that’s been taken away lately, so having things that are planned into your day is really nice."

Neveldine said she’s especially enjoyed using Zoom so she can see her friends’ faces and voice messaging, rather than texting, to hear familar voices. Also, she hopes to link up for a virtual dance and to virtually cook together in the near future.

Such actions can help simulate the presence of our loved ones, which is critical for wellness, especially during long-term separation.

“It's really important because we already know that being socially isolated or lonely are associated with higher levels of stress, poor moods, and difficulty sleeping,” said Jordan Harrison, a clinical phycologist with Cook Counseling Center. “Isolation can negatively affect the body both physically and emotionally, so it’s really important to find those social outlets.”

Harrison said this can be especially true for certain groups on campus, including LGBTQ+, international, and graduate students, many of whom may already experience greater social isolation. This is also important for students who were already struggling with loneliness, depression, or limited family support.

And staying connected is not just advice he gives to students, but also something he puts into practice.

“Some of the counselors at Cook participated in a book club with non-work-related books,” Harrison said. “We're not going to give that up. We're going to have that group over Zoom.”

Here are some other ideas for staying connected while staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The Health and Wellness areas of Virginia Tech would also like to know how we can better support students through their online services. Students are asked to please take a few minutes to complete the VT Student Health and Wellness Needs Assessment. The survey will remain open through April 14 and the responses will directly impact the types of services that we offered in the near future.

Written by Travis Williams