College Life in the Era of COVID-19
Health-conscious students and young professionals working from home face some similar hurdles to staying healthy and sane this year. Sure, some are conducting life as usual, but others are earnestly trying to be cautious and stay socially distanced.
The reality is that while many college students are trying to quarantine, most are living with other students, and you can't always control what others in your house or your apartment are doing.
Additionally, now that we’re all literally sitting in the house on our computers all day, being “cooped up” starts to take its toll. Following the public health guidelines leads to a general sense of frustration and, frankly, feeling lazy. Students on campus are used to walking a lot between classes every day, getting the daily “10k” steps in, easy. A lot of urban commuters have seen similar challenges with a drastic change in daily activity levels. Gym environments have changed, too.
So what’s a person to do? We asked Almeda team member and college student (soon to be college grad!) Scarlet Hayward what she’s been doing to stay well at this time. Here are her top tips.
Scarlet’s 5 Top Tips on How to Stay Healthy
while working and studying from home.
First of all, staying on a screen all day is itself completely unhealthy. To counterbalance this, Scarlet suggested, “Take time to step away from the screen.”
You can do this by taking short breaks to stand up and stretch every hour, by taking lunch away from screens, or going outside to breathe in some fresh air. Our minds seem programmed to really value long stretches of uninterrupted time for knowledge work, but our bodies on the whole crave movement. It’s actually not optional if you want to live a vibrant and holistic life.
While this can be calibrated according to the day and your personal goals, movement doesn’t have to mean a high-intensity, sweat-drenched marathon workout session. Scarlet said, “I used to work out a lot -- extremely -- but I’m at a point where I’m trying to do less stressful movement. My body needs a break.”
Scarlet likes yoga, hiking, going to the beach, and doing other, more natural activities. She said she strives to make it fun, rather than another demanding thing on the schedule.
So even if you can’t go to some of your usual places at this time, try lighter activities or going places by walking. Walking first thing can help ensure that some movement happens each day, and it helps establish a positive mindset for the day. Scarlet said, “I wake up every morning and go on a walk, to get outside first thing to start the day, to get my goals laid up and whatnot.”
As one headline put it, “We’re all socially awkward now.” Whether or not you agree with that, it’s clear we’re all missing out on a lot of basic daily interactions that we used to have. Staying at home more often and wearing masks is taking a toll on everyone.
So inviting people close to you to join you in movement outdoors feels good, and it can feel good to be invited as well. As long as there’s no pressure.
Scarlet said, “I try to get my roommates to walk with me. They don't always come.” Hey, we applaud the attempt. Invitations are forms of connection in themselves.
Scarlet is at school to study nutrition, and she's super passionate about it. She said her knowledge has grown so much; it's not just eating salads, but so much more. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what’s a “healthy, balanced meal,” but we’re all pretty clear about what’s truly not good for us. Scarlet has noticed, “When you’re stuck inside all day, it’s easy to get on the ‘bad habit train.’”
When you’re inside all day, it’s easy to backslide into eating highly processed snacks and fast foods. This fun-sounding idea might be short-lived if it doesn’t meet your personal goals, however. What you eat doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, but it may help to think about how you’ll feel after eating what you choose to eat. Almost all of us in the U.S. could be adding a few more greens and veggies to our day, and these foods can make us feel uplifted. Focus on what foods give you lasting energy throughout the day.
On those days when we feel just around the corner from a bad habit trainwreck, we like to supplement our nutrition with Almeda’s Encarna or Kasvi. We’re sharing recipes to keep all your cravings covered, from Green Smoothies to Encarna Margaritas, Synergy Burgers, and Kasvi Cacao Tahini Brownies. There’s almost always an opportunity to “level up” what you’re eating.
Finally, Scarlet seems to have found the “secret sauce” for sitting at the computer, and it lies within how she views the hours. She said she read something about "Einstein time," which is based on Einstein’s realization that time is not absolute.
Intrigued, she looked into it and got the gist of the underlying idea: that time is just a concept. She says, “When I don't pay attention to time, I get so much more done. Rather than saying, “I only have an hour and I have to get all of this done!” I say, “Okay, class is at 12. What can I do right now, what do I feel like I need?”
It takes the pressure off. So now, she has an easier time getting into a flow state when she needs to work or study. As a result, she’s learned to relax and get more done at the same time.
Scarlet said that working with Almeda, she’s found it really inspiring to be around people sharing ideas and knowledge like this. She said, “Having a job and being excited about it-- I love that I can grow my passion. I’m really excited about health.”
We love Scarlet’s enthusiasm for health and admire her ability to put these ideas into practice.
The Bottom Line: You could be paying closer attention to your health.
Let’s admit that most college students aren't super healthy. It’s fun to indulge ourselves at times.
You may not want to change one more thing regarding your lifestyle. Wearing masks in public and having so many events cancelled probably already feels like you’re sacrificing a lot for the cause.
On the other hand, right now, it's actually important to be paying more attention to what you “should” be doing anyway. If you are taking care of your health, that's what is going to protect you the most.
As a bonus, when you make these healthy upgrades, it’s not just for you, but for your friends and your parents and your grandparents. (Aww.)