The COVID-19 crisis, as well as the eruption of Black Lives Matter protests, have made the world feel on the brink of oblivion. In such challenging times, it can feel nearly impossible to stay motivated, especially for college students who rely on peers, faculty and campus services for mental health support. While it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and powerless amidst all this chaos, most of us have been gifted with something we normally take for granted: time. With a little self-discipline, a healthy lifestyle and a focus on the present, making the most of this precious time at home is still possible.
To help, here are some tips and strategies you can use to stay motivated and productive at home:
- Remind yourself of your goals
While we all deserve to sleep in or binge-watch a new show on Netflix every once in a while, we have to remember that we’re still in college, and our experience will continue to be what we make of it. Think back to what you had intended on achieving this summer before your plans may have been canceled. Maybe you hoped to develop your professional skills, do some community service or just become a better learner, thinker or citizen. Whatever the case, you can still try to work towards some of these goals and enrich yourself personally by making use of virtual alternatives. Students wanting to delve deeper into their field could start by perusing McDermott Library for an eBook or academic journal. Those looking to read classics or books on philosophy, religion, etc can consult websites such as Project Gutenberg, which provides free ebooks available for download. Those looking to volunteer can refer to United Nations Volunteers, Translators Without Borders or Crisis Text Line for meaningful work from home. People just simply seeking to better themselves could learn a new language on Mango Languages or take a free online class from Harvard. College is the time for you to be curious, so if anything piques your interest or a thought comes to mind, pursue it, even if it means falling into that Wikipedia rabbit hole. You may never get the chance again.
- Set a schedule
Whether you’re taking summer classes, doing a remote internship or just trying to get by, setting aside specific blocks of time to study, work or read can bring more purpose to your days. Now that the semester’s over, you can finally embrace the time you work best, so if you feel you’re most productive at night, by all means, take advantage of that energy. As long as you can balance your work with breaks to eat or rest every hour, there’s no reason why you can’t take on an unconventional schedule. However, if things ever start to feel tedious or you’re having trouble just getting out of bed, try coordinating a daily activity with a friend or family member to hold each other accountable. You’re more likely to follow through with your plans if someone else is relying on you to do so.
- Designate a specific area for work
Differentiating between work and rest at home can be an arduous task, especially when you’re constantly surrounded by temptations. Whether it be an office or just a desk in your room, find a quiet space that you can utilize solely for work. Eliminate distractions by putting your phone away and listening to music to drown out any talking or yelling in the house. While working in your bed can be comfortable, sleep expert Sophie Bostock warns that blurring the boundaries between work and rest can cause one to intrude upon the other. For college students to get a restful night’s sleep, their brains need to associate their beds with sleep and intimacy – nothing else.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Staying motivated induces success, and developing good habits is what keeps you going. Both are infeasible when your mind and body are unwell. To relieve any stress you may be experiencing right now, first identify how you typically respond to pressure. According to journalist Charles Duhigg, millions of people around the world resort to self-deprecating habits when faced with stress. The key to changing these destructive habits is to recognize what triggers them and replace them with a healthier alternative that delivers the same sense of relief. Instead of making your way to the pantry every time you feel anxious, try taking a short walk in your neighborhood, cooking a balanced meal or chatting with a friend. Everything will start to feel a little more normal if you can get your body to keep a healthy rhythm.
- Stay grounded
This is a tough one, especially when every news station and social media platform known to man is overrun with death and violence. We’re all being put through the wringer right now, but as every day brings unforeseen obstacles, the least we can do is try to live in the present. The future is and always will be unknown, so instead of panicking over what’s to come, try to focus on what you can appreciate right now. It’s the little things: go outside, let the sun kiss your skin, take a deep breath of fresh air. Focus on the small everyday moments like making your morning coffee, eating your favorite food, or waking up from a really good nap. Enjoy TV and social media, but if it ever begins to worry you, shut it off or log off. Don’t be afraid to say no, as well as seek help from the Student Counseling Center if you need to speak with a professional. It may seem like we’ve all been stranded at home for an eternity, but as the world begins to recover from this crisis, these tumultuous times will eventually become a distant memory.