Healthy Habits: A Covid-Era Beginners’ Guide

Let’s be honest with ourselves right now. Has the school year been going as you planned? Do you find studying a laborious and dreaded task? Is the thought of COVID overwhelming and scary? This year, our worlds have been flipped upside down and we are supposed to go on as normal, however this is unfair to ask of us. It feels overwhelming, and even I am still learning how to deal with the new circumstances, but for now I have compiled a list of tips and healthy habits to develop that might help you do your best when circumstances are the worst. 

In a rush? Skip to the bolded words for major points.

  1. Practicing covid preventative safety measures

By now we probably know the standards: Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask. They’ve been drilled into our brains verbatim, but they are emphasized so much for a reason. You might be sick of hearing it, but try to wash your hands as often as possible, always wear your mask for the protection of others, and be 6 feet (or 2 cows!) from others. School Nurse Mrs. Rose also emphasized staying home when you are sick: “There is no ‘you’re fine’ even with a mild illness, because we just don’t know. When we weren’t in the era of COVID, it was fine, but not anymore.” Remember to always take your Magnus Health test before coming to school. 

Everyone knows how masks can be frustrating to wear, whether when talking to someone and not being able to hear them, or simply having trouble breathing. Mrs. Rose explained: “Masks protect the other person, not only yourself. Just have that mindset.” A simple change in mindset can go a long way and it might help you get through another class with your mask on!

Mrs. Rose also highly emphasized keeping your hands off of your face. If you take away anything from these tips, remember this one. She said: “The mask is potentially infectious, so if you are touching your face and mask and then touching other things, you’ve suddenly infected whatever you’re touching.” Before COVID, the only bad thing that could happen if we touched our face is that we would get pimples, but now there is more at risk. If you absolutely need to, Mrs. Rose advised washing your hands before and after touching your face.

  1. Study Habits

Studying is harder than ever and takes more mental, physical, and emotional effort than before. How can we combat obstacles keeping us from our studies like distractions and procrastination? Habits of Mind teacher Mrs. Kris shared us her advice, which she teaches every week to her own students. 

Mrs. Kris described the importance of using your attention with purpose. Students are sometimes tempted to study and work, and study some more without stopping or resting. It might feel like an accomplishment in the moment, but Mrs. Kris advised a more efficient study tactic: The Pomodoro. In short, the Pomodoro is working for 25 minutes and resting for 5. The key is to get as much as you can done in the time period you are given, and do not worry about finishing. After 25 minutes, it is essential to have a break. Mrs. Kris explained:The reason it is so effective is because it trains your brain to focus for short periods of time and allows time for a cognitive rest (diffuse mode).” Your cognitive load, or how much your brain can do, needs time to recharge, and that 5 minute break gives it that. 

Another thing to remember is to remove your distractions because they actually tire you out even more, believe it or not. In Mrs. Kris’ words: “When you are distracted, it takes your brain time to refocus, and your brain gets more tired the more distracted you get.” She also said to be honest about what distracts you. It depends person to person, so you really have to pay attention to your behaviors. Some examples of distractions include listening to music while studying, studying with friends, studying in a noisy location, or even eating while studying. When in doubt, ask yourself if these two things that you are doing at once requires attention and energy exerted to both. If so, then label it a distraction and strike it from your study habits. This question could also apply to multitasking which should also be avoided when studying.

And finally, have fun. The task itself may seem the exact opposite, but adding a little bit of something you enjoy can make studying more exciting, and it can even help you remember more. Mrs. Kris gave some suggestions: “Put on a silly hat while you are studying, have a friend you’re zooming with, use your favorite study app. Just inject joy into studying.” 

  1. Mental Health

Mental health is a sensitive topic for some and is very vast and deep. The advice given here is only scraping the very surface of what mental health is. When asked about healthy habits to have, Mrs. Rose said: “Practicing your faith, whatever it is. A quick quiet meditation is always helpful.” No matter your religion, a quick pause in your day for reflection can be the good break you need to get through. If your mind is always cluttered with to-do lists, worries, and stress, it will be impossible to enjoy and appreciate life in the moment. 

It is extremely easy to feel lonely, secluded, and not heard. Believe me, I’ve been there. Now, what can we do about these overwhelming feelings? Bottle them up? Push them down? No. Reach out to someone, and if you aren’t ready for that, even talking it out with your dog could be the release you need. Mrs. Rose said: “Don’t feel like you have to carry this burden alone. There is always someone who can help. Just simply reaching out and talking through your fears can go a long way.” Some examples could be your classmates, teachers, mentor, coach, just anyone you feel comfortable with. And vice versa, you should be reaching out to others and asking how they are doing because sometimes, that simple recognition of another can make them instantly feel heard.

Next, hug your family. Everyone needs hugs whether they admit it or not. It is, in itself, a stress reliever, proven to reduce anxiety. Mrs. Kris said that students are used to the comfort of physical touch, anything from a hand on the shoulder to a high five in the hallway. Now that that has all been taken away, a small piece of our days that used to bring us joy is gone. Take advantage of this opportunity! This is what your family is here for!

To conclude, I thought Mrs. Kris said it best: “As students, you are doing something that your teachers and parents didn’t have to do: going to school in the middle of a pandemic. The single fact that you’re coming to school and doing your homework is something wonderful and amazing. And we’re not showering you with the appreciation you should be getting, Even if you are struggling, no matter how you are doing it, the fact that you’re trying is amazing.” If you were to take anything away from this article, remember that message because no matter how many tips and tricks you try, no matter how many habits you develop, there is no foundation without continuous encouragement and support.

Elyza Tuan ’23, Clubs & Classes Editor