Throughout college, I have battled with my mental health. I discovered how much it could take a toll on the body during my first years of college. When students first start college, our bodies are adjusting to an entire new lifestyle. According to the American Psychological Association, "anxiety is the top presenting concern...", reaching 41.6 percent amongst college students. We are trying to understand how to live independently, how to eat right, how to find our "people", all the while, battling who we will be when we will grow up. Now, college students across the country are forced to curl back into our adolescent years and live home. House rules that we heard back in high school are reinforced and our lack of motivation has now made our days blend together. In The New York Times, journalist Dan Levin, writes on how "college students across the country have had to adapt to online classes, social isolation and fears of infection". In the most vulnerable stages of our lives, we're now put at a standstill. Although we can treat quarantine as a mini-vacation and drink our sorrows away, there's a point where we must recenter and focus on our mental health. In my quarantine, these have been the 10 tips that have given me sanity, forgiveness, motivation, and hope that our world will eventually come back together again. 

1. Sunlight 

Now, we are fearing the great outdoors. In times like these, we may be risking our mental health by staying indoors, in hopes to lower the risk of getting sick. However, especially when I am feeling anxious, I have found it extremely helpful to get fresh airDaniel González Maglio, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and researcher in the growing field of photo-immunology, says that "there is now limited but convincing evidence that moderate sunlight exposure is capable of modulating the immune system and improving health". Unfortunately I am up in Syracuse, so the occasion that sunlight shows face is very rare. However, on the days that it does, I make sure to step outside for Vitamin D. Sunlight has multiple benefits including elevation of mood, improving the quality of sleep, lowering high blood pressure, improving brain function, and strengthening the body's innate defenses against a variety of pathogens. Too little Vitamin D can weaken our body's ability to fight off infections. Although our biggest fear may be stepping outside, mindful walks at a social distance may be just what we need to get through this difficult time.

2. Taking a break from the media 

Although we want to be informed, hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting (especially when the headlines aren't optimistic). I make a goal to check the headlines once a day. This is enough for me to be informed yet still have a clear headspace to continue on with my daily routines. Joseph McGuire, P.h.D., M.A., a child psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, “while keeping informed about current events is important, too much attention can cause problems”. A helpful reminder to myself has been to disconnect in order to make room for the positive. 

3. Taking care of the body 

As a workout-fanatic, I have been going crazy without my gym. In the beginning of my quarantine, I felt less motivated to go on runs without a treadmill and an audience (the way I get going is a group setting). Thankfully, the Peloton app and Chloe Ting have saved me from my laziness. Now, I look forward to workouts that allow instructors to motivate me in my ear. It's difficult to motivate ourselves when we don't know the next time we'll be showing off our bodies. However, now's the time to try exercises you never thought you had time for. Now is the time to make room for more home-cooked meals. We can finally take note of our bad (and good) habits and work on what could be improved. If we're craving something sweet, we have the free time to now bake more nutritious, healthy alternatives. Meditation, a balanced diet, exercise, and plenty of sleep is one step to a happier self (and one less thing we can get anxious about). 

4. Making time to unwind 

Although we should stick to our daily routines, trying new activities have definitely made my quarantine more bearable. Meditative hobbies such as puzzles, embroidery, knitting, coloring, and tie dying have helped tremendously in the afternoons where I find myself twiddling my thumbs. Amanda Gregorio, a soon-to-be graduate at SU, has started embroidery in hopes to make use of her free-time. "I started to embroider because I went to Michael's with my mom and she suggested it as a craft I should start doing because it is pretty easy and is relaxing. It takes a while to finish up a design...therefore it has been taking up a lot of my [free-]time in quarantine when [now] all we have is time" Amanda exclaims. Once I completed my first 1000-piece 'quarantine' puzzle, I relished in my achievement and felt a big smile on my face. These simple activities not only have calmed me down but have distracted me from what is going on in the world. 

5. Connecting with others 

Although we should be social distancing, virtually checking in with friends and family is crucial. Luckily, we can use technology to our advantage. Zoom happy hours, zoom family dinners, or FaceTime walks are simple efforts that will alleviate any stress or loneliness. This is one step to ensuring that you are there for your loved ones, while your loved ones are there for you. Find a friend you can confide in and share your thoughts and feelings. This pandemic has truly shown which friends and family I can open up to without judgement. If someone opens up to you, remember that you do not need to fix things or necessarily offer advice. This is a time of openness, communication, and understanding. 

6. Talking about something else 

It is crucial that during our conversations we talk about  something else other than the pandemic. Just like we must take a break from the media, we should encourage each other to talk about non-coronavirus chat in order to tune out what's happening. In New York Times' "Conversation Starters that Have Nothing To Do with the Corona Virus", Sanam Yar suggests we "steer the conversation back to the person and how he or she is adapting to this new normal". By asking what hobbies they may have started, what new recipes they have discovered, or how remote-work is going, we can easily frame the conversation to be more about day-to-day life, rather than the most recent pandemic-related news. My go-to conversation topics have been tv shows/movies, healthy baking recipes, and Gigi Hadid's pregnancy. 

7. Keeping up with routine

According to Eric Littwiler, a Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas spokesman, we should "try to hold on to those pieces of your routine that you're able to". In the beginning of my quarantine, I felt trapped without my normal travel to the gym. However, once I found ways to work out at home, I found an alternate routine that made me feel more accustomed and relaxed in the environment I'm in. Other routine ideas are sticking to a daily lunch break that you normally would do at work. Make sure to break up your work space from your free-play space at home in order to keep your lunch breaks relaxed. 

8. Keeping a quarantine journal 

What has helped tremendously is writing down my thoughts and feelings during this worrisome time. Not only is it alleviating any stress and tension, but it is making me look forward to having a journal that I can look back on when I am older. Even on the days that I haven't done much at home, I make sure to write down what I did and how I'm feeling on that particular day. According to Connecticut College's research, "journaling is an exercise often used as a means of pursuing mental health and well-being".  Simple journal prompts, suggested by Connecticut College, can include "What has changed in your day-to-day life?", "Which changes have caused the greatest imposition(s)?", and "Which changes have led to the most distress?". I also make sure to stick to happy topics as well. In order to lighten the mood, I have created a list of things I look forward to once we are no longer quarantining. When I really can't think of anything to write about, I simply making a list of things that make me happy. Journaling has tremendously helped with my anxiety and a way I find helpful to cope with my feelings. 

9. Staying educated and motivated

As my school work is dwindling down to its very last final, I have found my afternoons completely empty of any task. How can we stay motivated? How can we stay educated? I have found this free-time to complete the tasks that have always been in the back of my mind. Throughout my college career, I have made a goal to become certified in Excel. Thankfully, I have the virtual resources to do so. Luckily, I have additional time to work on my favorite hobby--writing for Spoon. By making myself a checklist of things I want to get done, I get a feeling of motivation -- a feeling that I have missed now that I am back at home. Simple activities to keep us motivated have been reading a book, completing a daily Sudoko or crossword puzzle, or taking on the extra credit for your statistics class that you have never found the time to complete. 

10. Forgiveness

Yesterday, I was exhausted. I woke up, skipped out on my normal Peloton workout, ate a more fattening breakfast than I normally would prefer, and ran slower on my morning run. I found my energy was lacking and felt zero motivation to be productive. Soon after my run, I felt myself getting back into sweatpants and into bed (I ended up watching Easy A and lights were out by 10pm). On days like these, it is crucial we forgive ourselves. In the free-time we now have, we may be overestimating our ability to simply "get in shape", "eat healthier", and "finish that book". These goals are intimidating and are, frankly, not realistic considering the time we are going through. Although we should encourage ourselves to get going and be productive, we must also admit to our feelings. This is an unprecedented pandemic. Take each day as it comes and forgive yourself if you couldn't get as much done as you'd hoped. We will all get there eventually. 

Finally, some loving words...

As I look at empty city streets and my empty campus, it's hard to find myself thinking positive. A quote that I have held onto from ThisIsGlamorous : "When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadiums, the empty train platforms, don't say to yourself, 'It looks like the end of the world'. What you're seeing is love in action. What you're seeing, in that negative space, is how much we do care for each other, for our grandparents, for the immuno-compromised brothers and sisters, for people we will never meet". 

****Be honest with yourself and seek help when needed: "If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or 911, visit the Disaster Distress Helpline (or call 1-800-985-5990/text TalkWithUs to 66746), or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline (or call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224)"