student health

5 Rules to Live By for Students Struggling During the Pandemic

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Let's take a deep breath and count to 60 with mental health expert Lindsey Paoli

By   Lindsey Paoli | @lindsey_paoli

Meet therapist, coach and founder of Fundamental Health Lindsey Paoli, MFT-Intern.

Answering Your Questions

“Lindsey, can you talk a bit about mental health as a student right now? I go to UNLV, and a lot of us are really having a difficult time doing our schooling under current pandemic conditions.”

Man, we were all so hopeful to leave these COVID-19-related changes in 2020, weren’t we? But here we are, nearly a quarter of the way through 2021 and still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. It has been exhausting, I know. 

Meantime, it could be argued that students have been hit the hardest, with many of them missing milestones and rites of passages of late adolescence and enduring what is already a tough transition under much harder and far more confusing circumstances. I truly feel for any student who has endured this last year because it has not been easy. 

The good news, though, is that now we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Nevada opens vaccines to anyone ages 16 and older as of April 5, taking us that much closer to the 70 percent rate of vaccination that is being touted as necessary to create the effect of herd immunity that will ease COVID-19 restrictions. Though restrictions lifting might not mean that we will ever get back to the pre-pandemic “normal” exactly, it can provide some relief to feel like we’re counting down to the end.  

But that’s enough talk about things that we can’t control. Students are not in charge of monitoring vaccine effectiveness or writing safety regulations for the population because our government is. Which brings us to the following: 

Rule 1: Find What You Can Control

The less time you focus on the things out of your control, the more time and energy you have to focus on the ones in your control. You did not get to choose these circumstances, but you can choose your response to them. This is not to say that you should apply toxic positivity and smile your way through and completely ignore how difficult the circumstances have been. Instead, be sure to remain ultra-focused on you.  See this as an opportunity that you are being forced to learn self-care that many are learning for the first time now in their 30s and 40s. 

This is a great time to start applying the MIND Fundamentals to your daily health routine, ensuring that you’re practicing Movement, Intention, Nourishment and Deep Connections every single day. Also be sure to get outside daily and drink enough water. While chaos swirls around you, your ability to control these small things will have a resounding effect on how you feel. 

Rule 2: Feel Your Feelings

The last year has been a great opportunity to buck the broken “Suck It Up, Buttercup” system in which we were raised. (Did you know immunity can be impacted by repressing emotion?! We’ll talk more about that in another MINDful Minute.) There are lots of emotions hitting the surface at this time: fear, doubt, anger, etc. Ride those emotions, allow them to play out. Notice how they feel in your body. Hit a pillow, throw a plate, cry—do whatever naturally arises to release them. The more you stay present and connected with the emotion as it arises, the sooner you will notice it dissipate.  

Rule 3: Stay Connected

Even though Deep Connections is a Fundamental, I can’t emphasize enough the need to remain connected during this time. Resist the urge to isolate, as studies show over and over that a common denominator as a main contributor to poor mental health is isolation and loneliness. Because virtual schooling is removing many of our everyday interactions, and even mask-wearing impacts the passing connection you might experience running errands, putting extra effort into fostering and maintaining relationships however you can is of the utmost importance.

And while we’re at it, now is not the time to fake small talk.  There’s a lot going on, and we are all experiencing it collectively. Talk about the real stuff—maybe some of these feelings that are coming up for you. Your friends will be grateful for the outlet, too. 

Rule 4: Give Yourself a Break

Although you may have heard that you need to adjust to “the new normal,” allow me to validate for you that this is not normal. You are in the midst of surviving a global crisis. Entire countries, governments and infrastructures with far more life experience than you are still struggling, so of course this feels difficult for you. This is difficult.

The same life rules do not apply during crises of this nature even if you feel like everyone around you is pretending that they do. Practice self-compassion. Your expectations to learn to adjust, get perfect grades, have a thriving social life, be your fittest and feel your best are simply too high right now.  Allow yourself to just get by if that’s where you’re at because … 

Rule 5: This, Too, Shall Pass …

Nothing is ever permanent. Life is simply a series of ups and downs, and even though this entire sh*t show of a year feels like it will impact your whole life, this will eventually just be a period of time that we all look back on like “Wow … that sucked. I’m sure glad that’s over.” Kinda like high school.  

Read: MINDful Minute: Learn How Mental Health and Digestion Are Linked

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