Struggling to Stay Sane When Your Life’s Turned Upside Down?

by Tessa LaVarta.

If I was told three months ago that I would not be finishing the rest of the school year in person, that I would be taking online classes while quarantining in my hometown, and looking to an unforeseeable future of when the next public event will take place, I would have no clue how to survive.

Now, with everything thrown off course at the brink of an ending semester, many are realizing the difficulty in finding motivation as they slip out of routine.

However, I find it extremely important to fight AGAINST this and not let the crazy world around us get in the way of academics, as well as our mental and physical health.

To get in the swing of having a productive day at home, I found some tricks that work best for me. I have shared my top 5 suggestions that have worked within my schedule, and I hope you can find benefit in them as well.

First, schedules are KEY. Schedules add structure to the day and eliminate excess time trying to figure out what to do. Having a consistent schedule can keep one on track of assignments, tests, as well as anything else you want to accomplish in a day (this could be as simple as including a meal you want to make!).

Personally, I’ve always lived by the saying “your day starts the night before.”

Before going to bed, I make a schedule of my day, blocking out hours with what I need to get done, including my class times and breaks. I try to get up at a consistent time each morning, and I wake myself up mentally and physically by stretching, making my bed, getting dressed (yes, putting on an actual outfit even though you may be staying home all day DOES make you feel better), and eating a healthy breakfast.

This puts me in the swing of a consistent daily routine, which you may find can quickly maximize your productivity.

Next, I suggest identifying what distracts you most, and eliminating it from the setting.

For many people, including myself, phones and social media are a major consumption of time. Before I start school, I turn my phone completely off and hide it in a different room (out of sight, out of mind). I do not turn it back on until I finish all my tasks for the day.

An article from the Journal of Commerce, Economics, & Management discusses the detriments of cell phone use on students, stating that evidence has shown “media use during lectures” to be associated with “lower academic performance.”1

It diminishes the ability to focus on one task for an extended time, and students “become accustomed to switching to alternative streams of stimuli at increasingly short intervals.”1

From my experience, I have noticed that when I stay off my phone for extended periods of time, I think more clearly and can hold a longer attention span.

If you still find yourself struggling to pay attention, incorporate some functional foods into your diet if accessible! Studies have shown specific foods to increase cognitive function, such as those with omega-3 fatty acids (found in nuts and seeds)2, vitamin C (found in citrus fruits)3, and vitamin A (found in dark, leafy vegetables)3.

I enjoy drinking green and oolong tea, which both produce an amino acid called I-theanine. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, it was found that “participants who took l-theanine had increased brain theta waves — a key indicator of  memory recall and cognitive performance.”4 Sometimes fueling your body with certain foods makes all the difference!

Another tip to combat the feeling of being stuck inside during a quarantine is to get in the sun and soak up some vitamin D every day, especially through physical activity. Whether it’s going on a walk, doing an outdoor workout, roller blading, swimming, or even just stretching, being outside and moving around instantly elevates my mood.

In fact, evidence has shown that “regular aerobic exercise increases serotonergic and noradrenergic levels in the brain, similar to the effects of antidepressants.”5 “Endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system”5 also rises, which can create feelings of euphoria, as well as pain-reduction. It is truly incredible how many pathways in the body are activated through exercise and that we can receive so many benefits through their activation!

Lastly, focusing on emotional well-being should never be brushed over and forgotten. Although we are socially distanced from loved ones, we do not have to be emotionally distanced.

Sending letters, making phone calls, and smiling at those around you are little but impactful ways to spread positivity, as well as keep in touch with others! We cannot control the world, but we CAN control our mindsets and actions, which makes all the difference. No matter how you choose to adapt, acknowledge your efforts and simply be thankful for each day, knowing you are putting in your best effort!

 

References:

1 Malviya, P. Smart Phones and concentration level of students. Journal of Commerce, Economics & Management, 2019, 2(3); 25-30.

2“Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019. ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/.

3 Gestuvo, M.K., and Hung. W.W. Common dietary supplements for cognitive health. Aging Health, 2012, 8(1); 89-97.

4 Park, S.K, Jung, I.C., Lee, W.K., Lee, Y.S., Park, H.K., Go, H.J., Kim, K., Lim, N.K., Hong, J.T., Ly, S.Y., and Rho, S.S. A Combination of Green Tea Extract and l-Theanine Improves Memory and Attention in Subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of Medicinal Food, 2011, 14(4); 334-343.

5Anderson, E. and Shivakumar, G. Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2013, (4).

 

Author Biography

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Tessa LaVarta is a second-year undergraduate dietetics student at Florida State University. From a young age, she has been passionate about nutrition and the impact it has on one’s mental and physical state. She is interested in the use of functional foods, as well as holistic nutrition and its role in supporting unprocessed, locally grown foods. At her University, she is involved as a member of the Student Dietetics Association as well as the Secretary of a health-related club which promotes positive eating habits and lifestyle choices. As she gets farther in her studies, she would like to additionally explore eating disorders and nutrition therapy. In her free time, she loves painting, cooking, playing the piano, exercising, practicing yoga and being outdoors!

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