Heading back to campus and starting the second semester is supposed to feel like freedom and a fresh start, but there’s nothing new or fresh about starting school when you’re isolated and learning from afar, even if you’re on campus. If you find yourself feeling sad, frustrated, anxious, or hopeless about the situation, you are in good company. It’s hard not to get caught up wondering if the online classes will be extended or waiting for the next cancellation or the next disappointment. There’s a part of everyone that wants to stay in bed and wait for it to be over, and everything to get back to normal.

The reality is that the start of the semester, especially if you’re starting classes online, is not likely what you envisioned. It’s important to acknowledge this and allow yourself to experience the disappointment. Once you acknowledge the reality of the situation, and that parts of it really do suck, you can also recognize that staying in bed and lounging won’t be the best option for your mental or physical health. It is what it is, whether you like the situation or not, and you want to figure out how you can move through instead of feeling stuck. As the world eventually emerges from the Omicron surge, you want to be ready to go rather than having to catch up. Here’s a few things to keep you moving forward, some of which you may already know, but good reminders nonetheless.

  1. Prioritize sleep. Sleep is everything, but not too much or too little. If you’re at home or the campus is essentially closed, sleep is a way to pass the time if you’re bored. We get it, you’re in college and you can stay out all night, sleep all morning. Neither is optimum. Your body functions better with routine and feels more energetic if you get up around the same time.
  2. Start each day fresh. Shower, brush your teeth, get dressed. Do the basics. It sets the tone that your day is starting and starts your energy brewing. Get ready even if you don’t have to leave your dorm.
  3. Leave your space. Make plans daily to get out of your room or your house. Our bodies are designed to keep moving. Staying stagnant makes us want to hibernate, especially in the winter. Getting out of your space and connecting with others will help you stay energized and focused.
  4. Stay connected. One of the hardest parts of the pandemic is feeling disconnected and isolated from others. It’s going to take more effort and creativity to stay connected. Hang out in the common dorm areas if you’re able, chat with technology (discord, facetime, via online games, etc.). Take opportunities to hang out when you can. Chances are, everyone is looking for something to do, just like you. Reach out and see what happens.
  5. Be productive. Our brains thrive off feeling accomplished. Do your work, set up your dorm or apartment, organize your room, get rid of things you don’t need anymore. Do something where you can see progress and appreciate it. Make your space the best it can be. Research shows that cluttered spaces makes us feel more cluttered in our mind. So take this time to really make your space your own – one that both relaxes and comforts.
  6. Do something fun and creative. Play video games if you must, but also consider art, reading, music, doodling, making music, walking around campus, creative cooking – my son just learned how to make microwave Rice-a-Roni!
  7. Keep your body moving. On campus and even in high school, your bodies are moving from class to class. Change the location for a “class” even if it’s from your bed to your desk, if you’re online. Take a walk, go to the gym, run up and down the stairs. Do some push-ups, a plank, sit-ups – anything that strengthens your body also strengthens your mind.
  8. Set aside time to reflect. Your mind will wander and sometimes it wanders to the negative. If the negative isn’t related to the right now, acknowledge it, and set it aside for later. You can even jot it down for later – literally getting it out of your head. Our brains naturally notice the negative more than the positive, so take a few minutes to reflect on what put a smile on your face today, even for a moment, and what you can look forward to the next day.
  9. Set your priorities. Take some time to figure out what you want this semester to be like for you? What are your goals? What can you do even now to make those happen? What’s in your control? If you have a vision, write it down so you can stay focused on it throughout the semester. Stay the course.