BY KIARA LEE-HEART
It’s a crazy time to say the least. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. Our normal routines have been disrupted and life as we know it in in constant flux; day to day we’re learning something different about the Coronavirus, its impact and expert predictions about the pandemic. With so many colleges and universities moving to online/ remote teaching and making other significant changes in response to the pandemic, many of you are concerned about your college careers, all while dealing with stress and anxiety that can threaten your physical, mental and emotional health. This is why I decided to put together this post. Disclaimer: though I am a recent PhD grad, I teach at a university and I have recently taken a more holistic approach to my health, I am no expert in higher education administration, medicine, policy or anything like that. Nonetheless, I hope that what I have to offer helps you out, even just a little bit, because these days, we need all the love and light we can get.
- Figure out exactly how you’re going to take care of your body. This virus has spread at an exponential rate and you need to be especially ready, because you’re already stressed about your status at school. This is the time to get your hands on a multivitamin, vitamin C, herbals, etc. and to be intentional about incorporating healthy foods in your social isolation/ quarantine stash. I just got back from the store and let me tell you – there are plenty of fresh fruits and veggies left; it’s all the junk food and filler food that is gone. Also, unbeknownst to many – you can freeze fruit! Just soak the fruit in water to clean it, put it in a gallon-size freezer bag, and stick them in the freezer (peeled/ chopped into smaller pieces). When stashing non-perishables, try to incorporate multigrain or veggie-based things (que the veggie & whole grain pastas, etc.). You want your body to be the best it can be right now and what you put in your mouth plays a large role in that effort. Another important part in that effort is staying fit. I am a huge fan of working out outside; you should give it a go! You can run, stretch, practice yoga, do HIIT and virtually anything else outside – just be creative about your exact setting. If working out outside is not your thing, there are plenty of home workouts online (i.e. YouTube) that can be done in your house (there are even apartment-friendly ones).
- Save any and all records. I’m mainly talking about unofficial transcripts and syllabi. You need to get your hands on them and save them in a safe spot. I say this because you want proof of what you’ve done IF something goes awry. If you’re in a situation where the sequencing of your classes change, your professors/ advisor leave because of the pandemic or anything like that, you want proof of the work you’ve done. I don’t mean to scare – I just want you to be prepared!
- Class of 2020: You’re going to graduate. Although it might not be when you originally planned to, it’s still going to happen – and no one can take that away from you. This is a period of time where we all unfortunately have to adapt to drastic changes in our regular routine. If your graduation is postponed (or soon to be postponed) just think of it this way – you have complete license to be as loud, litty and extra as ever on your big day – whenever it may be. I would also hone in on #2. Nothing wrong with being over-zealous about the hard work you’ve done.
- Be transparent with your professors during the online/ remote transition. If you don’t quite understand how to use an online learning tool that is now part of your new normal, tell your professor. If you have limited access to the internet or a computer to even partake in online education, tell your professor. If your fear and anxiety about the pandemic, online education or both are interfering with your participation in class, please tell your professor. I’m a professor and let me tell you, we’re anticipating that and more from our scholars. If you wait until the end of the semester to let your professor know about an issue, they’re going to be frustrated, and you’re going to be frustrated at them being frustrated and it won’t be good for anyone! We need to know these things early on to best accommodate. I can also tell you with confidence that now more than ever, your professors want you to do well. Don’t be scared to look out for yourself.
- Don’t get too consumed with yourself. Focus some attention on your loved ones. It’s easy to slip into “woe is me” mode with everything that’s going on. It’s natural, but don’t stay there too long. You’re not the only one in this, remember? We all are in it together. With that being said, show your loved ones some love and get out of your own head. Call them up. Facetime with them. Share funny memes with them. Make (hypothetical) plans for when the pandemic is over. Work on tracing your family’s genealogy with your relatives. These are just a few ideas of some ways to spend time talking with those close to you in the midst of social distancing while taking your mind off of your own troubles.
- Give back, if you have it to give. There are kids out of school with no food and there are elderly people who are most at-risk with no way to get food. Your help is so needed! I can’t think of a better time than now to give back, if you’re able! It won’t be hard to find a reputable person or organization collecting money to feed those in need. There may even be some people who can’t get out to the stores that you could help in some capacity. My mom and I recently donated to Community 50/50, an organization well-known for feeding those in need. Right now, the organization is collecting to feed kids who live in an area of Richmond, VA that is considered a food desert. Every little bit helps!
- Nourish your spirit. Do what you need to in order to make your spirit feel good. For me, that includes having quiet time, reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for (especially when I’m feeling discouraged), writing poetry, praying in the morning and getting into my bible at night. What does nourishing your spirit mean for you? If you don’t know what it means, figure it out soon. During times like this, it’s just as important to take care of your inside as it is to take care of your outside. It doesn’t have to be religious. It doesn’t have to be non-religious. It’s what is best for you. Whatever nourishes your spirit makes you feel whole, connected and refreshed. Who wouldn’t want the bright spots of wholeness, connectedness and refreshment during these trying times?
- Embrace your new routine. Your routine will make or break your success the rest of the semester. You must be intentional about this new routine. You are probably so distracted and so thrown off by the current state of affairs that you need an extra push to get you in (online/ remote) school mode. Maybe you find that you work best in the afternoon. Maybe your home workout works better on Tuesdays and Thursdays because of your other obligations. It might be harder for you to focus finishing up this semester online since you’re home more, so you may need to find a designated part of your home to work in. For most of us, life as we know it has drastically changed and that calls for drastic change on our end to keep up.
Life has changed, but life hasn’t stopped. You have a lot to do, see and achieve, but we all have to get through this pandemic first. You got this. We got this.
Stay safe, stay sane and stay socially distanced!