Whether it’s your first or last year of college, heading back to school in the fall can be a time of mixed emotions. A new school year often signifies a fresh start for many for new goals and continued work towards graduation and dreams. The hustle and bustle of class schedules and social gatherings can also be ridden with worry and distress. Adjusting to college during COVID times adds a whole other layer into the mix.
What does this school year mean for you?
Adjusting to college is hard enough without adding the curveball of COVID into the mix. You may be someone who welcomed the changes brought on by the pandemic. After all, is there anyone who actually enjoys dragging themselves out of bed at 7AM to sit in a lecture hall with 500 of their closest friends? COVID means being able to sleep an extra hour, turn on your computer, and cozy up with a cup of coffee to attend your lecture online. You might consider that a welcome benefit of the new way of doing things.
The reality is some people are ok with or even prefer the “new normal” and others do not. The truth is that it is okay to not be okay AND it’s also okay to be okay. You don’t have to feel bad if you are able to enjoy and find meaning in this time.
Although the routine of the school year can be exciting for some, others may find this a time of increased stress due to many factors. This can sometimes lead to having a tough time “adulting” or feeling like you are unable to complete daily tasks like getting out of bed, going to class or work, concentrate on schoolwork, or enjoy activities.
Take control of your life.
We all go through periods of time when some or all of the things discussed in the previous section may ring true. Making a small adjustment to your sleep and study schedule might be all you need to turn the tide. Or maybe you might need a slightly bigger change in how you study and plan. Work smarter, not harder — as the saying goes.
It may be worth it to think of when you are your most productive and plan studying, work, and other things around that so you can use your time efficiently. Yes, you may want to sleep in, but you might also have more brain power in the morning before the rush of the day sets in. If that’s the case, try waking up thirty minutes earlier to have a dedicated time to focus on a task. Or maybe you’re someone who concentrates better once the busyness of the day is over. Whatever it is, take some time to try out different study habits until you find what works for you.
Know when it is time to ask for help.
At home, chances are you had your parents to keep tabs on you and watch out for when things might be getting a little tough. At college — especially during COVID times — you have a little more responsibility to watch out for yourself. With all the chaos of 2020 it is completely possible that you may be experiencing distressing symptoms, like panic attacks, depressive, or even suicidal thoughts. If you are having any of these symptoms, it’s time to reach out for support.
I often hear “it feels like nothing will help” or people share they can’t find the motivation to figure it all out. Reaching out for support does not have to be complicated or hard to work. Support can look like a phone call, video chat, or safely meeting up with a friend. It may also look like picking up the phone to schedule a therapy appointment or connecting to local crisis center via phone or chat. Most colleges and universities also have a campus counseling center, which can be a great resource for students. The campus counseling center can often connect you with other local services to help with mental health, substance use, time management, and skill-building.
In such uncertain times, it’s okay to not be okay.
It really is ok to not be ok. You are navigating the expected experiences and obligations of college amidst a global pandemic. Can we say, curveball? This is a time of change and unknowns. Hello again, anxiety.
If there is one piece of advice that I can leave you with if you are feeling exhausted and sad because of the decisions you’ve had to make or others have made for you — like changes to school, work, or living — it’s ok. You have to do what is best for you while attending college during COVID. Give yourself and others some grace and have some self-compassion. I’ll say it again, it’s okay not to be okay AND it’s okay to be okay. Your college experience may not be what you expected, but it will still teach you lessons that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.