Five Tips for Students During the Coronavirus Self-Quarantine

COVID-19 forced the closure of the university's physical doors, but classes continue and the new normal for our semester is anything but. Assistant Professor Uma Chandrika Millner, a mental health professional, and her research assistants at Mental Health, Identity, and Adaptability Research Lab share five ways to make studying from home work for you.

None of us were prepared to stay in and work remotely. This. Has. Been. Hard! For some of us, it is isolating. For others, overwhelming. And for some, it triggers worries of the future. We've all been affected directly or indirectly. So, how do we get through this global pandemic and the impact on our daily lives?

The best way, sometimes, is to focus on the now. At this point, the "now" might mean that you need to get through this semester. If you have not done these already, here are some tips for you.

1. Develop a routine.

The key to your academic success begins with forming a routine. That can be hard if you are shouldering various responsibilities. Here are some suggestions, but you should decide what would work best for you.  

  1. Get up at a regular time each morning. Set a positive intention for your day. Get dressed as if it were a regular school day. (You can still stay in your flip flops, though.)  

  2. Structure your academic time to complete your readings, focus on assignments, and connect with your classmates for that nerve-wracking group presentation.  

  3. Build in some outdoor time, if possible. Of course, those of us in New England are still dreaming of the sun.

  4. Go to sleep at a regular time. Your body needs time to adjust to your new routine and schedule. Consistency is your friend. Over time, you will see improvements in your motivation, focus, and concentration.  

2. Focus on organizing.

With chaos all around, organizing your schoolwork can help set your routine and create structure. Organize the spaces where you do your schoolwork. Keep a calendar and write everything in it, such as due dates and reminders.

Check your calendar daily. At the beginning of each week, identify your short-term (due by the end of the week) and long-term goals (due in two to three weeks). Put class materials in folders and separate the folders for each class. Make a daily to-do list.

If you feel anxious, scared, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, or unmotivated, you are not alone. You are a valued member of the Lesley community and we are here for you.
Uma Chandrika Millner, Assistant Professor of Psychology

3. Maintain your relationships.

Even though it’s called social distancing, the six-foot rule is actually about physical distancing. It doesn’t mean you can’t be social. If you feel anxious, scared, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, or unmotivated, you're not alone. You also don't need to be alone with such feelings. You are a valued member of the Lesley community and we are here for you.

Here are some ways you can stay up to date on your schoolwork and not feel isolated.

  • Connect with your classmates for accountability. For example, you could form virtual study groups with your friends.
  • Ask your professors and advisors for help. They are interested in your learning and invested in your success. If you are directly affected by the pandemic, let your advisors know so they can help you through this process.
  • Find something fun to do with the people you live with. Carving out time for fun will balance out the times that you get irritable with them, and vice versa. Take some time with those relationships that feel nourishing to your spirit and your soul. 
Connect with others, connect with yourself. Breathe in, breath out. You've got this!
Uma Chandrika Millner, Assistant Professor of Psychology

4. Break down work into smaller chunks.

Don’t try to do all your schoolwork in one day. You are in a marathon until the end of the semester, not a sprint. Pace yourself, cut yourself some slack, and reward your efforts. For example, you could give yourself some videogame time after completing the first part of your assignment.

Focus on the most immediate, short-term goals. In terms of your mental health, take it one day at a time. Or, maybe even an hour or a minute at a time, especially if your life has been upended or if you or your loved ones are sick.

If it matters to you, take social media in small doses. Set rules around how much and what kind of information you are taking in and from whom. Give yourself time to digest the news. 

5. Parasympathize yourself.

These are stressful times. You have had to make major adjustments quickly. That means your sympathetic nervous system—your body’s fight-or-flight response—has been in overdrive.

Now that the initial flurry of activities has begun to settle, give your parasympathetic nervous system—your body’s relaxation response—a chance to kick in. Your body’s relaxation response gives your body time to build immunity against viruses. It also gives you energy for the next phase of this challenge.

  • Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can, given the circumstances.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Enjoy those random spurts of joy and uncontrollable laughter.
  • Nourish your body, mind, and soul. Exercise, eat mindfully, and stretch. Sleep well, hydrate, and nourish yourself. Listen to music, do art, take a walk in nature. Watch a YouTube video on how to do something you've always wanted to learn.
  • Connect with others, and with yourself. Breathe in, breath out. You've got this.

About Uma Chandrika Millner

Uma Chandrika Millner is a licensed psychologist and an assistant professor of psychology within Lesley's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Uma also leads a research team at Mental Health, Identity, and Adaptability Research Lab, an organization that focuses on the intersection of careers and mental health.