Advice from one student to another
The only thing on the news right now is the novel coronavirus, yet somehow it still feels so surreal. While the news is covering the number of cases and reporting the latest shelter-in-place rulings, individuals are struggling with their mental health. Being locked in your home and only able to leave for essential activities can be challenging for anybody, but especially for those already struggling with their mental health. However, just because we have to physically isolate doesn’t mean we have to mentally isolate, and there are multiple things that can be done to protect our mental health in these challenging times.
Staying at home for long stretches of time, whether it be with family members or completely alone, lends itself to low mood and feelings of loneliness and fear. Without the structure of classes or work, many students may find themselves with their sleep schedule thrown off and in a constant state of wearing pajamas . As nice as it may be to lay in bed for days at a time, it can also greatly lower an individual’s mood and decrease motivation. This can be especially hard for those with depression, as it mimics the behaviors of a depressive episode.
Unfortunately, we cannot change the fact that we have to stay at home right now. However, what we can control is how we handle it and what we do with our time. Creating a flexible schedule can keep our days structured and keep us moving forward in a time of chaotic panic. Set a time to wake up every day. Go outside, walk around the block or just feel the grass between your toes. Shower and get dressed every day, even if all you’re doing is staying in your house. Schedule blocks of time to work on different subjects or projects. For example, if I know I need to study calculus and organic chemistry every day, I would set aside 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. for calculus, take a lunch break, and then work on organic chemistry from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. The added structure will help me stay focused on one task at a time.
In addition to scheduling times to work on classes or work, it is important to allocate time for self-care. At its surface, self-care is often portrayed as face masks and treating yourself, and although these are important they are not what self-care must look like every time. Oftentimes it is just as important to do self-care tasks that are not as fun. This looks like ensuring you eat three meals a day, getting outside for at least 15 minutes or even just taking five minutes to do a mindfulness exercise such as deep breathing or a guided meditation. By setting aside time to care for ourselves, we are setting ourselves up for more success once this situation finally passes. Taking care of ourselves when the world feels like it’s falling apart is hard, but it still must be done.
Not only can a lack of routine be challenging, but high anxiety is also a common result of the current chaos. There is anxiety around getting sick, anxiety around job security and anxiety around the uncertainty of the future. One way to combat this fear is by staying connected. Technology allows us to stay connected even when we have to stay apart physically. Setting up consistent times to call or video chat with friends not only adds structure, but also provides connection. Remember that your friends need the connection just as much as you do, and they will greatly appreciate you giving them a call. Just talking with someone about what’s happening can help alleviate anxiety. There are a lot of apps out there to help individuals stay connected, such as FaceTime, Houseparty and even the new Animal Crossing game.
The world we are living in right now is not ideal, and this can lead to a lot of mental suffering. These are scary times we’re going through, and that can spark a lot of fear and anxiety for individuals. Acknowledging that we don’t have much control over the situation can bring some peace, though it will not completely eliminate these hard feelings. It is hard to feel like all you can do is sit at home, especially if you are someone who wants to contribute and make things better.
Remember that it’s okay if you feel alone. It’s okay if you are scared and have no idea what the future will look like. We are all doing our best, and this will eventually pass. Things have been shaken up and the world feels chaotic. However, in the midst of this you can still try to find a new normal and a new routine. We are all going through this crisis together, and it can’t last forever.