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Self-Care for College Students During the Pandemic

Self-Care for College Students During the Pandemic

By Amanda Smith, LCSW

Oh, 2020! We’ve sure had our fair share of adjustments this year. Although COVID-19 has affected everyone on the planet, it has had an enhanced distinct effect on college students. Adjustment is an inevitable thing when it comes to college, but throw in a pandemic? Whew, it can get pretty tough. Luckily, we can do a few things to take good care of ourselves in the midst of all of this uncertainty and chaos. Practicing self-care during this time is essential. 

Be mindful of your health. 

Staying healthy can be tricky in college. It’s natural to start moving towards greater independence, building new routines and habits. We can get a little out of sync with taking care of ourselves when we are on such a transformative journey. Usually, access to campus recreation centers and university-wide health initiatives provide students with resources and direction to make things go a little smoother. However, mega gyms and large campus events are not really pandemic friendly. College students now have to find creative ways to develop and maintain healthy practices on their own. 

The best way to start taking care of our health is to think of it through the lens of self-care. The definition of self-care is taking care of ourselves, and there is no better way to do this than to focus on our health- our total health. We typically think of being healthy as working out and eating right. However, there are many more elements to our health than just the fitness and nutrition aspects. While these things are undoubtedly essential to maintaining our ultimate health, other areas of our life may need a little tender loving self-care as well. What about our mental health? Or our social health? When we expand our definition of “health,” it opens up many more ways to practice self-care. 

So let’s think about your personal health goals. In what ways do you take excellent care of yourself? What areas could use a little extra boost of support? Because we are all different, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s all about your personal needs in this present moment. Taking an assessment of your needs can help ensure that you practice the most efficient and effective self-care. 

Adjusting to New Norms 

As we venture deeper into the pandemic, we are starting to notice that it’s not going away anytime soon. We can hope that things get better. We can embrace the progress that is occurring. But at this moment, we are still immersed in this ultimate global health crisis. 

While the goal is never to submit ourselves entirely to this virus, we must maintain a realistic approach to our present conditions. We can accept something without agreeing with it; we don’t even have to like it. Acceptance doesn’t mean that things will never change or get better; it merely allows us to move past the things we cannot change and focus on those things in our control. 

College is choc-full of changes this year. From social distancing restrictions to housing issues to online learning and adjustments to the calendar, many things are much different than they’ve ever been. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was little information on this terrible virus’s prognosis. We were not sure if it would go away in two weeks, ten years, or never at all. We still may not know everything, but we are starting to adjust to the fact that it’s a little less short-term than we had hoped for and anticipated. The bottom line is, a two-week campus shut down looks a lot different than seven months of whatever this is. 

Acceptance is not easy, but it is usually very freeing. What things have you been able to accept during this time? What areas of your life pose a little more of a challenge? Try writing out a list of your new norms and reflecting on them. When you decide to accept the things you cannot change, your brain will naturally start to focus on things within your control; this is where the power lies. We cannot control very much right now, but what we can do with our intensely passionate energy may have more impact than ever before. 

Embrace the Positive Power of Counseling 

Okay, I’m a counselor, so of course, I’m going to throw in a little shameless plug about counseling. In my professional (and personal) opinion, almost any college student can benefit from counseling at any time. It’s just a weird time. A beautiful time, but not without some ups and downs. We inevitably experience significant growth along the way, but it can be rough. I mean, I, personally, had some rough patches, and so did many of the resilient college students that I’ve counseled. 

Contrary to popular belief, counseling does not require us to be in a full-blown crisis. Many college students participate in counseling for a little extra help getting through everyday life’s typical ebbs and flows. And with this year being the roller coaster that it has become, the pandemic’s rises and falls have been much more dramatic. Counseling creates a safe space to take a pause and reorganize our thoughts. Counselors can help untangle the chaos in our brains so that we can think more clearly and make better decisions. Who wouldn’t benefit from something like that in a time like this? 

Oh, and counseling via telehealth? Yes, please. I love it! I started providing virtual counseling back in 2018. A bit skeptical at first, I soon learned that it is a fantastic service for college students with busy lives who are always on the go. Before the pandemic hit, I counseled many students who preferred virtual sessions due to its flexibility and casual, comfortable nature. The world of counseling is changing as we know it; it’s becoming much more useful, accessible, and practical for college students. So if you could use some support and have been on the fence about this whole telehealth counseling thing, I’d say to give it a try. It’s worth checking out.

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