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Overcoming Quarantine Stress for Students

It’s been over a month now since many universities and colleges elected to take an extended break as COVID-19 made its debut in The United States. Now weeks into the pandemic, students are in a completely new reality. Many schools have written off the remainder of the semester and canceled spring commencement. In addition to this, in numerous states, students are under a mandated quarantine in their homes.

Overwhelmed, lonely, stressed, and at wits’ end are a few terms that may describe the feelings of students as many have moved from living on campus, fully engaged in the college life, to now being quarantined off campus, trying to get the hang of on-line learning. The outbreak of COVID-19 is stressful for people. Fear and unease about this pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions to bubble to the surface. This concern is real, and schools are taking it seriously. A recent article in Inside Higher Ed found that the mental health of students topped the list of presidents' short-term concerns, cited by 92 percent of presidents, 37 percent of whom said they were very concerned. The mental health of employees followed next, at 88 percent (source).

Despite the presence of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that life must go on. and that there are several strategies that students can use to manage this stress, stay healthy, and complete the semester’s work.

Take Time Away While it seems counterintuitive, and contrary to what I would normally tell a student, stepping away for a time can actually raise your efficiency in an emergency event. Too much time in a challenging situation can drive you to complete burnout, but taking just a few minutes to focus on other things can be revitalizing.

Keep Up Your Normal One of the biggest dangers during this time is a feeling of helplessness. It is important to keep a schedule. Whether you believe me or not, daily rituals keep us sane. You should work on your courses during the scheduled time that they would normally have class. You shouldn’t sleep till noon, and when you get up, get dressed, and make your bed. I would also encourage you to develop some type of exercise program that gets them off the couch and on their feet. These simple steps can change the trajectory of how you feel each day.

Focus on “Small” Victories We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and forgetting to focus on the seemingly small accomplishments can be a problem. If we look at a victory as getting the rest of the semester’s work done in the first week, we might miss the smaller accomplishments that can be life-giving during this COVID-19 situation.

Remember You Are Not Alone One of my favorite strategies is to stop and remember that you are not alone in this. Hundreds of colleges and universities and thousands of school districts are in the same boat as you. When things begin to get rough remember that there are people and places you can reach out to. A closed university building is not necessarily a closed university. The faculty and staff that were there to serve you before the pandemic are still there waiting to hear from you. Remember that your professors are stuck at home as well.

This situation is going to affect everyone differently. We all react in distinct ways to stressful situations. A well organized and informed approach will put you in a place where despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging around us, we can stay physically and mentally healthy, ready to tackle whatever we encounter, as long as we do it from 6-feet away.

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