No one was prepared for the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). I wasn't prepared and certainly, a lot of people weren't either.
March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, countries scrambled to put measures in place to shield and protect their citizens from the virus. Countries with early large spikes in infections went on a nationwide lockdown, other countries placed an initial ban on any form of inward transportation from countries with high cases, and eventually, most countries initiated a full lockdown. The state of California issued the first official statewide lockdown order on March 19, 2020. What this meant was that everyone was to remain at home except for essential workers. Social distancing guidelines were released, schools were affected as most shifted to online resources for delivering lectures and classes. The timeline was quick and left little opportunity for people to adjust to the seemingly new normal.
Before the outbreak, the average college student led a busy and activity-filled day with classes, assignments, part-time jobs, and personal/ social activities. People hardly worried about being lonely or not having any activities to look forward to. Hectic you may call it, but it was livable, fun, and largely unhealthy. Often driven by caffeine, energy drinks mixed with little sleep hours, being a college student though fun could be unhealthy. It's so easy to ignore that you don't realize you don't have enough time to prioritize yourself. While many students battle with Mental Health Issues such as anxiety and depression, COVID-19 has unearthed a different source of trigger for college students; LONELINESS.
The statistics are crazy, more than 3 out of every 5 Americans feel lonely and left out.
This was right before the COVID-19 outbreak and the shelter in place order. Now imagine what the current statistics would read with everyone cut off from regular activities they engaged in before the outbreak. No gym, no parties, no social meet-ups, and my favorite worst; no hugging. Research also highlights the fact that feelings of loneliness were most prevalent in people between the ages of 18 – 22 years old (Gen Z). It is clear that just maybe our mental health is worse of thanks to being away from school and our usual schedule of activities. This proves the fact of our heavy reliance on activities and social interaction as a form of escapism as opposed to developing a healthy habit of slowing down, taking long breaks and, enjoying time alone.
What then are the possible ways to stay mentally healthy as a young and restless college student this period?
- Develop an achievable home workout routine. Exercising is a proven way to keep your mind sharp and healthy. A report by Harvard Medical School supports this theory. Exercise is indeed important. Drawing up a home workout routine and staying true to it would do great not just for your mind but also your physical health. Don't forget to make it achievable. Little steps do the trick.
- Plug yourself socially. To avoid that pervasive feeling of loneliness it is best to stay connected socially. Thankfully, there are several social apps such as TikTok that can help with that. Zoom calls also are great for connecting virtually. The point? Stay connected.
- My personal favorite; develop a balance. This is perhaps the most important step to maintaining good health during this period and even when things return to a form of normal. Take out time to sleep, try to achieve six hours of sleep daily. Structure out a schedule that includes meditation and spending time alone amidst regular college schedules. It is important here to distinguish between being alone and loneliness. Being alone is often a choice to take time away from regular social interactions while loneliness is being isolated despite needing social connection. They're both different concepts and while one could be immensely beneficial the other is destructive.
While the United States of America begins a phased reopening of the country, it is important that college students build a balance between college life and keeping healthy. I recommend starting on this as soon as possible. Taking the following steps every day would go a long way in helping achieve a balance: be deliberate, be purposeful, plan schedules, be disciplined, and most important of all stick to it. As said by Arthur Schopenhauer in his book "The wisdom of life"; the greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness.
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