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Mental Health

The Mental Toll of Online School and How to Keep Yourself Above Water

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most reliable source on how to cope with everything going on within the past year. If anything, I need someone to write this article for me. But hey, if I’m having trouble with this then there have to be hundreds of college students just like me going through the same thing. I can’t guarantee that this article will hold the permanent pieces of advice that you’re looking for, but hopefully you can find yourself somewhere in my words and hold onto my small suggestions.

It’s almost been a year since life took a pretty dramatic turn. At the beginning of February, I was adjusting to campus life for my second semester and finally becoming an independent adult. I had a stable cluster of friends, a good set of classes and felt comfortable doing everyday tasks by myself, something that worried me before coming to college. That almost feels like a lifetime ago now.

Even as an introvert, I’m finding myself missing human interaction with strangers in classrooms. This lack of real connections and conversations is enough to affect the social skills we all worked so hard to develop. We’ve been disconnected from our friends and stuck at home with the same people for months on end. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on your circumstances, but I’m sure it’s at least taken some sort of toll on you. 

The beginning of quarantine introduced us to a multitude of TikTok trends like whipped coffee and rug making that we tried out and bonded over. Now, creative hobbies like those almost feel like too much effort to try. One of the most common side effects of the pandemic is burnout. Described as “a reaction to prolonged stress,” burnout’s three main traits are exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced professional activity. Since the start of all this, it’s gotten harder to feel motivated and productive throughout the week, especially with online classes and having to complete exams in our bedrooms. 

Exhaustion associated with burnout and loneliness is a combination that seems impossible to get past. Some days are harder than others when simple tasks like getting out of bed can feel like too much. There’s no way to truly prevent these kinds of days, but it’s always possible to keep yourself and your mind distracted from negative thoughts and worries when you need to. 

Some things my family and I have added to our daily routines include journaling, walks around the neighborhood or on the boardwalk, home workouts with YouTube videos and drawing for at least half an hour each day. Other low effort hobbies include solo dance parties in your bedroom with your favorite songs, baking simple online or box recipes and creating playlists for anything and everything that you’re feeling. 

Things are stressful right now, and it’s hard to see the light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, but there are still ways to make the days feel less repetitive and tiring. Look after yourself and make sure to do things you enjoy.

Martina is a Sophomore at the University of Delaware, majoring in English. She loves reading, writing, making playlists, and spending time with her dogs.
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