Taking a breather: As students adapt to a new normal, mental health becomes more of a priority than ever before.


Ava Gayowski, Reporter

“What is it like starting a new academic year during a pandemic?” “How can we keep our stress at a minimum?”

A lot of us don’t have the answer to those questions just yet, and they aren’t things that we can simply ask our parents or older siblings in hopes of receiving guidance. In fact, it’s extremely hard to balance work life and play during the week nowadays.  Luckily, I interviewed a few people, got their input, and provided a few simple easy tips for you to implement in your daily routine.

Starting a new chapter of the academic year is already challenging as it is.  For some, it’s the anxiety of going back to school, seeing people that you haven’t seen in awhile, or the anticipation of the loads of work that is headed your way.   2020 has presented itself with numerous issues regarding global health and mental health which has made it even harder to get back into the swing of things this year. Thus, putting a ton of pressure on students and teachers.  However, it is extremely important to remember that we are all human and we must step aside for a little and take a deep breath.

Lexie Fleming, an athlete and a senior here at UHS said the first week of online learning was “okay, but it was a lot of work…I was drained and super tired especially having to wake up in the morning to go straight to a call.”  Self-motivation is something that all of us can lack sometimes and having the willpower to get up early every morning to sit in front of a screen takes a lot of emotional and physical effort.  After each class, try to stretch or correct your posture so that you feel more energized and awake.

I asked students if they would recommend any activities that they do to destress to other highschool or college students.  One common recommendation was physical activity.  “Working out, going on a run, drawing, writing, painting… Anything that has to do with being creative or physical helps” says Lexie Fleming.

Former UHS student and a college freshman at Salisbury University, Luke Hartlaub says, “ I make sure to budget time during my day to do things that I enjoy that make me less stressed out.”  Budgeting in extra time for you to paint, play tennis, or do whatever it is that you like, will keep you sane and satisfied.  Don’t forget it because it’s vital especially when you’re staring at a computer all day.

We can get so consumed by the virtual world; social media, Google Meet, and Zoom have become prominent in our lives more than ever before.  It’s how we keep our connections with our friends and family along with our teachers and coaches.  It is necessary to have these virtual resources.  However, block some time out of your day to set the phone down and to tuck the computer away.  Go outside and get some fresh air, do something for someone else whether that’s sending letters, or doing a house chore.  “Movement is medicine,” says Luke Hartlaub, “Go outside or take a walk”.  Anything that gets you moving or takes your mind off of things, is a good way to start incorporating self-care into your daily routine. 

Even college students as well, have been trying to prioritize themselves during this unprecedented time. Senior Laura Gayowski, a Mathematics major at the University of Maryland says, “part of me likes online learning because I can just open my computer and do my thing.”  However, things can start to pile up making it more difficult and sometimes, more stressful.  Time management is the best way to battle this feeling.  Spreading out your work during your week can help make light of things in your life.  Although it will not completely solve the initial problem at hand, it will help to keep things running smoothly.  

With that being said, we all have days where the work just piles up and there’s no escaping.  In that case, finish the job and grind your way out of it… then reward yourself later but do not ignore how you feel.

We all know that when our final exams come, our time is devoted to studying and focusing on the task at hand but don’t forget to sleep… Seriously.  Sleep is another really important factor in taking care of your mental health.    When we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to be groggy throughout the day and more likely to be grumpy and have a negative mindset.  So, be sure to get enough sleep during your finals, your brain and body will thank you for it.

I asked Laura in an interview if she had been taking her mental health seriously and she said, “I am definitely trying to prioritize my mental health… I’ve been trying to shut my computer off at 9 every night and I’ve been trying to eat clean as well.”  When I asked her about what she does personally to help her wind down from her day she said, “I just read pride and prejudice [laughs], drink chamomile tea, and I journal.”  These are excellent self-care practices that boost mood and take the weight of the world off of your shoulders.  Find a good book to read (one that you’re genuinely interested in), and cozy up in your room or on the couch to wind down.

Take a deep breath, relax, and focus on how you feel.  Connect with family and friends safely by face-timing or social distancing. Maybe try making yourself a cup of coffee or tea, as an afternoon pick-me-up.  Taking the time to be present with yourself and to recharge is extremely important and highly underrated.  When you learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, you may feel happier than you did before and perhaps, more at ease with your situation. 

These are hard times right now, but please don’t push your mental health aside.  If you feel particularly irritable, anxious, or stressed, just remember to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.  You got this.