Photo: Self Care; provided by Pixabay

Dear student who feels like they need to have their life in order for the start of the 2020 school year: please remember that no student is thriving right now. How can they be?

Even if Instagram or any kind of social media tries to convince you otherwise, it would serve you well to remember that every, and I mean every, university student has experienced an unpleasant disruption of their regular student life.

The entire world is in a state of chaos, and we students are soldiering on, trying to complete our studies to the best of our abilities despite current and troubling affairs.

You are not behind, dearest student, even if your friends took multiple courses this summer or wrote their second novel during the quarantine. We are all coping with the pandemic in various ways, and for every student that looks slightly different.

Some students are throwing themselves into their schoolwork and overloading their schedules (guilty as charged) and some students are taking fewer courses than normal.

Some students are exercising as often as they can, and some students are ordering weighted blankets off of Amazon and investing in candles and facemasks. There are those who are baking banana bread and reorganizing their spice cabinets, and those who find it difficult to turn off their phone and get out of bed and do simple tasks like combing hair or brushing teeth.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has collectively impacted students’ mental health, in some shape, way, or form. However, with the upcoming online semester, it is imperative that students make their mental health a priority, no matter how tempting it is to put it on the back burner and focus all of their energy into anything else.

One effective way students can take care of themselves is to unpack their stresses and talk to somebody else about their burdens. During the Summer 2020 exam week, I found myself overwhelmed with the weight of the pressure of online exams. The Here2Talk online resource was incredibly helpful to me. I downloaded the Here2Talk app and was quickly connected to a counselor in a live text-message like format, and was able to discuss my feelings with a certified counselor in a safe and protected manner from the comfort of my couch.

Talking to somebody else, like a counselor, should not be stigmatized. While studying at home, this can be as easy as downloading an app on your phone. It’s also very helpful considering that the service is free for all students and at the tips of our fingertips. I recommend that any student struggling during this period of online learning make use of the mental health resources that the University provides for students.

Self-care looks different for everybody, but it is important that students attend to their mental health needs in general, but especially during this pandemic. I would recommend making time to get out of your at-home study space, and incorporate fresh air into your day, whether it be a walk around the block or a drive with the windows down. Try to eat nourishing meals and reduce your caffeine intake, and try not to stay up all night working on homework or refreshing upsetting news sources.

Remember to be kinder to yourself, student, because you are doing the best that you can. Earning a degree is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Trying to excel at everything during a pandemic is admirable, but not achievable or sustainable. Just do the best that you can, and be proud of yourself for every achievement, big or small.

It can be easy to lose sight of mental health when the pressures of school or work are overwhelming. Reward yourself often, exhausted student, and try to meditate on what is most important in life—I’ll give you a hint—it likely isn’t your grades or exam scores.

Coping with the realities of being a student during a global pandemic is a unique process for everybody. Don’t feel like you need to compare your progress to any other students. We are all experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and are adjusting day-by-day.

I can assure you that under this global pandemic, upsetting political climate, and the transition to online learning, no student is truly ‘living their best life.’ Take care of yourself and make your mental health a top priority this semester.