While walking through Kogan Plaza at George Washington University, there’s a stillness in the early morning coupled with unfamiliar silence. The regular stirring city atmosphere has minimized into a soft hum, with infrequent passing bikers and working professionals. Campus has maintained its looks with hints of buff and blue on university buildings but has lost its unique momentum. Gone are the days of bustling dining halls, crowded sidewalks, and late-night library sessions. This isn’t how I could have ever imagined my senior year.
COVID-19 has completely altered life as we know it. Virtual learning and interactions have become our new normal, and people around the world are still finding ways to adjust. Especially for college students, this transition has been anything but easy. COVID-19 has had a major impact on students’ mental health. In a recent survey by Active Minds, 89% of college students say that they are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of COVID-19, and one in four students have reported that their depression has significantly increased. Many are lacking normal interactions with faculty and staff, as well as opportunities for exciting weekend plans with friends.
The new normal on campus is masks being worn at all times in public spaces, limited access to academic buildings, and mandatory weekly COVID testing. Interactions and social gatherings with other students have been mostly limited and reduced to brief conversations in passing. With these new restrictions, I’ve experienced more alone time on campus now than I have in the past three and a half years. Although it is at times challenging, I try to find ways to stay busy and connected with friends on and off-campus.
Instead of Saturday parties and Sunday brunches, meetings on Zoom and group Facetime are now a regular thing for me. Even though virtual interactions don’t give the same feeling as Friday night binges of America’s Next Top Model with girlfriends, I’ve managed to find myself involved in new hobbies. Things that I have previously put off, like learning graphic design, photography, blogging, and overall health and wellness, have suddenly found themselves on my radar. I’ve surprised myself by trying things that I never gave much thought and effort to before.
Like me, many college students are still finding ways to cope during these difficult times. It’s easy to get lost in everything that is happening around us and experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness. The best advice I can give is to check in with loved ones and friends about how we are feeling. Identifying ways together to get through what you’re feeling can help tremendously.
Here are some helpful tips to help you manage your mental health during this time :
- Make a routine that works for you. It may be easier to handle tasks, both for school and personal, by creating a structure to be productive. Also, you can make a routine based on your current environment and style.
- Take time to talk to friends and loved ones. During this time, everyone is likely experiencing mixed feelings about how to cope with being away from those they love. Staying connected is a way to help one another through it and spread positivity to one another.
- Explore new and fun hobbies. It’s so important to know when to take a break from everything happening around you. Trying new and interesting things can help you to relieve stress and give your mind a rest when needed.
- Create SMART goals. SMART is an acronym (that means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based) and a tool you can use to plan and achieve your goals, no matter how big or small. Developing practical and achievable goals can help keep you stay motivated and will allow you to pace yourself for things you need to get done.
- Practice healthy habits that are helpful to your routine. Make sure you’re getting six to eight hours of sleep, eating and drinking water regularly, and going outdoors at least one to two times a week.
- Ask for what you need from the people around you. It’s okay and normal to ask for help if you are struggling. Be aware of what you need to support yourself and set expectations with the people around you. Be open with family, friends, colleagues, and even professors about what you are going through.