We’re over a week into quarantine. You’ve rewatched all your favorite movies, eaten all of your apocalypse snacks and the reality of the next few school weeks is setting in. College students across the country who are used to doing their classwork at the library, in coffee shops or with groups of friends are now stuck at home with their distracting families, hunkering in a bedroom that feels a little smaller every day. As if the ever-worsening COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t stressful enough, a disruption in routine can be particularly damaging for students that suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The best way to treat a mental health relapse is to prevent one, which takes deliberate, hard work.
I am not a psychiatrist and do not claim that any advice in an article can remedy a problem that requires medicine and professional treatment. However, I was homeschooled up until high school, and unlike the mothers on Instagram who claim to be homeschooling through the coronavirus pandemic, I did not want to kill my family in the end. I even loved it. It’s definitely not the life for everyone, but like every life, there are ways to make it better.
People have asked me how I kept myself motivated without a strict routine or structured classroom. The answer is simple: Purposefully add your own structure to the day. This extends beyond to-do lists. If you are lucky enough to have multiple places in your home where you can feasibly study, then switch up your location by class. It may seem silly, but a change in environment can help break up the overarching stuff to do into class-sized pieces.
Yes, you can now do schoolwork in your pajamas. No, I do not think you should spend an hour getting ready when your daily commute is the walk from your bed or fridge to your desk. However, consider dressing in something casual that is comfortable but could also theoretically be worn outdoors. This can help you get in the right mental space to approach the day productively and coax your brain out of sleep mode.
Plan out little rewards for yourself for finishing each day or week. Whether you set aside a favorite show, a special snack or a fun activity, having something tangible to look forward to with a definitive date can be encouraging, especially during long stretches of uncertainty.
Remain connected. It’s a seemingly obvious piece of advice, but even if you are an introvert, make sure you are checking in with loved ones both inside and outside your home. FaceTime your friends to have study sessions or plan virtual activities (Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that allows people to watch the same movie at the same time long distance). Check in with friends that you know are struggling. Call your grandparents. We all know that loneliness is damaging but preventing it is going to require more conscious effort than usual.
Held a zoom get together with my staff today because I miss them all so much! Thank goodness for technology! pic.twitter.com/kkCIwdnBpO
— Michele Loboschefski (@MEbleMCS) March 25, 2020
Give your mind a healthy diet. It is important to remain aware of current events and follow the details of the COVID-19 crisis but remember to fill your brain with light-hearted topics as well. Search for humor a little more than usual. Take purposeful steps toward things that make you happy. If you’re someone who is naturally anxious, I plead with you, please, please do not watch all the pandemic-themed Netflix content that is swarming everyone’s accounts right now.
Pretty much all of us would rather be on campus, but we as a nation are doing what we need to do to keep everyone safe and ultimately, life will go on. We will once again have to dress up for 8 a.m. classes and will probably still complain about it. It’s going to be okay. We’ve got this!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.
Katherine Lee is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.