Let’s face it – this pandemic hasn’t been easy on  anyone.  But for students who are expected to perform well in their studies while dealing with the adverse effects of extended lockdowns, it can  be a lot to handle.  Social interaction is a big part of the post-secondary experience, and yet it happens to be the one thing largely missing.  I’ve heard from many students who are worried about the impact of social isolation on their physical and mental health, thus affecting their studies.  While we still have a long road to normalcy ahead of us (if ever), there are some things students can do to mitigate the effects of isolation, and build their resiliency and mental toughness.

To help you better cope with your studies during the pandemic, I’ve outlined a few things you can do to foster communication and create a sense of community.

Create virtual study groups

One of the main concerns of virtual schooling is the lack of interpersonal communication between students that would otherwise occur on campus and in lecture halls.  A great way to create a sense of community is by creating online study groups with your fellow peers in your courses.  If you don’t feel comfortable taking the initiative, I recommend reaching out to your instructor to seek their assistance.

Additionally, another great way to connect with your peers is by joining school groups on social media platforms such as Facebook and Reddit.  Many schools have official groups that you can join in order to introduce yourself to your peers and seek information if needed.

Take breaks

In order to perform well, it’s important to take a break from your studies every once in a while.  During these breaks, make time to catch up with your family and friends, exercise, or take up a hobby.  Researchers have found that in order to increase your productivity, a break should be taken every 50 to 90 minutes.  I even recommend taking this time to get to know your fellow peers in your courses to help create the sense of community that is so central to the student experience.

Pitch clubs and other events

Another major factor that creates a campus culture is participation in school clubs, events and other activities.  If you have an idea for a virtual club or event, I encourage you to reach out to your school.  Many post-secondary institutions want to ensure their students are feeling supported at this time and they value your feedback.

Reconsider your study space

Our environment can have a big impact on our mood.  While it’s important to study in an area that’s free from distractions, consider relocating your study space if it’s making you feel too isolated.  Additionally, I recommend organizing it in a way that improves productivity and mood.  A splash of colour and some surrounding photos of your family, friends, or other interests can keep your spirits high.

Speak up if you’re in need of support

The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.  If you find your mental health is declining, I encourage you to seek support as soon as possible.  Whether it’s reaching out to your instructor, academic advisor, a family member or friend, there’s someone out there waiting to help. 

Your Student Assistance Program is another great resource for you to take advantage of.  It can be accessed anywhere in the world, 24/7, 365 days and has been specifically designed to address common issues experienced by students.  If you’d like to connect with a certified mental health counsellor to discuss your concerns, be sure to reach out to your Student Assistance Program today!