Journaling

 Journaling is a great way for one to get all of their thoughts out, both good and bad.

Within a week of school reopening, JMU students were asked to return home because of the increasing COVID-19 cases. Since students may be overwhelmed by the quick turnaround, here are some tips on how to keep a positive attitude and stay mentally stable.

Try to get some sleep

Although students have schoolwork to focus on, it’s important to keep a well-rounded sleep schedule. According to the Sleep Foundation, young adults are supposed to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. It also states that people should give themselves approximately 30 minutes to relax and clear one’s mind before going to sleep. One should avoid using their phone or computer during those 30 minutes because the lighting will alert one’s brain when it’s supposed to be calming down.

Add healthy options to one’s diet and exercise

Eating healthy and exercising is a common tip for people who want to stay positive. The nutrients in healthy foods help keep one’s body functioning properly, strengthen muscles and improve a person’s immune system. If one gets hungry during an online lecture, it’d be a smart idea to choose a piece of fruit over a bag of chips. Exercising also helps because it gets one moving after sitting at one’s desk and is a good way to clear one’s mind. Exercise could be walking in a neighborhood, designing a personal workout routine or finding a video online to help one stay active.

Spend some time outdoors

A large part of one’s college experience is being able to sit outside in between classes. Although some people are too far from campus, students can sit in their backyard as an alternative. One can do homework outside, attend an online lecture from one’s porch or simply lay on a blanket to relax. There are also health benefits to being outside. According to Business Insider, spending time outside can help people’s short-term memory, decrease depression, lower one’s blood pressure and more. 

Or, go for a walk or run. The body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after a workout, which is why exercise is a great antidote for stress, anxiety and depression. To get the most benefit, a workout should be at least 30 minutes and should be outdoors. Walking around in nature is also a great way to relax and relieve stress. 

Write in a journal

Writing is a productive tool to use as a way to assist one’s mental health. If there’s something bothering a person and they don’t want people to know, writing it down can be the equivalent of talking. A journal may be used in multiple ways. A good entry to complete in a journal — especially now — is to write one thing a person is grateful for and why each day. Journaling is a great way for one to get all of their thoughts out, both good and bad. If one doesn’t feel comfortable talking about how they’re feeling with someone, writing down their feelings is a good way to let everything out so it’s not all built up. 

Avoid drinking alcohol

Alcoholic beverages may have a negative effect on a person’s mental stability. People may drink to feel the “buzz” of being intoxicated, but the feeling doesn’t last long, which could lead to depression and more alcohol intake. It can also be damaging to one’s brain.

Organize schoolwork

Since students are back at school, it’s time to get back into studying habits. If someone’s desk has papers and notebooks scattered everywhere, they might feel more stressed out because of the mess. It may be helpful to organize one’s schoolwork in folders, bins or piles by class to make everything accessible. This way, a student can go to a folder and find anything they need for an upcoming lecture.

Spend time with family

Since people have returned home, it might be fun to do things as a family. Most families have some type of activity they enjoy, so now would be a good time to do that. Spending time with people one loves is a way to think about other things. Families can play a board or card game, watch a movie or cook dinner together.

Being around loved ones can easily boost one’s morale. Surrounding oneself with family and friends can remind one that there are people who care and people who want to help. Loved ones can remind one that they’re loved and that they’re not alone in this life. It’s also comforting to tell family about one’s thoughts and feelings. 

Keep in touch with other Dukes

One of the hardest parts of returning home is having to leave friends. Although many went home, there are plenty of ways to reach out to friends and still stay safe. If one has a friend or two in the same class, plan a weekly study session through Zoom. For those who want to check up on each other, send a text. If one’s supposed to be in a dorm, create a group chat for the entire floor so everyone can introduce themselves. By doing this, it helps people see and speak to others, which can be important to do when one feels isolated.

Take some time to relax

After sitting through an online lecture and working on assignments, schoolwork can begin to take the energy out of a student. If one’s getting to the point of feeling extreme stress, they should close their books and do something else for a little bit. If they want to stay on their computer, one can watch YouTube or stream an episode of their favorite show. For those who want to get away from the computer, one can read a book or listen to music. Relaxing for even a small amount of time can make a big difference, so make sure to have a small window of time each day to step away from schoolwork.

Do something nice for someone

Doing something nice for someone not only benefits the person receiving the action but also the person doing the nice thing. Doing something nice makes one feel better about themselves and boosts the mood of someone else. Being kind and spreading that kindness is a great self-esteem booster. 

Participate in an activity that brings joy 

Even though it feels like there’s nothing to do right now, one can still do what brings them joy. This can be anything from a hobby to work to simply watching TV. Doing something enjoyable brings joy to one's life and allows them to get out of the boring cycle of everyday life for a little bit. 

A large amount of JMU students are distressed about these abrupt changes, but there are still ways to stay positive and keep their mental health stable.

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu and Morgan Vuknic at vuknicma@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the news and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.