For many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that time of the year again. The rain (or, soon enough, snow) is settling in, and summer is just a distant, hazy memory.
Now is a great season for getting cozy in cable knits and corduroy, and drinking lots of delicious hot beverages.
However, this time of year is also when assignments and classwork can begin to pile up, and the cooler weather and shorter days can feel extra draining. This year, of course, brings additional challenges on top of all that.
The winter of COVID-19
In a normal year, the consistent cloudiness and rain of Vancouver can get me feeling pretty gloomy. Add in all the stress associated with COVID-19, and I’m concerned my gloomy feelings will proliferate more than usual. Though I’m optimistic about life getting back to normal in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future, I know there will still be a lot of uncertainty for the next several months.
If you’re anything like me, this uncertainty, coupled with fewer opportunities to get out and do the things you love, could make it difficult to stay motivated and feel physically and mentally healthy.
In times like these, what helps me the most is often getting back to the basics—things I’ve consistently done that lift my mood and allow me to stay healthy.
It can feel challenging to focus on ourselves when there’s so much going on in the world, but if we’re not taking good care of ourselves, we’re less capable of supporting others.
So, to help you stay well this season, try out these tips:
1. Get active, eat healthily, and sleep well—no, really
Yes, I know we’ve all been told time and time again that all of our problems would magically disappear if we just got 8 hours of sleep a night, ate like Gwyneth Paltrow, and exercised all the time. Eventually, it can start to slide in one ear and out the other.
But, this year is unlike any other, so it’s a fitting time to rethink how you take care of yourself. Staying physically healthy will help give you the energy you need to make the most of the next few months!
A refresher on the essentials:
- Your ability to concentrate and retain information is way better after you get a good night’s sleep, so try to keep your sleep schedule on track.
- Exercise can boost your immune system, reduce stress, and improve your self esteem. Take a look at UBC Recreation’s guide to getting active at home!
- You are what you eat, so eat food that energizes and nourishes you. Explore what healthy eating means to you.
Some extra tips:
- Since you’ll likely be at home most of the day, try cooking new foods or stocking up on new snacks. Enjoy the fun of finding things you never thought you would like (and even of discovering what you don’t like).
- Exercise doesn’t have to be just treadmills and weights—there’s literally thousands of videos on YouTube to help you get active. Try learning the choreography from your favourite music video or following along with a yoga routine—or get retro with some old Jane Fonda workouts!
2. Stay connected
It’s been pretty hard to see our friends and loved ones as much as we’d like, but there are ways to work around that during COVID—social connection is a vital component of maintaining good mental health!
Technology can help us stay in touch with our friends and relatives, but what do you do if that doesn’t feel like enough? In-person contact can’t be replaced, but if there’s friends outside of your bubble that you miss, get creative with the ways you interact with them.
If you’re in study mode, set up times when you and a friend can work together over video calls for some company and moral support. Taking a study break? Maybe try an online game with a friend you can’t see in person (if you’re looking for a game, try out Among Us—even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is playing). I even have friends who send each other the poetry they’ve been writing and give each other feedback!
Whatever you end up doing, it’s okay to look forward to the day you’ll be able to safely get together with all your friends again, which brings me to my next tip:
3. Practice realistic optimism
A healthy dose of optimism can make a positive difference in your day-to-day life. Consider incorporating some realistic optimism into the way you think about things. This doesn’t mean you just expect that things will turn out great (nor does it mean you only await the worst).
Realistic optimism means looking at the big picture, both the good and the bad. It’s about making choices that will help things go as well as possible, and focusing on the positive.
For example, say you’re in a really difficult course. You could focus on how hard the course is and tell yourself you’ll probably do poorly no matter how much you study. OR you accept the difficulty, work hard, get help from your prof or TA, and look forward to gaining new knowledge and feeling proud of yourself for trying your best.
Additionally, while I can definitely get a little more pessimistic in the wetter, cooler months, the rain doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy ourselves. Read through these student responses to see how you can stay uplifted and find fun things to do even when the rain is falling. Maybe it’s an indoor dance party or just enjoying the pitter-patter of raindrops on your window—there’s always something to look forward to.
Remember to focus on the things that are going well, find something to be grateful for each day, and remind yourself how strong and capable you are—because it’s true!
4. Schedule some self-care
Self-care can fall by the wayside when you’re caught up with assignments, but take time for the things you love. I can get so caught up with what’s going on in my life and the world that I forget to do the things that make me feel like me—even simple things like curling up with a good book.
It’s important to take a break from it all and relax. Maybe you love painting, or watching Japanese movies, or caring for your plants! Whatever helps you get in touch with yourself is important, so make it a goal to schedule specific time in your week that’s dedicated to something relaxing. Then follow through on it—just like you would set aside time for studying or watching a lecture.
Additionally, it’s more important than ever to make it a habit to reflect on how you’re feeling—try journaling as one way to reconnect with yourself and see where you’re at with your mental and physical health.
5. Seek out help when you need it
When the skies are grey, life can start to feel a little grey, too, especially in such unpredictable times. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing a range of human emotions—life is full of highs and lows—but if these emotions are getting too challenging to handle on your own, or you’re just not feeling like yourself, consider getting help from some of UBC’s support services.
Start with the Finding health support tool on the Student Services website. UBC has a wide variety of resources to help you feel your best, and this new tool is an easy way to navigate where the best place to start is for you. Simply answer a few questions about yourself and your concerns, and you’ll be provided a list of options for support—accessible from wherever you are in the world!
Additionally, the Health and wellbeing webpage is another great resource, where you can:
- Find simple self-care tips, strategies, and resources
- Learn more about nutrition, sleep, the nature of stress, and other health-related topics
- Get info on how to reach out for help and what to expect when you do
If you’re looking for even more ways to stay on top of your health, check out UBC Thrive in November. Thrive is a month-long opportunity to learn about, talk about, and explore your own path to mental health.
Check out the Thrive calendar to stay up-to-date on virtual events and find out how you can Thrive all month long!