Students packed up their bags for spring break on March 13.
Few of them have been back. Seniors lost the chance to throw their caps at graduation. Students involved in Greek life and other organizations with spring formals do not get to celebrate together, and first-year students will not finish off the year with the new friends they’ve made.
Students have had to manage disruption to their lives while adjusting to the shift to online learning.
Campus experts offered the following holistic approaches for students to stay healthy and motivated during this time:
Take care of your mental health
Staying sane during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge that presents itself differently to each individual.
“We have to be patient with ourselves,” said Jeff Cochran, head of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. “No single trick will help us get all of our motivation or ability to concentrate back. If you are telling yourself you should be able to do something but are honestly struggling to get it done, that will be more discouraging to you. A better thought pattern would be to do what you can for now and when you realize you are having a hard time concentrating, set it aside. Take a break and do something for yourself. Then come back to your work.”
Cochran encourages students to identify and separate work and play time. Use an area or room for work, then don’t take that work into your rest and recreation spaces. Be decisive about when you are and are not working.
“Dress reasonably when you are doing work,” Cochran said. “I think the idea of wearing pajamas to work was fun in the beginning. But now I have shifted to dressing for work, casually, when it is time for me to work. Then, when work is done, I like to change into my not-for-work clothes.”
It’s important to remember the normal principles that support mental health.
“Regulate your sleep,” Cochran said. “Go easy on high-carb comfort foods. Get moving—this will help with mood, motivation, and concentration. Keep doing the things that lift your mood.”
It can also help your mood to check in with friends and family, see how they’re doing, and ask how you can help.
Assistant Professor of Nursing Patricia Roberson shared last week about other ways to take care of your relationships and mental health. UT’s Counseling Center offers resources and online services.
Focus on your academics
Keeping up with schoolwork and continuing to push yourself academically takes effort.
“Remember your purpose as a student,” said Jenny Ludwig, an academic coach for the Student Success Center. “Why are you here, and why is this important to you? Are you here to take those next steps in your education and grow as a scholar? If that’s your goal, you have to stay connected and purposeful in your classes and stay engaged with your professors and peers. Find an accountability buddy to rely on.”
Tutoring, supplemental instruction, and academic coaching are all available through Zoom. It’s important to stay connected and reach out whenever you need help of any sort.
“We are all here and want to help. We are all together in figuring this out, supporting each other, and getting through this,” Ludwig said.
Move your body
To take a class this spring means staying in front of a screen, sometimes for hours a day. Now more than ever, it is crucial to get moving each day.
“Get creative with your exercise and movement,” said Margy Wirtz-Henry, director of the Physical Education Activity program in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies.
“YouTube is full of free exercise videos. Plus just about every fitness company in the world is publishing content right now. The American College of Sports Medicine has an informative article on how to stay active and safe. Human Kinetics, Peloton, Beach Body and other companies that usually would charge, are creating and sharing free content and information for people to stay active during this time. Try to do some sort of exercise—everyday or every other day. Get into a routine.”
Get outside for at least 15 minutes every day to help your body produce Vitamin D and lift your spirits with natural light.
She also recommends making sure you don’t stay seated too long. “If you have a wearable device, you can set it to alert you to get up and move every hour,” Wirtz-Henry said. “Sitting is tough on our backs, and you can start to lose focus after a little while. The popular yet important adage is you should get up for at least five minutes every hour.”
“Be kind to yourself. Set goals, and if you are feeling really tired or unmotivated one day, that’s okay—just pick yourself up and try again the next day.”
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