Psychology and the IA Brain: The Lost Year: A Guide to Coping with COVID

By Abigail Kendal (’22)

self care isn t selfish signage
Photo by Madison Inouye on

No one needs a lecture. In this day and age, we are all experiencing the same fears, worries, and anxieties associated with COVID-19, and in this world of social distancing and self-quarantine, it is imperative that we remember to take care of ourselves in addition to caring for those around us. In an effort to spread positivity and promote healthy mental health habits during this time of uncertainty, here is a list of coping strategies that can (and should) be used to occupy your time:


  1. Workout

While it may seem obvious that working out is a healthy thing to do, it can also have significant mental health benefits. In fact, a 2011 study conducted by the Journal of Neuroscience found that physical activity helps to buffer the brain and change how we respond to future stressors. In essence, this means that if you experience stress or anxiety and workout for just half an hour, your body and brain will immediately associate physical activity with anxiety and stress relief in the future. In addition to allowing you to feel physically and mentally healthy, I have found that working out gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me feel less guilty for watching Netflix for the rest of the day. 


     2. FaceTime a Relative or Old Friend

Even though we cannot physically visit our friends and family members, FaceTime has pretty much solved that issue entirely. Not only are they also sitting at home, but communicating with an old friend can give a sense of connection during a time where we are both physically and socially isolated. And I totally understand the feeling of not wanting to connect with some old relatives, however, several neurological studies have proven that having strong social networks increases both our physical and mental health and our happiness overall.


     3. Try a New Recipe

Not only is cooking/baking extremely cathartic, but it is also a great way to spend an entire day being creative and occupying empty time with something enjoyable. Don’t believe me? Well, the United States Library of Medicine cites over 350 scientific studies that have been conducted which have proven how cooking has positive influences on self-esteem and one’s quality of life as a whole. 


     4. Keep a Mindfulness Journal

Often, it can be easy to lose track of all the good in a time like this one. However, in many ways, keeping some form of a journal helps us to stay grounded and grateful for the things that quarantine can never take away from us. 


     5. Send a Friend One Inspirational Quote Per Week

An amazing way to stay connected with friends (even though you can no longer eat lunch with them) is to make a habit of sending inspirational quotes to each other on a weekly basis. This is an amazing way to stay positive and encourage others to do the same!


     6. Go For A Bike Ride/Walk

While this may appear obvious, simply going outside for even half an hour a day can make a huge difference in your mood overall. Reading, doing homework, playing with a pet, walking, running, and riding a bike are just a few activities that can easily be converted to the outdoors during sunny and warm weather. And from personal experience, I know that taking a quick walk outside can drastically change someone’s mood. My mom, who is a licensed psychotherapist, has told me that she frequently brings her patients to a safe area outside if they are ever experiencing feelings of despair or distress.


     7. Make a Post-Quarantine List

While it may seem as if we are going to be in quarantine for the rest of forever, it will (hopefully) end at some point. As a way to stay positive and keep your spirits high, it is a great idea to create a list of what you want to do once the quarantine has been lifted. Where do you want to go out to eat? Which friends do you miss the most and want to hang out with? What is the first store you will shop at once they reopen? Answering these questions and creating a plan for post-quarantine life is a great way to remember that all of this uncertainty and anxiety is purely temporary.

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