With colleges and universities shifting to online instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rich college campus community is missing from the college experience. Many students have foregone graduation ceremonies, traditional freshman year experiences, campus groups, extracurricular, and more, with many choosing to live at home and forgo all of their typical college interactions.
In addition to the mental health concerns experienced by college students during "normal" times, college students are experiencing added stress because of COVID-19 and the lack of much-needed social interaction and experiences.
The mental health experts at Butler Hospital in Rhode Island have put together 5 tips to help you manage your mental health and reduce stress to help all college students get through the pandemic.
Focus on What You Can Control
If you are feeling depressed, anxious, or isolated you are not alone. Across the country, students are reporting an increase in these types of feelings because of stay-at-home orders and the uncertainty of the pandemic that has shaken up their present and future plans.
While there are many things that are out of your control in the world right now, remember to control what you can control. Though it’s tough, try not to stress out about the things happening around you that you can’t do anything about and stay focused on your goals, schoolwork, and things that are within your control and will help you achieve your long-term, post-COVID goals. Changing your focus to these other important tasks can help remove the thoughts that initially brought the stress.
Importantly, when you find yourself feeling lost, confused, depressed, or anxious, give yourself a break and remember it is okay to feel this way. Seek the help of friends, family, or mental health experts to express these feelings.
You may find it helpful to journal about what is challenging or difficult about the changes in your life.
Establish a Routine
Each semester, students tend to fall into a pattern with classes, lunch, study break, clubs, etc.
Online learning, especially if you are back at home, can make establishing a routine even more difficult and it can be tempting to roll out of bed five minutes before your lecture starts or just sleep through it. However, making your day as "normal" as possible will help you establish a structure.
Remember that everyone's new normal will look different. Experiment with wake-up times, exercise routines, healthy meals, and snacks until you find a routine that is best for you and helps you stay productive throughout the day.
Exercise and Stay Active
One of the best ‘socially-distanced’ activities you can do is to get outside and get moving throughout your day As you work to establish a routine, it is important to understand the impact that exercise can have on mental health.
It doesn't have to be a hard run or extreme weightlifting routine, either. Just a short walk can have a significant impact on your mood and reduce the amount of stress you are feeling.
Remember Self Care
Self-care comes in many forms and, similar to the benefits of exercise, it does not matter what you do to practice it but instead that you do it consistently.
Make time to unplug and fill your cup. Stream your favorite show before bed, finally crack open that book you've been meaning to read for fun, or light your favorite candle and treat yourself to a spa day at home. Self-care is about finding the things you love and indulging in them for even just a moment to get away from the stress of today’s current events and even the simpler stresses that stem from schoolwork.
While you may not be able to enjoy a night out with your friends in person, students should make an effort to stay connected with friends and family through safer means such as video calls or group texts. Everyone is trying to get through these difficult times together, so it’s important to remember to reach out and connect with those that you love as often as you can.
If you are struggling with your mental health, again remember that you are not alone. At Butler Hospital we offer a variety of mental health services to help you cope with your feelings and build the skills to help you live a fulfilling life.
We are leading the way for improved outcomes in mental health. We're currently offering Outpatient Programs at our South County location.
Butler Hospital offers adult mental health outpatient programs at its Providence location, Butler Hospital campus, 345 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence, RI, 02906, and its South County location, 20 Commons Corner Way, Building 12, South Kingstown, RI, 02879.