Whether you are attending school in person this fall, or currently pursuing your degree via remote learning, one thing is certain: education these days has taken on a different feel! In hopes of keeping cases of COVID-19 from rising too dramatically, some colleges have only allowed freshman and seniors back on their campuses. Others have found their own unique ways to practice social distancing, such as disallowing roommates, or limiting numbers in each dorm. Chances are your classes have been reduced in size and/or frequency. You’ve probably noticed there is less going on socially. It’s possible you may be undergoing frequent COVID testing, depending on the policies of your particular institution. And you may even be asked to quarantine for a few weeks if you come into close contact with a friend who gets sick.
To one degree or another, these changes have no doubt caused stress in your life. Some students have reported feelings of frustration, lack of motivation and isolation. Unmonitored, these feelings can lead to lower academic performance, delayed graduation or drop out and more serious depression. Like all difficult things in life, this COVID season will pass and with it, many of the struggles we are dealing with these days. In the meantime, here are a few simple strategies for coping with Corona virus fallout:
• Stay Flexible. No one could have predicted the way 2020 would shake down, and all of this is still not over. While your school administrators are doing everything in their power to keep you and your classmates safe, there is no guarantee how the school year will turn out. An unexpected outbreak on your campus could change the projected plan. Do you best to follow the health recommendations outlined for your campus but hold your plans loosely.
• Practice Gratitude. Every day jot down two or three things you’re thankful for, including the opportunity to get an education in the first place. No, things are not ideal. But there is a lot of beauty and good in the middle of the disappointment if we look for it. Notice the colors of the changing leaves. Stop to appreciate the sound of laughter. Savor the fragrance and warmth of your morning coffee. Joy is a choice and gratitude is a habit we grow into with practice. As your gratitude list grows, you may find yourself rejoicing more than complaining and able to enjoy the school year for what it is (rather than seeing what it ISN’T).
• Find a Routine. With less outlined for you, it’s important you establish some healthy habits for yourself. Set a wake-up and bedtimes and stick with them. Discipline yourself to get dressed every day (in “real clothes”), get exercise, eat rounded meals, and breathe fresh air. Studies have found these habits help improve mental health. Establish a consistent work space and dedicate certain blocks of each day to productive, undistracted study. Make sure to schedule in breaks or short nap so you don’t get tunnel vision staring at your computer! Build in simple rewards–like a piece of chocolate for every paper you complete. Always include things you enjoy so your routine is do-able and interesting!
• Stay Connected. During March of this year when most college students were forced to undergo mandatory quarantine, 29% reported feeling lonely. If your environment involves hours a day of virtual learning, it’s important you prioritize mental and spiritual health. This may not look the way it did “pre-covid” but it can happen with intentional effort. Go retro and make an old-fashioned phone call to a family member or someone you know in another state. Join a Bible study or book club via Zoom. If you’re struggling emotionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor, even if your sessions have to be remote. And remember that nothing can substitute our need for face-to-face interaction! Invite someone on your floor to an impromptu study session. Take a walk with a friend (even if it means reaching out to someone you just met). It will feel better than you think!
• Choose Trust. It goes without saying that God can be trusted. But sometimes when push comes to shove, we begin to doubt it. In these difficult days, we need Him more than ever. Meditate on His word daily and allow the truth of who He is calm your heart and give you a fresh perspective. He is all you really need, and He will sustain you through this season and whatever the future holds.