How College Students Can Prioritize Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak


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Mental Health

Over a matter of days, it seems almost everything has changed. Classes are being held on virtual platforms. Events and rituals — including graduation ceremonies — are being cancelled. Some colleges have strongly encouraged students to leave campus, while others have mandated it.

The general sentiment among college students is one of disbelief, disappointment, and sadness. While I understand and strongly agree with the social distancing measures being implemented, it doesn’t make the transition any easier. No one was expecting this, and it’s more important now than ever before to make sure we stay connected, supported, and mentally well.

Moving Back Home

If you have a stressful home life, you are not alone. After adjusting to life on campus, home is not an ideal situation for many students, and being stripped of your choice to live elsewhere can be devastating. Dr. Amy Cirbus reminds us that this is an adjustment period for both you and your family, so try to be patient. She adds, “give yourself permission, and your family permission, to make mistakes. Try again tomorrow and do the best you can.”

  • Set boundaries
    Let your family know your online class schedule and when you’ll be engaging in schoolwork. To the best of your ability, find private, quiet places in your home to be alone. You can also set boundaries around what topics you will and will not talk about with your family, and choose not to engage if they try to bring up certain topics that are uncomfortable or triggering.
  • Stay connected to your friends
    Your family doesn’t have to be your only social interaction each day. Stay in touch with friends through texting, phone calls, and video chat, and allow them to support you. While we may not have all the answers about what happens next, verbalizing our concerns with others can help ease the strain.
  • Go on walks
    Though social distancing is critical and many public spaces are closing as a preventative measure, you can (and should) go on walks if that’s a viable option in your area and you are feeling physically able. Use these walks as an opportunity to get fresh air and some space from your family.

Feel Your Feelings

During this challenging time, allow yourself to process your feelings. Talk about it, journal, and sit with your emotions. We are grieving the loss of an important period of time in our lives that we will never get back — and we are allowed to feel sad about it.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

In the midst of this crisis, it is just as important to take care of our mental health as it is our physical health. In addition to staying connected to friends and safely exercising, here are some other tips to prioritize your mental wellness:

  • Limit your news intake
    The constant influx of news notifications takes a toll on our mental health and energy levels. Stay informed, but take intentional breaks from consuming news, and consider only reading/watching a few trusted sources.
  • Have a routine
    Many college students have relatively little structure to their days to begin with, as compared to school-age children or working professionals. Now, even the minimal structure of being on-campus is disappearing. Make routines for yourself, even if it’s just a few small things, like making your bed every morning or eating lunch at the same time everyday.
  • Move your body
    Even without access to a gym, it’s important to engage in exercise for both our physical and mental health. Walk, run, bike, or use at-home video workouts.


College was already a time when it felt like so much is changing everyday. In the midst of change on a massive scale, let’s continue to look out for each other and prioritize our well-being.

Staying Healthy

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