As all those emails we’ve received from our professors have said, these are some very strange and unprecedented times we’re living in. Almost every college and university across the nation has opted for either a hybrid semester (a combination of in-person and online classes) or has moved to completely remote instruction for the duration of 2020. I think all of us can agree that the transition from classroom to computer has not necessarily been an easy one. It means longer hours spent in front of a screen, limited socialization, and, in some cases, overwhelming amounts of schoolwork for no apparent reason. The much shorter daily commute from bed-to-desk is certainly a plus, though!
While it may still feel like the never-ending month of March to us, the reality is we’ve all been living the pandemic life for nearly nine months now. Everyone’s had to make some sort of sacrifice or lifestyle change(s) to remain safe from this virus. I know it’s hard to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, but there are certainly things we can all do to make our here-and-now more bearable! For all of us college students out there, that starts with developing healthy habits during online school. Read on for five ideas of habits you can adopt to help you go the distance throughout distance learning.
- Create a routine
Coming up with a regular routine or daily schedule for yourself is more important now than ever before. Why? Well, in a time when everything is so uncertain, it’s nice to have some aspects of your day-to-day life set in stone. A daily routine will look different for everyone. Maybe you build your routine around how you approach your online class schedule. Or maybe you have a designated wake-up time and morning workout routine that helps kick off your day. Whatever it is, your routine should feel purposeful and meaningful to you. Doing so will help you navigate your online classes as well as retain all the information you’re learning this semester.
Jacqueline, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, shares a tip on how she’s built her routine around her classes. “When universities first went online at the initial COVID shock in March, I remember having a really tough time keeping up with all of my assignments and lectures – especially because of the three-hour time difference between my hometown and my college town,” she says. “This semester, I vowed to stick to my actual class schedule (as listed on my registration) and take my asynchronous classes as if they were synchronous, and it has made a huge, positive difference in how I keep up with all of my work.”
Maybe you have a job or other extracurriculars that makes creating a routine around your classes difficult. No problem! You could start off by waking up at a similar time every morning. This way, you can get dressed and ready, eat breakfast, and knock out some items on your to-do list before work or classes. Not a morning person? You could always adjust your nighttime routine then too. There’s no right or wrong way (or right or wrong time) to make your daily schedule. Just build a routine that works for YOU — it’ll make all the difference.
- Set up a dedicated space for school and work
This one seems like a given… until you realize you too may have fallen victim to Zooming into classes from your bed. It’s just so tempting to have your camera off, mic muted, and to be half-asleep and comfy in your bed. Especially for those 8 a.m. lectures; trust me, I’ve been there. This is why setting up a separate area where you can compartmentalize your work is so important. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a space where you can truly be productive.
Emma, a junior at Loyola Marymount University, speaks on how transformational this healthy habit can be. “When you always work from a specific space, your mind will recognize that and go into ‘work mode’ more easily than if you were to work from bed,” she explains. “Working from bed or other places tends to confuse your mind since these are places for sleep and relaxation. In this way, having a designated workspace gets you in the right mindset to get schoolwork done productively in these unconventional times!”
The space you choose to do your work should be for one thing: work. Try choosing a spot like a counter, desk, or table and add a comfortable chair. Make sure you keep all of your school and work supplies stationed wherever you decide to set up and remember to pick a spot where you have enough space to work efficiently.
- Take. Breaks.
Taking breaks may sound counterproductive, but a recent study analyzed by Forbes proved that breaks actually boost creativity, memorization, and concentration. It also gives you something to look forward to after long periods of grinding out that schoolwork. The human body simply wasn’t designed to sit and stare at a computer screen for 8+ hours a day, so taking breaks to go do something completely different is super important.
What you do during a break and how long you do it for is completely up to you. However, it is important to do something meaningful with your time. Instead of aimlessly scrolling through social media for 30 minutes, try calling a friend, doing a quick at-home workout, reading, or even making yourself a snack. Whatever you choose, definitely get up and get moving for a few minutes, too. Little moments of movement will help keep your body and mind sharp and able to retain more information when you go to sit back down.
- Fuel up on healthy food, exercise, and sleep
I know, I know, college is the place healthy eating, exercise, and sleep schedules go to die. It just always seems like life gets too busy to get adequate amounts of these essential things! However, one benefit of online school is that we have a bit more time stuck at home. With any leftover time, you can slip in a workout or cook a proper (and healthy) meal. There are so many at-home workouts out there, along with virtual exercise classes and those good old TikTok recipes just waiting to be tried and tasted.
As for sleep, the extra time we have at home can help with that, too. It’s not just that we have more time to take naps throughout the day, but without having a lot of places to go or people to meet up with 24/7, there’s a better chance we can get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep we need every night.
Amanda, a junior at Loyola Marymount University, shares her thoughts on the impact of making healthy lifestyle choices. “Prioritizing your sleep, setting a designated time for daily movement, and incorporating more whole plant foods into your everyday life is one of the best things you could ever do for yourself,” she says. “When you focus your energy on these things, it can make a world of a difference in how you feel and act. All three of these directly impact your mood, your hormones, digestion, skin, brain, (serotonin levels a.k.a. the mood booster), and the list goes on. Basically, where focus goes, energy flows!”
Check out Aloha by Amanda, Amanda’s health and wellness Instagram account, for more recipes, workouts, and lifestyle tips!
- Stay connected with peers and professors
COVID-19 may not have physically affected all of us, but it certainly has made life feel lonely to some degree. Naturally meeting and connecting with people is just a lot tougher than it used to be, and that can feel very isolating. Even now, after most of the state-imposed lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have been lifted, I can pretty much guarantee there’s some friends (or maybe even family members) we’ve gone almost the whole year without seeing.
In terms of online school, connecting with peers and professors is primarily done via Zoom meetings. It’s very different than rolling up to a study group at the library or going to office hours to meet with your professor in person, but it’s still something! Setting up your own Zoom study groups or meetings with professors can feel a bit scary, but it’s definitely worth doing if you ever just want to get work done in a group or meet with a professor or teacher’s assistant. Don’t be afraid to ask for help whenever you need it! If you feel you’re struggling with online classes, you are not alone.
Real life sure is crazy right now, but that gives us all the more reason to start creating healthy habits to help get us through our online school lives! Focus on the here and now and think about what you really need. We can’t know when the pandemic will end, but we can control how we choose to get through our day-to-day lives. So, start there! We’ll get through this together.