College During COVID-19: Tips for Better Mental Health at School and at Home
Maintaining mental health in college is often a challenge in its own right, and in these uncertain times, it’s especially important to pay close attention to your mental well-being.
Whether your university has disbanded for the foreseeable future or you’ll be returning to campus this coming fall, the world is changing all around you, which means it’s important to take necessary measures to give yourself extra care.
Staying home has its own difficulties, as does returning to a college environment in the age of social distancing and public health uncertainty. Schools are making decisions they hope will best protect their students, which often looks different for everyone.
As you navigate your new learning environment, you can rely on these mental health tips during COVID-19.
1. Try to Maintain Structure
With online or even blended classes, it can be easy to slip into a schedule that’s void of any structure or deadlines. When your body clock is thrown off, it can impact your mental and physical health in serious ways.
Even setting times to do basic tasks like showering, engaging in leisure activities, and eating meals can improve your sense of structure. And having structure in your day can help you manage anxiety and ensure you’re meeting all your needs.
From sleeping to eating to basic self-care, setting a more specific timeframe for your days can allow you to feel in control and productive.
2. Make Space for Your Emotions
Processing your feelings is important all the time, but it can be even more crucial in the face of a sudden life change.
Everyone’s emotional journey through COVID is different. While some people have lost family members or beloved friends, others have missed opportunities and social time with those they care about. Comparison might be easy, but it won’t help anyone in these trying times.
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to give yourself the space and compassion to process things however you need. If you feel sad, angry, or lost, know you’re allowed to have those emotions. Your feelings are valid.
3. Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is an important part of maintaining mental health during regular life, and social distancing can make it either more accessible or perhaps a bit more difficult depending upon your current situation.
Either way, it’s important to prioritize yourself however you can. If the most self-care you can manage is eating and getting dressed each day, make those tasks a priority.
If you’re feeling a bit bored or down and you’d like to engage in even more self-care practices to pick up your mood, there are several options. Getting outside and exercising can boost your mood, as can practices like yoga, meditation, painting, and spending time on a skill or craft you enjoy. This is vital for maintaining mental health no matter where you are.
4. Practice Gratitude
It may feel difficult right now, but practicing a gratitude mindset can consistently improve your mood and mental health. Simply reminding yourself of the things you’re grateful for, or even writing a few of them down each day, can be a wildly beneficial tool.
The more you do it, the more you may find that gratitude can make you happier and more mindful of your world.
5. Stay Connected to Your Support System
Whether you’re leaving your family for another semester at your university or you’re sorely missing your college friends while you all stay home, it’s important to maintain meaningful connections with those who fill your life with purpose.
Phone calls and video chats might not be the same as genuine social time, but it’s important to remember that seeing your loved ones and carving out time for one another is a blessing in itself, regardless of the format.
Scheduling time to talk and reaching out to loved ones helps you maintain a sense of community and stay connected even while you’re apart.
6. Be Mindful of Your News Exposure
While it’s responsible to stay informed, there comes a point where overload prevents you from processing and using the information in front of you in a positive or beneficial way.
Controlling your media consumption could be helpful if the news routinely overwhelms or worries you. Setting specific times that you’re allowed to check the news could be a balanced solution.
7. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
Whether you’re diving headfirst into online learning or reintroducing yourself into your university environment, there may be an ever-present urge to immerse yourself in studies.
However, just because there’s work to be done doesn’t mean you need to do it all or do it perfectly. After all, life was imperfect even before COVID.
Coping with COVID-19 in College
There is no way to be the best at quarantine. Staying home isn’t a productivity contest, just like returning to school isn’t a race to use all the newfound energy you think you’re supposed to have. Take a deep breath. You’re doing just fine.
As a student, caring for your mental health is vital. With the way COVID-19 has impacted campus life, taking care of yourself may take different forms, and that’s okay. Practicing new skills and techniques can help you get through. It’s all about finding what works for you and showing yourself that compassion you deserve.
About Alyssa Abel:
Alyssa is a college and career writer who talks about mental health, managing student life and more. Follow along for more advice and insights on her blog, Syllabusy.