Leaving my university campus last week was heartbreaking. With spring upon us, my peers and I were devastated to hear that we’d have to depart so suddenly, without the chance to experience the change in season we had long been awaiting together, and without the chance to exchange proper goodbyes. With college campuses and so many other places of social gathering and human enjoyment left empty and abandoned due to COVID-19, millions across the nation and world are burdened now by the feeling that there isn’t much to look forward to.
Most individuals and families, of course, are in favor of doing whatever supports the public good and public health. But what is there to do now that the social and structural support systems we have built our lives around are no longer functioning? First, take a deep breath (really, take one here, please) and understand that we are not in this alone. To reach the other side of this pandemic with some semblance of sanity left, let’s remember to view this “distance” as purely physical rather than social; the ties that bind us cannot be allowed to break as we separate ourselves from each other. Many of us may be experiencing feelings of loneliness at this time, and battling those feelings is just as important right now as battling COVID-19. For college students back at home — or for anyone who can use them — I’ve curated a list of 10 things I hope will help your and your family’s quarantine blues and boredom, keeping us all feeling mentally, socially, and spiritually together even though we might be physically isolated.
Plan a birthday parade instead of a birthday party.For many Pisces and Aries babies, those eagerly awaited springtime birthday parties are now a wish of the past. Not all has to be lost, though. As a fun alternative, round up a group of loved ones to jump in their respective vehicles, drive over to the birthday boy or girl’s neighborhood, and spread safe and equally sincere birthday wishes from the road.
Fix yourself a clean, organized, and cozy study space.For college students preparing for or just getting used to online classes, a space that is comfortable, free of unnecessary distractions, and stocked with supplies is so important for staying focused and ensuring academic success. Now that libraries and coffee shops are no longer options, take some time to set aside a special place for schoolwork that you know will keep you accountable and be conducive to your best academic performance. There’s not a lot we have control over at the moment, but remember, you still have the power to keep your grades where you want them to be.
Some tips: find good lighting (one German study concluded that warm light is more conducive to creativity, while cool light is better for focus); try to choose a place where you know the temperature will remain stable and at a state that is comfortable for you, typically between 72˚ and 77˚; pick a place that won’t be too noisy — avoid areas near the kitchen, living room, or other spaces you know family members may spend time chatting and making noise; for ideal posture, sit at a chair or use a standing desk rather than choosing to sit on the floor, on a cushion, or on your favorite couch. Feel free to be creative! No one knows how you work best better than you, so use the spaces in which you felt most productive back at school as a guide.
Make some sort of schedule for each day. It can be so easy to feel lazy and unmotivated, now that our surroundings and interactions are unchanging. Creating a schedule for ourselves, setting aside specific time for getting ready, eating meals, cleaning and sitting down to do work, makes us so much more likely to actually stick to what we intend to do. For young children, even minimal structure can be important, and with childcare facilities and schools no longer providing rigid schedules for kids, that responsibility now falls on parents.
Clean out your closet. If you’ve been putting it off until now, this is your reminder from the textile gods that nowis the time. Use what motivation you have to sort through any old clothes and make those heart-wrenching decisions on what is worth keeping and what might be better off thrifted, donated, or — whenever you see them next — swapped with a friend.
Host a Netflix watch party. Download the free Google Chrome extension Netflix Party and share a link to your favorite movie or TV show with loved ones. You’ll be able to watch any Netflix offering together in real-time, even if you’re miles apart. By synchronizing video playback and providing a group chat platform, this app is one of the best ways I’ve seen to feel like you’re right next to someone through a screen, doing something as normal as watching a movie with a friend, even when everything else seems to be steeped in chaos.
Pamper yourself. How long has it been since you’ve run a nice, warm bubble bath, put on your favorite face mask, lit all your most special candles, and simply relaxed? College students have a little more time and space for these things now, so there’s no longer any reason not to do them all. Whatever self-care or pampering might look like for you, do it. You deserve it now more than ever.
Curate your own wine tasting. For real or aspiring (and over-21) sommeliers, host a mini soiree with bottles you may have lying around at home. Lean all the way in with cheese or chocolates for a more authentic winery-at-home experience.
Try a new workout class from your own home. With gyms and fitness centers now closed, some fitness professionals are putting out more online content, often offering fitness classes and workouts online for free. Simply roll out your yoga mat (if you have one), lace up your gym shoes (if you want to, I’ll be the first to admit I go barefoot when I have the chance), and get moving. With the right mindset, the internet can be viewed as the most diverse and inclusive gym on the planet. The best part is, more often than not, there is no equipment necessary. Some of my personal favorite fitness channels are Fitness Blender, Blogilates and Yoga with Adriene. You might also try supporting local businesses by checking out online content put out by neighborhood gyms and fitness studios near you.
Learn something new.If your schoolwork is taken care of, try another course using online platforms like Coursera, a platform offering high level courses (specifically on topics relating to computer Science and technology), or Class Central, an aggregate service which has compiled 500 high ranking Ivy League course lectures. Better yet, choose a course along with a friend or family member and learn alongside loved ones, another way to feel connected even when you might be oceans apart.
Stay off social media. It’s during times of universal stress and uncertainty that social media tends to be the most toxic. The tangible sense of anxiety that permeates the online world just as it does our physical reality — combined with the fact that we all now have a lot more free time on our hands — is really the perfect storm for the negative aspects of social media to really take hold over our minds, hearts, and general attitude toward this situation in its entirety. When we are so heavily exposed to messages of stress, anxiety and frustration that may mirror (if not exaggerate) our own, these feelings simply compound and leave us feeling much worse than we ought to. If you find yourself scrolling mindlessly, as we all likely will at some point during this adventure, take a moment, take a breath and think about allll the other things you could be doing. Or, even better, think about the fact that you, by simply sitting inside your home, are doing the most selfless, altruistic, and beneficial thing you can possibly be doing right now for your family, your community, your country and our world.