Welcome to our special section, Thrive Global on Campus, devoted to covering student mental health, well-being, and redefining success from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Let me start by stating the obvious: This sucks.
Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be devastated with an extended spring break. But, now, after finally coming to terms with the heartbreaking reality of online school for the rest of the year, isolated from my friends, I realize I would do anything to sit through an hour-long biology lecture or study anxiously in the library with my peers for an upcoming test.
The coronavirus has evidently and understandably taken a toll on the nation, and a natural response to such a stark, disruptive change can take the form of despondency. Having studied mental health and mindfulness, I know it’s easy to sulk in our losses, setbacks, and misfortune. But, at the same time, immediate capitulation won’t do any of us any good.
So… let’s look for the positives.
I have food, water, and shelter. My family is together and safe. I can communicate constantly with my friends. And, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. Surprisingly, quarantine presents an opportunity in the form of time. While practicing “social distancing” in our own homes, we open up hours and hours every day to do those things previously pushed aside due to an alleged lack of time. Now, I can finally finish Jean Hanff Korelitz’s Admission and complete that jigsaw puzzle I started back in January.
If you could use inspiration for how to stay positive during your quarantine, here are a few examples of how I will be spending my days. Hopefully, after reading this, you can create your own list of uplifting activities and goals for quarantine.
1. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude is powerful. And, the best part: it’s easy and free! As Nataly Kogan, best-selling author of Happier Now, expresses, “One of the best ways to retrain our brain to find joy in the present is by practicing gratitude.” Be grateful for where you are and what you have. If it’s easier, write what you’re grateful for down in a notebook. Since January, I’ve written down three things I’m grateful for every day, and looking back through that notebook always brings a smile to my face.
Especially for all you high-schoolers out there, I know it’s easy to blame your lack of independent reading on homework, tests, and other school-related activities. Well, here’s your chance to prove to your parents that it’s not that you didn’t want to read but rather that you didn’t have the time! If you need some suggestions, I just read both Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance and Tara Westover’s Educated and I’d highly recommend both.
Your local gym’s closing is not an excuse to stop working out. There are plenty of at-home, on-your-own workout regimens on the Internet, for all levels of gym enthusiasts. Exercise has proven to reduce stress in all aspects of life, so why not take this time to make good use of that dusty elliptical that’s been sitting in the basement for the last three years? Moreover, workout instructors are beginning to teach virtual classes as well! Just a few days ago, my family took a virtual Pilates class with our favorite instructor, allowing us to reduce stress, get a good laugh, and release some endorphins, all in less than an hour!
High school doesn’t typically teach to your specific interests or passions. Now’s your opportunity to explore further your academic (or leisure) interests. Whether your passion is quantum mechanics or cosmetology, or you simply want to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube, the Internet has accessible and free-to-affordable resources that can (and should) be used during quarantine. Check out Coursera and Udemy for more information on how to sign up for a class. I just took a free Coursera class on social entrepreneurship and finished it in five days!
Without homework, athletics, and other extracurriculars taking up your nights, there is no excuse for not getting enough sleep. Studies have shown that better nights of sleep increase productivity and overall wellness, and, with nothing preventing you from going to sleep early or waking up late, why not take this opportunity to catch up on some zzz’s?
Quarantine is certainly not ideal and quite frankly, it sucks! But, as teenagers, it does present us with a wide variety of opportunities. While I do miss my friends, I confess that I enjoy having time to revisit Monopoly, Scattergories, Rummikub, and all the other games that have been collecting dust at the bottom of my closet. So, stop moping around, take these five suggestions, and start turning some of these lemons into lemonade.
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