Once upon a time, the ability to see friends and family provided solace from any academic or personal stress we experienced. Spending time with loved ones served as an opportunity to decompress, seek guidance/advice, and take our minds off the tasks demanding our attention throughout the day. COVID 19, however, completely dismantled the accessibility and safety surrounding our social support system.
Some students, having returned to campus for the academic year, are now living separately from those who kept them mollified during the quarantine. As a result of the nationwide mandates to self-isolate and tighten your social circle, the return to campus no longer includes the conventional outlets of stress relief.
While finding new ways to connect with loved ones or to take mental breaks from studying may seem daunting, there are several effective means to conquer COVID-19 anxiety and succeed despite the odds.
- Remind yourself that you are not alone: While you may feel isolated from your loved ones during these times of uncertainty, it is important to remember that the effects of COVID-19 are being experienced globally. You are not alone in your feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or hopelessness. Rather than sitting in your negative thoughts, consider this period of time as an opportunity to reflect and plan for the future. For some this may mean graduation, a new job or internship, a big move, etc. For those future plans to come to fruition, the effort and energy you put into your present is crucial. So, while allowing yourself time to work through what your feelings is necessary, it does not have to be debilitating. There are millions of people experiencing the same amplified feelings of ambiguity and worry. Reminding yourself of this fact can be the motivation you need to keep moving forward.
- Focus on the good: Following the news over the past year has done little to ameliorate feelings of despair. While it can be easy to get caught up in the incessant flow of bad news, try to find the good around you. Whether that be a local homeless shelter’s success in providing ample meals for the community or the bravery of our frontline workers. It may seem like the universe is against us when faced with the worry of catching and transmitting COVID-19. Reminding yourself of the good that exists in the world despite how pervasive and suffocating COVID-19 has been can help balance the narrative.
- Channel your energy into what you can control: Allowing yourself to get swept up in circumstances beyond your control does little to generate productive uses of your time and energy. How you use your time is the perfect example of what individuals have control over. Whether it be waking early to go for a walk, baking cookies, calling a friend, cleaning your living space, or watching tv, we as students have complete control over how we fill our days. Prioritize yourself, your health, and schoolwork. Doing so will alleviate unnecessary stress when due dates roll around.
- Get creative with your downtime: Social distancing measures have forced us to find new ways to entertain ourselves. The activities that we used to turn to before the pandemic, such as spending time with friends, going out to eat, shopping, etc. are no longer safe. Getting creative with how you decompress after a long day may get tiresome but activities like eating lunch outside, going for a walk, painting/drawing, reading, and cooking, can all be enjoyed while abiding by COVID-19 regulations. Pursuing new activities or interests helps combat feelings of anxiety or loneliness, especially when shared virtually.
- Discover new ways to connect with family and friends: One indirect consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is the inability to see friends and family face-to-face. While not ideal for those who miss being physically near their loved ones, connecting virtually provides some solace during isolation periods. Platforms such as Netflix, for example, allow you to watch shows and movies remotely with friends via Netflix Party. This is a perfect way to spend a study break with someone you cannot be close to. For more conventional methods of communication, platforms like Zoom, Facetime, and Skype help you feel closer to your support system.
Meaningful and connection and emotional support are possible with these virtual communication platforms. Do not use physical isolation as an excuse to not reach out to friends or family. Communicate your thoughts and feelings if you are not feeling the best or missing your support system. Things have been far from easy lately, but actively improving our mental health is just as important as maintaining our physical health.