By Sam Jones, Journalism Major with Certificates in Environmental Studies and Development Economics, 2020
When Badgers were scattered across the state, country, and world for spring recess, this is not what we expected to be met with. Sure — we knew there would be a two-week quarantine period following the break, perhaps a tad bit longer, but this is different.
We didn’t say our goodbyes. We didn’t thank our professors and TAs for their hard work. We didn’t look out at Lake Mendota or up at Bascom Hill and recognize that things were going to change.
But they did… a lot.
We understand that these actions are necessary for public health and the wellbeing of our fellow Wisconsinites but that doesn’t make it sting less. We are empathetic — our hearts breaking for those impacted by the virus across the globe, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be upset about what we have lost as well.
Making plans for “later in the semester” or “when things are less busy” are now obsolete. Obsession over graduation plans and anticipation for terrace season have been replaced with uncertainty.
Badgers stuck in place — hours away from their families, friends, and support system — are navigating this very-real, very-scary situation themselves. Students who rely on financial aid and on-campus resources for their livelihoods have been forced to reckon with abrupt isolation. Soon-to-be graduates must continue their job search in a time when even the question of whether the grocery store will be open tomorrow is met with anxiety and ambiguity.
So what now?
Yet, however difficult and unnerving this situation is, one thing is certain: Badgers are resilient.
Classes will continue. Student orgs will adapt. Badgers will continue exploring their interests. Projects will be completed, papers written, applications submitted.
It won’t be easy — and no one is pretending it will be. We must take care of ourselves and each other, firstly by establishing a set of realistic expectations for ourselves and those around us.
There are no library cages to lock ourselves in when we have work to do, no strict schedule to follow as we scamper from building to building. Our routines have been upended as we adjust to collaborating with peers via video chat rather than face-to-face, working from our bedrooms rather than the sprawling halls of our favorite campus study spot.
My established routine has been abandoned — I am no longer heading to the SuccessWorks office between classes each day to report for work.
For myself, this has meant drastically changing my lifestyle from how I was living while on campus.
It can be so easy to lose yourself in the clouded world of social media challenges and non-stop, overwhelming news coverage. Overloading yourself with bleak updates and hurtling yourself into a cycle of reality television are, in their own ways, threats to our mental wellbeing and productivity.
Channeling your Best (Socially-Distanced) Self
Here are a few ways myself and other Badgers have tried to make the best out of isolation and boost morale:
- Set up a functional workspace. By creating a practical and comfortable workspace — a spot that isn’t in bed or somewhere normally designated for relaxation time — it is much easier to be productive when you need to be. Spreading out at a table or setting up an impromptu desk with stacked boxes or containers not only is a project in itself, but may ease the transition to working in your home environment.
- Make yourself a playlist… or five. It is really hard to stay positive when you can hear the headlines tallying the mounting number of cases across the world playing in the background constantly. By making yourself — or your friends — a playlist of happy, sing-along worthy songs, it is a bit easier to keep a clear head and high morale while pounding out assignments.
- Establish a time that is your personal ‘end of the day’. I know one of my least-healthy tendencies while on campus is my (lack of) a work-life balance. By establishing a specific time each day — let’s say 5pm — not only will you be more productive while working, but can reward yourself with some much-deserved rest and relaxation each evening.
- Stay connected with loved ones. The internet is an astonishing tool. You can sync up your Netflix account to your pals and binge-watch your favorite show together, play games in real-time via text, and watch your musician of choice perform from their home studio with a simple click. It is tempting to drown out the real world and dive headfirst into that fantasy series that’s been sitting on your bookshelf or TV show waiting in your queue, but we need each other more than ever right now. Check-in on your friends, schedule a weekly phone call to your family, whatever routine you can maintain to at least humor the idea of normalcy.
- Get active. If you can safely get some fresh air by taking a daily walk or bike ride, do so! The science behind the calming powers of nature is on the rise, and a change in scenery has been shown to improve productivity. If you can’t physically exit your home, try doing yoga or another indoor workout activity. (And if you are really feeling the cabin fever, get that sound effects machine going and stream some images of your beachfront fantasy.)
- Make a list of unique things to do. As much as we may hate to admit it, motivation for coursework may be particularly difficult to muster right now. Make a list of a bunch of things you have always wanted to do, but never had the time to! Take up knitting, perfect your sourdough starter recipe, draw your pet using only your toes, whatever it is — even if you decide against picking up these hobbies in the long term, keeping busy and trying something new can add an hour or so of excitement to your day.
- Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. As horrible as this situation is, it allows us all to take a step back and try to understand what we need and how to meet this need. Catch up on sleep, nail down a skincare routine that works for you, paint your nails an obscure color, try your hand at meditation — the list goes on.
- Take advantage of the resources available to you. As a SuccessWorks student staff member, I have daily access to some of the best career development support on campus. Luckily, you dear reader can take advantage of this same support I do through virtual advising, mock interviews, and more throughout the semester — even if you are off-campus. In addition, the Office of Student Financial Aid has stepped up to provide Emergency Assistance to Badgers struggling financially, and various student organizations have been addressing concerns regarding food security, rent payments, and the like. (Refer to https://covid19.wisc.edu/ for resources and updates.)
We know how hard these coming weeks will continue to be, and urge Badgers (wherever they may be) to do what is best for them and their loved ones. Seek help when you need it, know what resources remain available during the social distancing period, and remind yourself that we are all handling this pandemic differently — and that’s okay.