College students are returning to a dramatically changed environment from that which they left six months earlier. As classes become digitized and socializing becomes distanced, the challenges to students’ mental health are worth taking seriously. College students are the best placed generation to take advantage of new technology and adapt to this new environment. Here are a few tips for looking after your physical and mental health and excelling this college year.
Maintain A Healthy Structure
When so much of the world is being shaken up around us, it’s easy to fall out of the routines that keep us sane and healthy in day to day life. With the absence of milestones such as class times and an external social life, it’s quite easy to abandon routine altogether, or you might just find yourself feeling hopeless about building a structure in a world where what you can and can’t do seems to change daily in accordance to the whims of a virus. This is one of the most important mental health tips for online learning.
But structure is so important to building healthy habits. For students who are often required to juggle complex demands of various courses as well as a social life and sometimes work on top of that, having a steady routine is the thing that holds all these threads together.
Although classes may be moving online, giving you more flexibility to pick and choose when you engage with them, try setting yourself a timetable similar to the one you would have received from the college itself. If Stats was at 9am each morning, try to get into the habit of putting that time aside to engage with course materials. By building yourself a structure you’ll have positive habits that encourage a healthier life in the midst of an uncertain world.
As well as coursework, personal hygiene, eating habits and socializing all need to be built into your routine. Remember to take care of your body in all the ways it needs by eating at regular hours and practicing good sleeping habits. The best way to do this is to have a similar bedtime each night as your body will learn when it’s time to sleep, ensuring you’re better rested for the days ahead.
Validate Your Experience
Things have changed in a big way since the last semester and it’s appropriate that you might feel some sense of loss about that. College communities, graduation ceremonies and in-person teaching are just a few of the things to fall by the wayside during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the loss of these crucial elements of college life shouldn’t be minimized. In fact, college students are all going through a form of trauma right now.
Teachers, counsellors and parents can help guide students through these times by validating these experiences. By remaining open and projecting an understanding outlook, these people will make space for students to communicate about how the changes are affecting them. Students themselves can remember that the challenges they face are significant and that struggling to adapt to the new college practices is a normal problem. Compassion, both for the self and for others, are essential practices for the “new normal”.
One of the most fundamental challenges of COVID-19 is the introduction of new barriers to social interaction. Humans are social creatures, and starved of social interaction we all struggle, so discovering ways to access time with friends is one of the big challenges for students returning to college. Considering how to utilize digital tools is one of the main responses to these new challenges.
Colleges should take steps to promote tools such as Skype, Zoom or intra-network social tools. Students can consider the possibility of organizing online study sessions over video call or chat rooms. Social studying is one of the best ways to make yourself accountable to your academic goals, so by creating digital spaces where you and your friends discuss your academic process you’ll be satisfying your social side whilst simultaneously encouraging your academic advancement. You will also be improving your social health.
Equally, it’s important to be making time for socializing outside of environments that are fraught with academic pressures. It’s easy for students of this generation to fall back onto text-based communication across messenger apps, but consider expanding your repertoire of digital social interaction: team up with your friends to watch a movie or binge TV via video call. Students can get creative about socializing during Covid-19. College students are more tech-savvy than any previous generation. By taking advantage of cutting-edge technology students will be able to stay in touch and maintain a sense of connection to collegiate life.
Manage Your News Consumption
Whilst it’s important that we stay informed about the world around us, as well as keeping tuned in to local developments with the ever-changing pandemic, understanding how the news affects our mental health is an essential tip for returning to college in a new environment.
With mobile technology in our pockets and news appearing in our social feeds it can easily become overwhelming. We’re exposed to a constant barrage of information and in the time of a pandemic the news has a distinctly dystopian feeling to it. Pay attention to how the ews makes you feel, and if you sense that it’s contributing to your anxiety or unease then take a break, delete an app, or put your phone down for a while.
Further, not all news is created equally. Stay critical about news sources from which you get your information and fact check what appears on social media. Misinformation can be as harmful as the stressful reality and can easily contribute to feelings of anxiety and spirals of negative mental health.
It’s a strange time to be returning to college and there are many new challenges for college students to overcome. The good news is that this is a generation better equipped than any before it to take on the challenges of embracing new technology and adapting to a changed world.
Lauren Groff, a blogger at Essay Roo. Her preferred act of self care involves curling up in front of a fire with her cat on her lap.