This pandemic has been a completely new experience for all of us, since the world hasn't experienced anything like this since 1918. We're all getting used to wearing masks, remembering not to get too close to one another, and for most students across the world, taking classes partially or exclusively virtually. Even though school has always incorporated an online approach, we have never had to do everything online. Adjusting to going virtual has been the approach that many schools have taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but unfortunately it takes a big toll on the mental health of students. Being stuck inside can induce or exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and unfortunately the world doesn't look like it is going to change back to being "in person" any time soon. Here's 6 ways to help improve your mental health from the comfort of your own home (or dorm) while we all adjust to this new way of living.
1. Get ready for school
This sounds a bit silly, but getting ready for school or work can actually improve your attitude towards taking classes. Having a morning routine can make you feel more confident and productive, even if it looks a little bit different than it would if you were actually heading to class. Even if it means putting on your ~favorite~ pair of sweatpants and a cute tee, actually getting dressed will help transition you from sleeping to working.
2. Eat a balanced diet
Foods work wonders on your mental health, and with all of this extra time on your hands, it's a great time to start monitoring what you put in your body! Cutting out fast food and processed foods from your diet (or even cutting down, because we all need a good Big Mac every once and a while!) will help you to focus more, and produce, fish, and legumes have been shown to improve symptoms of depression. So mask up and hit the grocery store!
3. Stay in touch with your friends
No matter how independent you are, we all crave human contact. This is a BIG adjustment of taking classes online- Zoom classes cut out the before/after class chatter and study groups before that big exam. Give your best friend a call when you start to feel a little stir crazy, or see if one of your classmates wants to go on a socially distanced walk and talk about how confusing your 8:00 am class has been!
4. Exercise regularly
We all had different exercise habits prior to COVID-19, but along with eating better, exercising is a great way to use your body to improve your mental health! Exercising releases endorphins that actually trigger you to feel happier. So whether you're stressed about a big exam coming up or feel like you can't take another Zoom lecture, slip on a pair of sneakers and go for a run or walk! It's also a great way to see friends- if the weather is nice, you can meet up to play some socially distanced tennis or put your yoga mats 6 feet apart for a morning vinyasa!
5. Make a schedule
Online classes can be tricky to wrap your head around- sometimes it feels like you have no work to do when you really have a ton! The work piles up quickly and silently, so make sure that you stay on top of things from the beginning (if you've already started school, start a schedule today!). Buy a planner, find an online template, or use Google calendar to keep track of all of your assignments. Using the syllabus to enter all of the dates at the beginning is a great way to start, and then enter more assignments as the semester continues!
6. Get enough sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things for your body, and with classes being online sometimes it feels like your sleep schedule can be all over the place. You don't always have to wake up for classes, you can take the classes you DO have from your bed (but shouldn't!), and you can't really tell if someone looks ~well-rested~ over Zoom. However, getting 8 hours of sleep is important for concentration and productivity (sound familiar to the benefits of eating healthy? That's because your body's needs are all related to one another). So hit the hay when you start to get sleepy- it will give your more hours of viable study time!