Isolating because of COVID is bad enough as it is — but doing it when you’ve very recently moved away to university is even more challenging.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in so many previously unimaginable ways. Social contact has been all but eradicated, the pleasures that make life worth living pushed aside and our hopes and dreams put into question.
That all sounds bleak, but it’s crucial to remain positive — especially in an isolation situation where anxiety can strike.
If you’re one of the many students in the UK currently isolating because of COVID symptoms or contact with someone experiencing them, we’ve put together this guide to help you quell your anxiety throughout this tough period, whether it’s a new feeling or something you’ve dealt with before.
Start an isolation calendar and diary
One of the best ways to deal with the stress of university life and balance it with the anxiety of COVID isolation is to establish a routine.
Routines can help set the world right in your mind. A daily checklist of tasks or something more internal can help give days in isolation more structure and subvert distressing thoughts.
This kind of schedule can also give you a greater sense of control over your life.
Anxiety can so often make you feel you’re not in the driver’s seat of your own journey, and that even the slightest change could send you wildly off course. A simple two-week calendar full of things to do around your accommodation (between plenty of rest of course) can have a hugely positive impact on your outlook.
While certainly not for everyone, keeping a diary can help put everything in perspective. We recommend using mood tracker and simple student diary apps to give these weeks in isolation more structure and achieve little micro goals.
Put your personal health first
Of course, you shouldn’t be putting yourself under too much pressure to get up and do things. Whether you’ve tested positive or you’re isolating as a precaution, it’s important to take your health seriously.
Even when isolating, make sure to follow the guidelines to avoid catching COVID in your shared living environment:
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Do not touch your face (particularly your eyes, nose and mouth) if your hands are not clean
- Sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, not your hands
Likewise, as a reminder, the symptoms of COVID are:
- A continuous cough
- A high temperature (can be checked with a thermometer or if you feel hot to touch on your back or chest)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
If you feel up to it, try and do some simple exercises and eat healthily while in isolation. Giving your body the treatment and sustenance it needs is one of the best ways to combat mental health concerns such as anxiety. Health and physical concerns are often linked to mental health conditions.
Finally, if you are on any medication for your anxiety, now is not the time to reassess your dosage or throw caution to the wind. We understand the temptation to treat isolation (especially at university) as an excuse to get drunk for two weeks, but you really need to be cautious of mixing common anxiety meds with booze, which can lead to numerous negative side effects. Be kind to your body in these trying times.
Find happy distractions
If you’re feeling low in isolation, it’s important to find things that lift your spirits and give you a positive distraction.
University life isn’t all about deadlines and reading lists — especially when you’re trying to balance it with the dread and pressures of COVID and your own mental health.
Make sure you’re giving yourself time to switch off. Isolation shouldn’t be an excuse to get your head into books or get a head start on your next essay. If you feel like that, great, but if you don’t, it’s okay to spend a day binging Netflix or reading for fun.
Avoid less positive distractions though. It might not be best to expose yourself to the news when you’re feeling anxious, and a simple scroll through Twitter or Instagram can at best give you FOMO, and at worst make you feel much more negative about the state of the world.
Make sure you keep in contact with people too. Yes, we all got tired of Zoom calls and quizzes pretty soon, but an old-fashioned phone call with a loved one can help things feel less stressful and be a comfort blanket students don’t take advantage of enough. If you need someone with more expert knowledge to talk to, services such as Kooth Students offer direct conversations with counselors once a week for students.
Be kind to yourself
Perhaps most importantly, isolation is not the time to start beating yourself up about things.
It might sound obvious in an article about managing anxiety, but it’s never been more important to try and cultivate a positive mindset and give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t punish yourself for being in isolation or start to worry you’re missing out. Many students are in the same situation as you and there will be a time where you can enjoy a more conventional (and more fun) student life.
Eventually, this will all be over. You need to tell yourself that isolation is a necessary process and you’re part of the solution by doing this.
Follow these tips and be careful to never forget just why you’re isolating. You’re doing so to protect those around you and avoid exposing the virus to vulnerable people. Anxiety can feel all encompassing, and in a tiny student room it’s hard to find an escape, but there will be one soon.
If you need any more tips on dealing with stress and anxiety at this time, we’ve compiled a list of seven helpful resources that can help you deal with COVID anxiety here.