MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Campus closed: managing college from home

By Andrea Mory
Special to the Herald Democrat

It looks like none of us get away this Fall unscathed by the COVID-19 virus. If you’re a college student this Fall, it is especially true. You may have just gotten settled into a new routine on campus only to learn the campus is closed and you have to move back home. Be open with your parents or family about how you’re feeling about moving back home, and remember that this process is a big transition for them as well. It’s completely normal and valid to be sad, and feel like you’ve somehow experienced a loss. Students around the world are being displaced and missing out on their college experience, so you are not alone in this feeling. Mental Health America partnered recently with wiki-How to offer some really good tips on dealing with this situation. Consider a few of their suggestions below for managing to re-create your college experience at home.

Call or video chat friends on a regular basis. Schedule a few times throughout the week to stay in touch with your friends. Set up with virtual study dates with some of your classmates, or schedule a TV night with friends to binge-watch Netflix shows or watch sports games. While it’s not the same as hanging out in-person, virtual chats can help fill in the college experience that you’re missing on campus.

Offer support to your other college friends. Remind your friends and classmates that you’re there for them, even when the going gets tough. While there’s no easy way to deal with the disappointment and loneliness caused by COVID-19, you can offer texts or phone calls of support to let your friends know that you’re there for them.

Set and communicate your boundaries with your family. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling. Let family know if you need some time to yourself, and let them know what your class schedule is so they know not to disturb you. Double-check that you’re on the same page with the rest of your household now that you’re living at home.

Sort out your thoughts in a journal. Dedicate a blank notebook or journal to your thoughts and feelings regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Write out all of your thoughts, feelings, and disappointments, along with what you feel like you’re missing from your college experience. Writing out your feelings can provide you with a lot of comfort and solace during this tough time.

Watch and listen to the news sparingly. Don’t feel obligated to tune into the news all of the time. Chances are, the latest news reports won’t offer anything productive to your mental health. Instead, give yourself 10-15 minutes each day to tune in to news then avoid it for the rest of the day.

Plan out your day as though you were still staying in a dorm or on-campus housing. Set your alarm for your classes as you usually would, and perform your usual morning routine, like showering and getting dressed. Even if you’re not going to a physical class, you can still keep a steady, consistent schedule for yourself.

Set aside a specific area of your home for studying. Pick a corner of your home where you don’t spend a lot of time resting or relaxing. Choose a place where you can focus, like a desk or coffee table. Try to avoid learning or studying from your bed or couch, or else your brain may not separate relaxing from online learning.

Give yourself time to relax and recharge each day. Set aside at least 30 minutes where you can do something fun and relaxing. Spend some time browsing social media, playing your favorite video games, listening to a relaxing playlist, or doing anything else that helps take your mind off anything stressful.

Call a support hotline if you need a listening ear. Feeling overwhelmed? So many people are in the same position as you, and your feelings are completely valid and understandable. If you want anonymous support, reach out to a mental health hotline for advice. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for general counseling, or you can text “START” to 741-741.

Andrea Mory

Andrea Mory is a human resources and management professional who resides in North Texas. She has collaborated across Texoma over the last 20 years with mental health providers and employers to develop training and education programs related to behavioral health. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.