Welcome to the second blog in our latest series Coping with COVID-19. Beginning in September, and over the next few weeks, we will do our best to provide you with information and helpful tips for navigating the world we live in right now. Today’s blog is dedicated to our many university and college students who may be struggling this semester.

If you are a college and/or university student struggling to cope with COVID-19 this semester, you are not alone. Whether you are a first-year university student trying to meet new people while taking all online classes, or a fourth year college student doing your best to graduate amongst uncertainty, we want to provide you with some helpful tips and information to navigate your post-secondary education and cope with COVID-19.

  1. Try your best to find and maintain a routine; be kind to yourself when that routine needs to change

When the majority of your classes are being held virtually, and all you need to do to get ready is roll out of bed, it might be easy to find yourself abandoning your usual routines. You may find yourself sleeping in later than usual, eating meals at strange times and binge-watching the latest season of The Good Place until the early morning hours. Try your best to find and maintain a routine that works for you. That routine doesn’t have to be waking up at 5:00 am, working out for an hour and eating a perfectly well-balanced breakfast. Find a routine that works for you. Maybe your routine includes waking up before 10:00 am, going for one walk a day and eating three balanced meals at specified times. Find a realistic routine that works for you and do your best to maintain that routine. Sticking to a routine, and knowing what your day will look like, may help bring you some calm and stability during these challenging times.

  1. Stay connected to your friends and family members

Practicing appropriate physical distancing is an important component of stopping the spread of COVID-19, however isolation can also have negative impacts on your mental health and overall well-being. Find safe ways to stay connected with your friends and family. Try planning a FaceTime movie date or plan a Zoom party with a group of your friends!

  1. Accept your emotions

We often put a premium on being happy and staying positive; a phenomenon that has been termed “toxic positivity”. Toxic positivity is attempting to stay positive and happy in all situations, minimizing the very real and genuine suffering and distress that you may be feeling. We are currently living through a host of unprecedented global challenges that have the potential to impact our social, cultural, health, and economic well-being. Given these challenges, it is normal and expected to feel negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, helplessness, anger, or confusion. Trying to fight these emotions or forcing them to go away tends to intensify them in the long run. Instead, it is more helpful to accept that we are currently living through a difficult time and focus on engaging in healthy coping strategies to get through it.

  1. Stay socially connected

Recently the term “COVID Fatigue” has been trending on social media, and as your settle into this semester, you may be experiencing it too. Dr. Michael Wohl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa described “COVID Fatigue” as the phenomenon that occurs when people see others’ not following recommended pandemic guidelines and feel as though they are missing out; this gets worse the longer the pandemic goes on as we get increasingly fatigued and desensitized to warnings and abandon proper precautions. Human beings are social creatures, and it is necessary to stay connected with our friends and loved ones in order to combat COVID Fatigue. Figure out what will help you stay connected, whether it is a virtual Friday games night (we love Jackbox TV), a Zoom dinner date, watching a movie together through Netflix Party or going for a physically distanced walk. Consider looking into social clubs and activities offered at your school to see if there is a way to get socially involved virtually.

  1. Try filling your time with a new hobby or a passion project!

You may find yourself having some more downtime during the pandemic, and prolonged periods of boredom will make anyone go stir-crazy. Take this opportunity to experiment with a hobby or a skill that you’ve always wanted to try. Filling your time with a new, exciting hobby or passion project may be just the thing you need to refresh and reenergize yourself this fall.

  1. Create a cozy study space

Since most of your classes and studying are likely to be happening from home, create a cozy space where you will actually want to spend time. Make the space as functional and comfortable as possible, whether that means getting some fancy pens, a cozy blanket, a desk lamp, or a comfy chair. If possible, set yourself up outside of your bedroom although we know that won’t always be feasible. Even if you’re working in your bedroom, we strongly encourage you not to do your school work in bed as this can contribute to sleep problems and insomnia. Having a dedicated space to study will help keep you organized and will create much needed separation between school and the rest of your life.

  1. Limit exposure to the media

The media (including social media) is constantly discussing all of the challenges facing the world, and it’s easy to get bogged down by all the negativity. We suggest limiting your media intake to less than 30 minutes per day. This will allow you to stay informed, but not take over your entire day.

  1. Familiarize yourself with your school’s resources and COVID-19 updates

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, colleges and universities are doing their best to provide students with access to additional mental health resources and the latest information. Many schools have web-pages dedicated to providing information regarding COVID-19. Be sure to check out your school’s webpage for updates using the links below.

  • Students at Wilfrid Laurier University can find information online by visiting ca/coronavirus.
  • Students at the University of Waterloo can find information online by visiting ca/coronavirus.
  • Students at Conestoga College can find information online by visiting this link.

Want more information? Don’t forget to check out our list of resources here: https://waterloocbt.ca/resources/

Authors: Lindsey Erin Feltis, MA and Dr. Dubravka Gavric, C.Psych.