Three tips to adjust to the new normal

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As a college student, your world has changed dramatically in just a few weeks. The sudden shutdown of schools, churches and businesses resulting from COVID-19 may have left you feeling shocked or uncertain regarding what the future holds. 

Perhaps you’ve gone from eagerly anticipating the last few months of the semester—including events like Boonearoo, a senior recital or graduation—to now abruptly finding yourself at home, finishing coursework remotely without having had the opportunity to truly say goodbye to friends or professors.   

If you feel anxious about your present circumstances, you’re not alone. CNBC recently reported that more than 200 colleges and universities across the U.S. have closed in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

While this new season won’t come and go without its challenges, here are three things you can do to make the next few months a healthy and positive experience.

1. Create a self-care plan. The sudden jolt to your daily schedule can leave you feeling unsettled and edgy, making it easy to overlook the basics of what you need to do to remain healthy. 

Casey Overly, a counselor in the Trevecca Counseling Center, suggests prioritizing daily exercise, exposure to fresh air, eating healthy foods and making sure you’re getting adequate sleep (neither too little or too much). She’s also a big advocate of protecting the first ten minutes of your day each morning. While it can be tempting to immediately reach for your phone, Casey recommends designating that time as screen-free.

“Right now social media and news in general can be overwhelming,” Overly explains. “Resist the urge to immediately start your day with scrolling. Instead, grab a cup of coffee and spend a few moments meditating on Scripture or an uplifting quote. Pray and ask God to help you trust him with everything that feels so out of control and uncertain. Ask for the strength to wisely manage what you can control, including how well you’re caring for yourself. Intentionally starting off your day like this can make a big difference,” she says.   

2. Prioritize communicating with your family. If you’re living at home again, keep the lines of communication open with family members. “Don’t assume you understand everyone’s expectations,” Overly says. “Instead, be considerate of their feelings, realizing this unexpected change could be hard on everyone.” 

Ask your parents how they’d like for you to help when it comes to household responsibilities. Whether it’s unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash or keeping certain hours quiet for studying or relaxing, the daily schedule will run more smoothly if everyone in the family understands each other’s desires and expectations.   

It’s also helpful to realize that your parents are likely feeling an extra amount of stress too, Overly explains. The need to remain at home every day, monitor the news and absorb how the coronavirus could impact jobs or finances could put them on edge. Extending compassion and demonstrating a willingness to listen can strengthen family bonds and cultivate peace during this season of uncertainty. 

3. Practice gratitude. It may seem tempting to focus on all that’s wrong in the world, but determining to see the glass as half full can have a tremendous impact on your mental health, Overly says. “Just finding five things for which we can be grateful every day is a proven method to lessen anxiety.”

Make a gratitude list in a journal or in the notes of your phone. Return to that list when you need reminders of what’s good and true. Maybe even share parts of it with friends over Facetime or text. You might begin to discover how unexpected times of challenge  produce stronger souls and clearer perspectives. 

“Any time we go through something hard, it builds resilience,” Overly says, explaining how she believes this unique period in our world history can ultimately work for our good. “It will produce growth and bring families and communities closer together. When we struggle together, we can become closer.”

Learn more about the counseling resources Trevecca offers for students.