Trojans should focus on healthy habits to diminish pandemic anxiety

A drawing of a person in a mask with their hands covering their face and their brows furrowed with a background virus drawings.
(Lauren Schatzman | Daily Trojan)

The United States has a new favorite pastime. It is neither football nor the movies but sitting on the couch and aimlessly scrolling through social media. With the school year quickly approaching, many students share the same common fear: socialization. But with coronavirus restrictions back on the rise, many students are questioning whether they would risk their health to go to that party everyone’s talking about.

While sitting behind a screen might sound nice for a period of time, getting out and talking to people is part of human nature. The post-pandemic lifestyle may seem daunting to jump right back into, but taking baby steps will aid the process. 

According to PsychCentral, now more than ever, students are spending “an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones.” This significant finding not only puts strain on your eyes but can also increase the likeliness of migraines and loss of focus. You may be able to go to the store and buy a pair of trendy blue light glasses, but the long-term impacts are still uncertain. 

Psychologist Larry Rosen suggests that taking “technology breaks” will ultimately increase a student’s attention span. Because of the proven benefits of swapping blue light for natural sunlight, students should be encouraged to change their study spots. By doing so, this opens up another opportunity for communication to occur and can expand one’s study circle. 

Even if someone is naturally shy or anxious in social situations, it’s important to understand that taking small steps to introduce yourself to others can open up new friendships. Once this foundation is set, setting up get-togethers will eliminate the urge to constantly be on your device. This can ultimately reduce pressure when interacting with others, making it easier to branch out and form further connections. 

Sometimes a simple confidence boost, such as going out for coffee or shopping for clothes, can elevate one’s mood. While it may sound like a cliché, learning to enjoy the simpler things in life can really transform one’s overall mood. 

Adjusting to in-person classes can be especially challenging for transfer or out-of-state students. This is a perfect opportunity to branch out and meet new people through clubs and organizations. Expressing oneself can lead to forming natural connections. 

Now is the perfect opportunity to allow for change to happen. With a fresh new year ahead of us, we can make room for positive changes. Taking the time to truly find ourselves through our major, interests and unknown hobbies will allow us to take time away from the screen. 

For all of these changes to happen, students must regularly make small adjustments. Allowing ourselves the space to step outside our comfort zone is a crucial act in reducing existing anxiety. Understanding that variants are inevitable with the coronavirus definitely leads to additional stress in students’ lives, but for now, we can focus on making smart decisions such as following countywide mask mandates, maintaining social distance and washing hands. 

Students must also consider options to help and support themselves upon returning to campus. Fortunately, the USC Student Health Office offers several group sessions specifically targeting students’ needs. Whether it be through practicing mindfulness or therapy, coming together as a community and sharing vulnerable moments is a powerful way students can overcome their uneasiness. 

Talking is the best remedy, and with only aimless emojis, the matter will never be solved. So before the next time you feel tempted to reach for your comfort blanket of a phone, go out and meet real students — while masked — who can help relieve that anxiety.