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Staying Well During COVID-19
We are experiencing a global health event and during this time, it is not uncommon for people to experience: anxiety, worry, fear and sadness; tearfulness and/or loss of interest in enjoyable activities; hopelessness, stress, or overwhelm; and difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping. These are challenging times but there are healthy ways to cope and manage our wellbeing.
The Four S’s (external link) can bring shape and meaning to days of self-isolation:
Structure: Create a regular schedule and rhythm to your days
Stimulation: Spend time engaged in purposeful work or creative pursuits, away from news and worry
Social: Nourish connection with others with a windowed visit, video chat, or online game
Significance: From afar or virtually, seek ways to support and be in service of others
With growing to-do lists and competing work, home, and caregiving demands, it can be hard to know what to do when. How can we mindfully plan and manage our time?
- Begin with the hardest tasks first when willpower, motivation and energy are highest
- If procrastination sets in, practise “the 15-minute rule” by committing to the task at hand--whether work, physical exercise, or a challenging chore--for 15 minutes, with permission to stop after they’re are up
- To help keep overwhelm at bay, chunk big tasks into smaller, manageable sub-tasks
- Keep yourself motivated by saying to yourself, “follow the plan, not your mood”; our moods fluctuate, but we can help motivation grow by achieving what we set out to do
- And, out of all that feels pressing, decide upon 1-3 things that would make the day feel accomplished and complete
- Let the first text that you send each day be one of appreciation
- At the dinner table, in a journal, or in bed before falling asleep, savour three good things that surprised, delighted, encouraged, or inspired you that day, even if small or nuanced
- Watch this TED talk on Gratitude (external link) to enhance your experience of savouring
- Connect to nature: if it feels comfortable and safe for you to spend time outside at a generous social distance, try to notice spring flowers emerging, songbirds returning, the feel of the wind on your skin, and the sensation of your body walking/moving
- Connect to others: when visiting by phone or any online tool, devote 100% of your attention to the conversation and relationship by offering deep listening and eye contact, and by avoiding multitasking
- Connect to your physical wellbeing: weave energizing and restorative movement into each and every day, for example through TMU's online RAC offerings and this Mindful Movement routine
- Connect to your inner wisdom, sense of perspective, and the larger world: try this Web of Life visualization to re-awaken a sense of interconnectedness with all life
- Connect to humanity: practise this Lovingkindness meditation to extend hope and best wishes for yourself, your loved ones, your communities, and the world
Sleep improves our immune function, ability to think clearly, solve problems, focus on the task at hand, nurture our friendships, and experience greater wellbeing; it also decreases anger, moodiness, stress, and impulsivity.
- Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- Honour your individual body clock by tuning into the cues of fatigue, noticing when you need to sleep and not pushing through or past this; if you find it difficult to hear what your body is asking for, consider incorporating in a body scan practise in your week
- Create an hour-long buffer zone before going to sleep during which you turn off news and unwind by engaging in restorative strategies like progressive muscle relaxation (external link) , deep breathing (external link) , and meditation (external link) .
Amidst all that is uncertain, what can you do today that can contribute to your thriving? What are your 5 Health Non-Negotiables that you need in order to keep well? Exercise, time in nature, nourishing sleep, connection with others, work, learning, getting lost in a book, laughing? Aim to craft your days with your non-negotiables as the pillars.
It's normal to feel stressed, anxious, upset in situations that are uncertain, so allow yourself to notice and express what you’re feeling. Try:
- Sharing how you feel with others
- Writing in a journal
- Doing something creative
During these times, having a healthy routine will have a positive impact on your mood, thoughts, and feelings. Try:
- Sticking to regular mealtimes
- Starting your day at the same time as normal
- Structuring your day so you can stay on top of your academic requirements
Take things/tasks one step or day at a time to reduce overwhelm and increase a sense of control and capacity to cope in difficult times. Try:
- Eating healthy meals and snacks
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs
Connecting with friends and family through phone calls, video chats or social media and sharing in this experience goes a long way to reduce feelings of isolation. When we talk about our thoughts and feelings, it helps us find ways to cope with stressful situations. Try:
- Maintaining your relationship with others using technology
- Share your concerns about how you are feeling with a friend or family member
- Setting up a regular group call with your friends
Increase positive, recharging, and grounding activities and habits (e.g. hobbies, self-care, reading, art making, mindfulness, etc). Regular breaks boost your productivity and mood. Try:
- Engaging in activities you enjoy
- Practice meditation
- Read a book, watch a movie or listen to your favorite music
- Making time to unwind
Use credible sources to receive information about the situation. Don't spend all your time focusing on the pandemic as continuous reading or listening to media coverage can unnecessarily intensify agitation, worry, and stress. Try:
- Checking once a day for regular updates from official sources like Toronto Public Health, Health Canada, and CBC.
- Avoid relying on social media for news - use those tools for connection, joy, and storytelling instead. news from social media
- Consider that your learning needs may be different in an online environment. Sometimes, online learning can be helpful in removing barriers to learning; however, other barriers may present themselves. Consider what your online strengths and needs are, and give yourself time to adapt and adjust your approach.
- Discover yourself as an online learner. It may be helpful to try a practice online test or activity (video, note-taking) to better understand yourself as an online learner and assess your strengths/obstacles in this setting.
- “Show up” to class: Treat online classes like an in-person class: set dedicated time each week for each online lecture. Take notes on online lecture content like you would in class, for example, and put concepts in your own words; illustrate ideas with examples.
- Manage your time: Set dedicated time aside to review lecture notes, do practice problems, create flashcards, and work on assignments. Don’t forget to schedule downtime — relaxation, exercise, and (virtual) social time. Prioritize self-care. Developing and sticking to a routine is key!
- Set Boundaries: Set boundaries - physical or otherwise - between your “study” space/time and your downtime. This can help with your routine and minimize distractions. Pro tip: avoid studying on your bed.
- Minimize distractions: Minimize distractions by using website blocking apps or focus apps (like StayFocusd, Freedom (external link) , or Forest (external link) ). This is especially important if achieving focus is a challenge for you. Communicate your needs to the people you live with.
- Participate: If online discussion groups are available, ask questions and discuss topics with your peers, TAs, and instructors.
- Test yourself: Use practice questions in your course material or use apps such as Quizlet (external link) to create your own. If you get stuck, review the lecture content and use your textbook to find possible solutions. Don’t forget to use online discussion groups and forums to get and give support.
- Consider hosting or joining an online study group. Learning from home doesn’t need to be a solitary activity. Peer to peer learning can be facilitated online through Google Hangouts.
- Use email to contact TMU staff (Faculty, Learning Support Help, Academic Advisors, Departments, etc.) Reach out when you need help! Staff and faculty can always refer you to the right person if they are not able to answer your question or provide you with the appropriate support. Keep in mind that you cannot expect immediate replies, or replies on weekends.
While some courses work well in online formats, not all courses designed for in-person delivery will shift easily into a virtual environment. We encourage you to reach out for support as we go through this transition together.
Additional resources to support your learning and wellbeing:
Checklist created by Student Learning Support; adapted from University of Toronto Mississauga Accessibility Services “Accessibility Resources for Students in Online Learning (external link) "