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In 2020, college students across the country learned the same unfortunate lesson — how to adapt when plans go haywire. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of colleges and universities closed temporarily without providing students with a definite reopening date. This drastic change, paired with the transition to online learning, increased anxiety and isolation among students. With the 24/7 nature of social media and news push notifications, self-care isn’t just important but necessary to maintain good mental health.
The challenges caused by a change in the learning environment
Common challenges students have faced with online learning include:
Being separated from classmates, friends, and everyday college life has dramatically increased feelings of isolation. After transitioning to online learning, 50% of students felt like they weren’t an included member of their class.
Not physically attending a class or having a structured schedule can make it hard to find motivation. The pandemic has also increased mental health challenges that make it increasingly challenging to find the energy or mental capacity to complete coursework.
The majority of college students accessed online courses through the internet they had at home. This created unfair learning gaps for students without access to technology or living in areas with insufficient internet bandwidth.
Managing time efficiently is one of the biggest challenges faced with online learning. Without time management skills, students may struggle to keep up with assignments and suffer academically.
Along with time management, accountability is critical in online learning. Without a teacher standing at the front of the classroom setting expectations for you, you’re responsible for your academic success.
A recent poll found that 77% of college students surveyed feel that distance learning is much worse than in-person learning. Additionally, 51% of students say they are experiencing mental health issues from the challenges brought on by online learning.
An Active Minds survey revealed that 76% of college students have trouble maintaining a routine. Additionally, 73% struggle with physical activity, and 63% find it challenging to stay connected with others during the pandemic. With no access to on-campus counseling centers, students had to find other ways to manage their mental health.
Discover how telehealth can be a self-care resource
Maintain self-care and support mental health
During times of change and uncertainty, it is essential to take steps to maintain mental, emotional, and physical health while remaining connected to a larger sense of community.
Mental health experts suggest trying these self-care tips:
1. Maintain connections
Social distance doesn’t have to mean social isolation. It’s essential to have a strong support system that you can turn to when you’re struggling. Setting up virtual get-togethers, phone calls, or group texts with friends or family members can significantly improve your mental health and help you feel less alone.
2. Take care of your body
Maintaining your physical health is a crucial factor in keeping your mind healthy, too. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet can boost your immune system, lowering the effects of stress on the body. Incorporating exercise with a healthy diet will also help improve your mood by producing endorphins.
3. Take a break from news and social media
It’s important to know when to unplug before it starts affecting your mental health. You can stay informed by checking in from time to time, but don’t overdo it by continuously refreshing social media throughout the day. This can increase feelings of fear and anxiety.
4. Make yourself a priority
Treat yourself by doing things you might not have had the time to do before the pandemic. Check out these budget-conscious ideas from Forbes.
5. Go outdoors
Not getting enough sunlight can result in a drop in serotonin levels, which directly affects your mood. Low levels of serotonin can also lead to symptoms of depression. Going outdoors for at least an hour every day will allow you to get fresh air and improve your mental well-being.
6. Stick with a daily meditation practice
The physical benefits of meditation include decreased blood pressure, reduced stress and anxiety, regulated negative thinking, and a healthier immune system. Meditation also helps you practice mindfulness and develop relaxation techniques. Try some of the various free apps, podcasts, and YouTube videos to help you get started.
7. Give yourself permission to cry
At some point, you may feel sad, disheartened, or even hopeless. At a time of heightened stress and anxiety, it’s common to develop burnout or to experience an emotional breakdown. Give yourself permission to feel these emotions fully to release any pain, and help see the sun through the clouds once again.
8. Take deep breaths
Although it doesn’t seem like it would be very beneficial, deep breathing techniques are proven to reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Taking deep breaths allows you to stay present in the moment and provides peace of mind.
9. Prioritize sleep
Getting enough sleep is a significant part of maintaining physical and mental health. Not only does sleep help boost the immune system, but it also helps lower the effects of stress on the body. Experts suggest that young adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to recharge their bodies and brain. Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, inability to focus, overreactions, increased stress, and make you more prone to illnesses.
10. Avoid self-medicating
College students struggling with mental illness are at a higher risk of developing drug or alcohol problems. To cope with symptoms, some young adults turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. However, abusing substances can worsen and exacerbate mental health symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mental health professional to find healthy coping strategies and a treatment plan that works best for you.
11. Create a strong support system
College is a time when many young adults need guidance and support. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association (APA), having high-quality and close relationships is associated with better physical health and well-being. Creating supportive relationships has many benefits, not only physically but mentally. A strong support system will help when you’re feeling down or stressed, provide guidance when you fail, and celebrate when you succeed.
12. Listen to music
One of the most convenient ways to relieve stress is to listen to music. Music has many therapeutic benefits; it helps lower anxiety and depression levels, ease muscle tension, and enhances your mood. Make a playlist with your favorite songs that help you de-stress and start your morning by playing them.
13. Find a hobby
Instead of using all of your free time to binge-watch a Netflix show, try to find a hobby. Hobbies promote better mental and physical health by lowering the risk of depression, dementia, and high blood pressure. They also provide a mental break from everyday stressors and improve efficiency. Whether it’s journaling, drawing, playing an instrument, or something else you’re passionate about, make time to add it into your daily routine.
14. Set goals
Setting goals helps define priorities and improves self-confidence and motivation. Make sure to write down the goals you want to set and how you want to accomplish them. Not only will this help you stay organized, but it will also allow you to keep track of your progress towards achieving the goal. To help get you started, check out this four-step goal-setting process.
15. Try online, remote therapy options
According to a recent survey from BestColleges, 95% of college students experienced negative mental health symptoms during the pandemic. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to try online therapy. It’s essential to take care of your mental well-being not just in difficult circumstances but all the time. Find out if your school has online mental health resources like TimelyMD that enable you to connect with a mental health professional anytime, anywhere.
Ensuring 24/7 access to emotional support resources to empower self-care for students
Even when students are not on campus, your school may still provide support resources. Check with your college or university to see if you have access to telehealth services for medical and mental health care. Telehealth enables remote patient and clinician contact for care, advice, reminders, education, and intervention.
The benefits of telehealth for college students include on-demand availability, at-home access, reduced wait time, and a faster path to improved health outcomes. TimelyMD’s telehealth offerings provide medical and mental telehealth for students that are available 24/7/365. If your campus needs support for student health and well-being, contact TimelyMD today.