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Silver Linings of the COVID-19 Outbreak for Students

Monika Chhetri

April 18, 2020
Last updated July 15, 2021

It was a Friday evening, 5th day of the first lockdown when I got a message from one of my students. The message read something like this. “Ma’am, what to do in a lockdown? I am so bored to death as I have to be inside the home all day. Nothing feels good. ” After a lot of pauses, I suggested him to practice yoga and learn something he has never learned before. Out of nowhere, I suggested him to learn Spanish. He is doing well so far. Every day I get to learn something new in Spanish as he keeps sending me each and every word he learns. So, this is the story of one student out of millions of students who are psychologically disturbed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

COVID-19 which is a new coronavirus disease was declared a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020 by World Health Organization (WHO). It was stated by WHO that it has a high risk of spreading around the world. No sooner it was characterized as a pandemic by WHO in March 2020.

As much as social distancing and self-quarantine help us in preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), every one of us is mentally exhausted by 5 p.m. every day, and one of the reasons is the unconscious stress flowing through us. There is an invisible current of dread running through the world and it messes with our brain. School and college closures can displace students, disrupt their learning, and severely impact their outlook on the future. There is no doubt that quarantine produces a range of bad mental health outcomes, including anxiety, confusion, anger, depression and so on. Many students are consuming media all day as they are alone trapped between the four walls. In times of crisis like this, psychological health is like a wrestling match. The stressors are thrown at us and the matter of question is whether we are strong enough to overcome them and look at the brighter side it has brought to us. 

Taking care of our mental state is as important as taking care of our physical state. So, here are a few practical things that you can do during this lockdown to stay oneself productive and keep a sense of control to ease the coronavirus anxiety.

1. Create a morning ritual

It’s not a surprise for us that how we start our morning impacts the rest of our day. A healthy morning ritual sets the tone for the remainder of our day. Creating a decent tone for the day helps to both achieve a positive attitude and to remain intentional throughout the day. Enjoying a hydrating drink or some tea, morning meditation, exercise, yoga or eating healthy breakfast are some rituals that may benefit us. Researchers at the University of Bristol discovered that body movement for as little as even 10 minutes releases a neurotransmitter, GABA that soothes your brain and keeps a sense of control about your impulses. This is also a time where you can write down your most important tasks of the day.

2. Spend quality time along with your family and friends

Strongly occupied in our daily lives and in chasing our dreams, we struggle to squeeze some time for our family or even friends sometimes. This is a moment that calls for meaningful conversations and emotional accompaniment. Famous research by Anna Freud found that during World War II, the kids who were left in London to endure the bombings suffered less trauma than the kids sent away to the country from their families for their “safety”. She asserted that physical injury is usually not the harshest part of trauma; it’s the breakdown of relationships during and after.

You can even call your friends and catch up with them online or maybe a group call. It will help you bond and comprehend each other. All of these gestures promote proximity which eventually boosts your oxytocin, a hormone that has a calming effect on your body. When your oxytocin level spikes, they tell your body to switch off the stress hormone, cortisol.

3. Spend quality time with yourself

Are you good to yourself? How well do you know yourself? Most of the time, it’s the people around you that happen to know you better than you do yourself. And the reason is, we don’t engage ourselves in self-time. The concept of self-love and self-awareness is new. As much as it is important to spend quality time with our family, it is necessary that we find time for ourselves in exploring our likes-dislikes, strength-weakness, goals, pet peeves and so on. It’s necessary that we fully accept and love ourselves. Joyce Marter who is a Psychotherapist and the founder of Urban Balance states that enjoying life and being successful always starts with having a good relationship with yourself.

4. Grab a book

If you are one amongst the countless folks who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you would possibly be leaving yourself out of tremendous learning opportunities. Professor Davis, Director of the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature, and Society at the University of Liverpool emphasizes that reading results to greater mental flexibility – people with greater mental flexibility are more likely to look out for contemporary solutions instead of just being led by habit. Reading has other multiple significant benefits too. So, grab that book that has been there whole time which you wanted to read from an awfully very long time. Even if you don’t have a physical book present, you can download and read online. AnyBooks is one of the most-used apps. You can pick any book that interests you.

5. Declutter your room

Everyone has got a little “junk” lying around the house. According to Psychology Today and Web MD, individuals tend to feel like life is uncontrollable when they surround themselves with more things than they can manage. The mess causes stress. So, it’s the proper time to look through all the dumps that have been hiding inside your drawer or closet from a coon’s age and to disburden from that stuff. Cluttering is an energy zapper. And decluttering is a restorative process as it will help you cleanse your house and free your mind of any emotional baggage that may be associated with those items.

6. Join an online course

This lockdown is the best time to learn something new other than having quality time with your family; it could be a new skill, new language or even a new sport. Luckily, there are plenty of online courses available with a variety of subjects to make few self-improvements. The best thing about an online course is that it provides flexibility in learning. You can undergo training at your comfort, own pace and at anywhere, anytime. Popular websites like Coursera, Khan Academy, edX are few of the online learning platforms.

7. Learn household works

Household management is a skill everyone should learn. For happy home life, knowledge of home organizations, house cleaning, laundry, cooking is essential.

This is one basic skill that we all ought to do despite our gender and occupation. Also, during this lockdown, as all the maids are on leave, it will be a better idea to learn cooking or gardening while helping your parents.

8. Prepare for your exams

Many board examinations have been postponed in the country because of the ongoing corona virus outbreak. This is the high time that students get serious about preparations for various examinations and upgrade their skills to be ready for the future. Taking this time during lockdown as having extra time to prepare for pending exams and creating a fairly structured routine to work on that would be a great idea.

9. Enjoy

We are all living in an often strange, sometimes scary, and always unpredictable time. But that doesn’t mean we should stop living or we shouldn’t find joy in an era of social distancing. Laugh along with these Tiktok videos of young people making best out of a not-so-great situation or you can even create an account just like rest of the celebrities if only that interests you. Series like 'FRIENDS' or 'Big Bang Theory' and nepali old series like 'Madan Bahadur Haribahadur' gives you a good laugh along with reminiscences of old times. 

10. Share your feelings

At times like this, where you are feeling frustrated, angry or disappointed about things like not going out, seeing your friends or missing important milestones, allow yourself the time and space to grieve. If school closures and distressing headlines are making you feel anxious, we are all together in this and that’s how you’re supposed to feel. A complete normal reaction to this abnormal situation. Adolescent psychologist, bestselling author and monthly New Your Times columnist Dr. Lisa Damour states “when it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through.” Sharing one’s emotional state with the world is not for everybody, and those who feel fragile should take care of their emotions and find a way to vent it out. Amid everything that’s happening right now, utilizing your support network can be very helpful, just be sure that you can reach out to somebody who will pour you support as opposed to amplify your stress.

If self-help does not help, consider reaching out for support from a professional counselor. During these times of uncertainty, taking proactive measures can help manage your mental state. If you, or someone you care about, are experiencing overwhelming emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like wanting to harm oneself or others. Please reach out. Bearing the importance of mental health, The School of Psychology of Nepal (TSOP-Nepal) and Association of psychologists in Nepal (APN) are addressing the mental health issues resulting from the current crisis by providing virtual counseling sessions to those who need. 

These anxious and uncertain times bring unanticipated difficulties. But the peculiarity of human nature is we can rise to the challenge. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. And the world has shifted to provide you with the opportunity to thicken that lining and hold the responsibility of your mental health so that you come out of this experience stronger.

Monika Chhetri is a lecturer of Psychology at K and K International College and Kathmandu BernHardt College. She is also a roster member of Tele-Counseling at The School of Psychology Nepal.

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