Whether you’re working from home, taking a virtual class or practicing physical distancing for you and your loved ones’ safety, we’re all experiencing a new normal together. This transition may be easy for some, but working and studying from home is unusual for many. As the days and weeks progress, you might find yourself craving a sense of balance and normalcy.
We’ve collaborated with three experts from the Center of Student Wellness—for ways to not only cope with this new change but thrive.
“Physical distancing is hard! It disrupts routines and can cause feelings of disconnection and loneliness,” says Mahalia Lotz, a victim-survivor advocate. “Fortunately, while physical distancing is necessary, there’s a lot you can do to stay virtually connected and reduce those feelings of isolation.” Here are six ways you can manage anxiety, boost productivity and connect with others during quarantine.
1. Find balance in your mind by setting a timer
Set a timer on your phone or kitchen stove for regular movement breaks. “Break up each hour in a way that feels manageable for your task list,” suggests Jenna Templeton, assistant director of health education. “Fifty minutes of work earns you a 10-minute break; 30 minutes of ticking off tasks gets you a five-minute breather. Whatever feels best for you, set a timer to keep you honest! Each time it goes off, set your work to the side and move around.”
2. Stretch regularly
“Staring at a computer for hours on end tends to tighten up the legs, hips and upper back,” Templeton says. “Treat those areas to some much-needed stretching. Google is your friend if you need some ideas.”
These stretches don’t have to be indoors, either—sunshine is a good antidote to quarantine. Even a 10-minute walk around the block can increase productivity, mindfulness and motivation.
Here are some quick stretches and exercises that will invigorate your body after sitting at your “home” desk all day.
- Low lunges for hip flexors
- Doorway stretch for shoulders
- Cat-cow flow for the back
- Downward dog for overall strengthening
- Lunges for legs and hamstrings
- 30-second plank for your core
- 50 jumping jacks to spike your heart rate
For a guided workout, try one of our virtual exercise classes.
- Campus Recreation is offering live-streamed yoga, pilates and HIIT classes.
- PEAK Health and Fitness is offering fitness classes on YouTube so you can work out on your own schedule.
- Gyms may be closed, but here are some healthy alternatives for staying active while physical distancing.
3. The best workspaces encourage productivity and motivation
Treat every school and workday as you would normally by dedicating a spot for your “work desk.” Training your mind and body to follow a work and study schedule is an important way to help you stay focused and on track.
“It can be easy to try to work from bed, but doing so restricts movement and promotes poor posture,” Templeton says. “Try starting at the kitchen table in the morning and then migrate to your desk by noon before spending the rest of the day in the backyard. This change in perspective keeps things interesting while getting you some fresh air and sunshine.”
4. A side effect of the pandemic: Anxiety and mental health concerns
Lotz and Brittany Badger, director of the center, encourage those struggling with mental health, anxiety and isolation to “practice engaging your senses to create space from distressing thoughts or emotions and connect more closely to your body and the present moment.”
According to Lotz, it’s important to acknowledge a few things before jumping into coping strategies.
- “First, it is important to recognize that anxiety is a natural human response to stress (like a global pandemic). Experiencing anxiety does not mean you are abnormal or weak.”
- “Second, thank you for doing your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by making the responsible choice to practice safe, physical distancing.”
- “Third, self-care is a highly effective way to manage anxiety and isolation. In theory, self-care is straightforward: it is the actions and attitudes you take to support your well-being. In practice, self-care becomes more interesting, because everyone has different wellness needs and approaches to caring for them[selves]. This list of self-care ideas can help you create your personalized self-care plan.”
The SafeUT mobile app, which is available in the Apple and Google Play stores, is an anonymous, statewide service crisis line. Whether you are in need of support for emotional crisis’, relationship problems, mental health or suicide-related issues, our licensed clinicians are always on the other side of the call.
When you call or chat with the crisis line, or submit a tip, you will be connected directly to a University Neuropsychiatric Institute crisis counselor. This service is always free, 100% confidential and available 24/7.
5. Helpful ways to manage isolation, fear and anxiety
- Take a moment to sit quietly and notice five things you can see around yourself. Choose four things you can hear. Three things you can feel. Two things you can smell. And one thing you can taste.
- Pick up nearby objects and focus on their texture, weight, shape, size, temperature, etc.
- Smell an essential oil, light a candle, suck on a piece of hard candy or enjoy a hot cup of tea.
Check out the University of Utah’s Counseling Center for free guided meditations. The Center for Student Wellness also offers virtual services that include virtual counseling, one-on-one sessions with a health educator, virtual victim-survivor advocacy and wellness hours via Zoom.
6. Connect with others
There is no time like the present to connect with those around you—digitally, that is. The University of Utah Counseling Center offers a virtual support group called Coping with Chaos, and Student Success Advocates at the University of Utah have an abundance of resources for students transitioning from in-class to online learning, as well as help with technology, communicating with professors, staying well, planning and time management and other challenges to virtual learning.
There are also apps available that make virtual meet-ups simple and easy. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, House Party, WhatsApp and Netflix Watch Party can help you safely meet up with friends from the comfort of your own home.
7. Prioritize downtime
It might seem counterintuitive to pursue distraction in a time when many are focused on this pandemic, but self-care and recreation are crucial to your well-being.
“Take care of your physical health by taking a comforting shower or bath, pampering yourself with a pedicure or face mask, going for a walk around the block, or cooking a fun meal,” Lotz suggests.
If you want to learn something new, now is the time. Grab that guitar that has been collecting dust in the corner, take up a craft you did as a kid, dance around the kitchen to your favorite album, start planting seeds for the summer, dive into the book that has been sitting on your nightstand for months or binge-watch that Netflix show on your watchlist. Remember that your sense of peace and passion are just as important as your productivity.
We’re all in this together
As we navigate this new normal, changes to our routine are necessary for our health and well-being. Above all, practice patience. Understand that it’s OK to feel confused, anxious and unsure about what’s next. “You are not alone, and you are doing a great job taking care of yourself during challenging times,” Lotz says. “Hopefully, these tips will help you create a plan for managing your anxiety.”