We're all going through it. Maybe in simpler times, I would've started this off with a painful complaint about how the last six months in quarantine have been miserable, but you would've probably clicked off by now. I've been searching for an idealistic perspective where I can relate to someone during all of this, and I haven't found it, so I'm hoping someone sees this and it's comforting (even in the smallest bit).
I am struggling, too. I see you and I understand. I see a lot of articles and videos being published about all the fun things that people are doing during quarantine — losing weight on new "quarantine diets," baking a new recipe every day, reconnecting with friends they haven't talked to in years. But how realistic is that for everyone? Being someone who balances full-time school, work, internships, friendships, the stress of paying bills, and so many more things that makes me question how everyone else has all this free time?
So, maybe this will help you...maybe it won't, but I hope that you find some comfort in reading about the things that I noticed about myself when my mental health was deteriorating, and also some of the things that I tried to do to help myself. I by no means am a therapist, but I try my best to do what works best for me, and I think it might be helpful for you to reflect on yourself during these times, too.
I don't have to explain. I think that the guilty feeling I get writing my papers at 11:30 p.m. speaks for itself.
But, keeping a schedule on paper/online will help you so much. Not just putting in the assignment due dates, but actually planning the time slots during the week that you have to write your paper or take notes for a lecture.
Use one day to plan for your week, maybe the beginning of the week so that you feel like you know what's coming up and there are fewer surprises.
I've had days when it feels like my heart is going to beat out of my chest at 2:01 a.m., and it feels impossible to calm myself down. I've gone days with only a few hours of sleep. But I've gotten better by implementing a few small things into my routine:
- Meditation: Even for a few minutes when I wake up or in between lectures. Pulling up a guided meditation on Youtube (guided meditation for anxiety), closing your eyes, and listening to your body for a few minutes makes all the difference.
- Caffeine cut-off: I'm embarrassed to admit how hard this was for me initially. Because I procrastinated the majority of my work, I'd rely on caffeine to keep myself up later at night to finish it. So, plan your schedule and time slots, stick to them, and stop drinking iced lattes and yerba at 10 p.m.
3. Feeling overwhelmed 24/7
Most of us are college students trying to adapt to online learning, so feeling overwhelmed isn't new for any of us. And if it's new for you — lucky! What I noticed about myself was feeling overwhelmed when I was trying to relax, and intense anxiety that never seemed to go away.
I used breathing techniques in the moment; the "5-4-3-2-1" helped me immensely — five things you can see, four things you can smell, three things you can touch, two things you can hear, and one thing you can taste.
Reaching out to my friends and taking time with my roommates to destress every night or working on homework together helped me too. Just reach out to people who care about you and who know you and sometimes they can point things out to help you that you wouldn't have thought about.
4. Not being able to form cohesive thoughts/speak normally
Writing this sounds silly, but if you've ever experienced this you know exactly what I'm talking about. Feeling like you are so disconnected from everyone around you, and not being able to compensate for it is the best way that I could put it. Sometimes I just have to take a step back from what I'm doing and breathe.
Breathing has become a star of this article, but I think it really is the most important thing to me when I'm struggling mentally. Focusing on your breathing and being aware of your body and mindset is SO important to ground yourself. I'm not an expert, but I can tell you from personal experience how much it can help.
5. Lack of hygiene
Not having the motivation to shower, brush your hair, even get out of bed in the morning are things that some people do without even thinking twice about it. But when you're struggling with mental health, especially in college, anything extra beyond school and work feels ridiculously hard.
Try to do the bare minimum and work your way up from there. Tell your friends/roommate/siblings what you want to accomplish for the day and tell them to hold you to it. Sometimes all you need is a little bit of support and it can make all the difference.
I just moved into my college apartment, and for a few weeks here I've been struggling. As I'm coming out of it I realize that my roommates are truly my biggest support system. Texting them, "Hey I need to take a shower today" could be the only way I would actually hold myself to it.
If you have nobody else to go to or even if you have a great support group, you can always reach out to me on social media. We can talk about you or me or college or anything you want. If you need anything I can help the best I can, even if that's just someone to listen.
We're all in this together, pals.