For millions of students enrolled in college programs, this year looks drastically different than previous years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities moved their course work to either fully virtual or transitioned into a hybrid model. Many students packed up their dorms and apartments to move back home; or have hunkered down on their abandoned campus. Regardless of the situation, this pandemic has brought uncertainty and angst into every student’s plans.
The first two weeks of this pandemic felt like a roller-coaster I wasn’t sure how to ride on. Every time I felt as though I had figured out how to manage the situation, I was sent spiraling downward feeling unprepared. It felt so easy to feel alone and isolated even though the entire world was experiencing the same emotions. However, I learned five important things that helped me to persevere:
In the world we live in, it is so easy to get swept into social media. You can find yourself scrolling down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, shame, and loneliness in a matter of 10 minutes just by looking at pictures and videos of people who seem to have things more put together than you. For as little as an hour a day, completely unplug. Just an hour. It seems simple but it is so effective.
- Find a Motivating At-Home Setup
The single most effective thing I did during all of quarantine was, I made a separate space to completely immerse myself in my work and studies. Not everyone has a large home to separate from other people in their home but even a corner in your living room with a table pushed up against the wall will suffice. I learned very quickly that I could not do my schoolwork in the same space I slept or relaxed in. I was so unmotivated and found it to be challenging to stay on task. Moving into a space designated to work, tells your mind “Okay, it’s time to show up and work this all out.”
- Find Time for the People that Matter to You
If this pandemic has taught us anything it should be, do not take the time you have for granted with the people you love. Believe it or not, staying connected with friends and family is uplifting and motivating. Setting up zoom “parties” or virtual game nights, can give you the pep in your step you need. Surrounding yourself with as many people as possible, even if it is completely virtual is a good way to feel grounded in times of uncertainty.
- Stay Active
Laying on the couch and binging Netflix works for a day or two, and then real boredom creeps in. It is also so easy to feel down on yourself when you are feeling trapped inside. If you have the capability, get outside and go for a walk. Start your morning with a run. Lunge laps around your apartment while holding a stack of books. Anything to get yourself moving will help you from slipping into a rut. I like to start my day with a run, because then I start my day off on the right foot.
- No Matter How Simple or Strange- Keep a Routine
Just start your day by making your bed, so you start off with a little victory. Get ready for a school day just as you would if you were walking to class rather than hopping on a Zoom call. Set up times to study with your friends on the phone, just as you would if you were meeting at the library. Keeping a routine helps you to have order and balance in your life, and will prevent you from feeling out of control. One routine I benefited from, was starting a consistent night time routine. I needed to do things to tell my body it was time to go to bed and I needed to turn my brain off. Walking in the door and throwing my school bag down was no longer the sign that told me it was the end of the day. I read a book rather than watching TV, and I journaled my day rather than scrolling on my phone.
It is important to give yourself some grace. The whole entire world was flipped upside down, not just you and you are not alone. There was no preview on how this roller-coaster was going to play out. I hope these tips can help you like they have helped me. Stay calm. Stay healthy and safe. We will get through this.
Sarah Brooks is a second year Speech and Language Pathology Graduate Student at New York Medical College. She will graduate in May of 2021, and plans to work in an adult rehabilitation setting post-graduation