For many students, the biggest struggle of this year has been the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have caused colleges to close, people to relocate and placed multiple stressors on things like residence, finances and education. Although there is a lot we cannot control in the midst of this pandemic, one thing we do have some control over is our mental health.
In attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19, many states have encouraged social distancing, as well as closed non-essential businesses, turning off the world’s social sphere and leaving many of us trapped inside with seemingly little to do. Along with the boredom of staying home can come waves of anxiety, depression and stress. However, even from indoors, we can mend our minds.
Having a daily routine and sticking to it helps manage anxiety. If possible, try to create a space specifically for academic work and a place for you to relax, or your “headspace.” It is also important in this time to maintain connections with your colleagues, classmates and friends. Social interactions, even online, can help alleviate negative feelings of loneliness. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and other platforms make it easier to have virtual hangouts with your friends. My friends and I FaceTime every other day for a coffee date. It was part of our routine before classes were moved online and it also allows for positive connection.
Although watching the news and reading articles about the pandemic is helpful, if you do not take breaks or cleanse your mind, you may find that it is affecting your mental health. When we fill our headspace with constant negativity and stress we can become consumed by the negativity. Taking breaks in between exposing yourself to the information is crucial. During this time you can read, meditate, clean or simply relax.
Keeping on top of your sleep and eating habits will help you feel refreshed. Although most of us are home, many of us still have responsibilities that our bodies need to rest for. Waking up and falling asleep at the normal time you would on a work or school day helps your body clock stay in a routine.
Staying physically active in any form helps your mental health. Even though most gyms are closed, there are workouts you can do at home, such as jogging in place, squats, crunches and pushups. Physical activity releases natural endorphins in your brain, otherwise known as “happy” chemicals.
Before falling asleep and after waking up, remind yourself of positive things or things you are grateful for to help close or begin your day. Keeping a list of good things that happen throughout the day and reading over them before bedtime gives a sense of security and hope in times when we may be lacking it.
There are multiple counseling and therapy offices that will do virtual or telephone appointments, and if there are mental health emergencies, the crisis text line and suicide prevention hotline offer services.
During these times, one of the most important things to remember is that we are in this together. A healthier mind is the foundation for getting through difficult and uncertain times like these.