How to Prioritize Mental Health While Attending College Remotely

College has definitely been a different experience this year, and remote classes and extracurriculars have taken some getting used to. Dorms have closed, and many of the events students look forward to at their universities have been canceled or postponed. While this is certainly a difficult time for all of us, trying to juggle remote classes, events, and clubs can cause many of us to push our mental health and well-being behind all of the responsibilities and deadlines that seem to always loom over our heads. Attending college during COVID-19 has been strange, to say the least, but it’s so important to place our mental health as a top priority during these unprecedented times. That’s why I’ve put together some tips, tricks, and habits that will help you prioritize your mental health while navigating the remote college experience.

  1. 1. Express your feelings

    A torn pink paper heart strung on white string with a black background.

    College was hard enough before everything became virtual, but switching to a remote environment really impacted my motivation and made me feel so disconnected from my friends, peers, and professors. As I sat through one Zoom meeting after another, I felt very isolated and I couldn’t seem to pay attention. At first, I thought that I was just going through this lonely transition period by myself. But after talking to some of my friends, I realized that we’re all feeling a bit challenged and stressed by remote college classes. That’s why it’s so important to utilize your support group, whether that’s your friends, family, therapist, or anyone else that you feel comfortable expressing your feelings to. Zoom university can feel so lonely at times, but knowing that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way helped me calm my mind and focus on ways to stay connected to those that matter.

  2. 2. Go outside

    I know that the main reason for remote classes is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so when I say go outside, I don’t mean that you should hang out with large groups of people or go to places that can put you or others at risk. Instead, go outside and just take a walk around your neighborhood (and remember to wear a mask!). Leaving your apartment or house and breathing in fresh air can really help you clear your mind and lighten your spirit. Whenever I’m feeling stressed about remote classes or feeling isolated from the world, spending time in nature really helps me calm down and stay in the moment. 

  3. 3. Explore your creativity

    Thoughtful woman writing in notebook at home

    Although attending remote college isn’t ideal, it’s given me a little extra time to pursue creative hobbies. Exploring your creativity is an amazing way to improve your mental health. By engaging in creative activities, you can increase your focus, manage your negative emotions, and reduce anxiety. In fact, doing a creative activity you love releases dopamine, which is your body’s natural anti-depressant. Something I’ve been doing lately is junk journaling. I found a great journal and started filling it up with words, photos, interesting book scraps, and anything else that’s interesting. Journaling has helped me collect my thoughts and write down how I’m feeling at the moment. Writing down moments of joy, sadness, frustration, and hopefulness can quiet your thoughts and help you focus. Some other creative outlets to explore are cooking, reading, drawing, painting and photography.

  4. 4. Make time for friends

    zoom call with friends

    Since my school decided to stay remote for fall semester, many of my friends and I decided to save money on rent and stay at home with our parents for the time being. While it’s nice to be home with family, I’ve had to adjust to not seeing my friends around campus every day. Many of my friends are in different states and time zones, so it can be tricky to find time when we can remotely hang out. However, it’s so important to make time for your friends and find ways to have fun, even if you can’t see them in person. Whether it’s long FaceTime chats, remote Netflix parties, or even virtual game nights spent playing Monopoly and Among Us, spending time with good friends always improves my mood and reduces stress.

  5. 5. Keep your hopes up

    "You Got This" sign with iPhone next to it

    My last bit of advice is to try and keep your hopes up. I never expected that I’d attend college remotely for so long, and it can be discouraging to not know when things will return to normal. However, it’s OK to give yourself a break and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come to you. Don’t expect yourself to feel completely at peace with remote classes, but know that we can make the best of these strange and uncertain times. Just remember that you aren’t the only one feeling a little lost. Whatever your college experience looks like, I hope these will be some of the best years of your life.

Those are some of my favorite ways to prioritize mental health during remote college. I hope that you found one or two ways that you can incorporate mental health into your everyday lives. Trying to stay on top of classes while balancing everything else in life is daunting, but putting your mental health first is so important to creating a better routine for your remote college experience.