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It seems like just moments ago, we sat in our lecture halls and stuffy discussion classrooms daydreaming up “what if’s.” What if I skipped class today and tomorrow and the next? What if I stayed in bed all day? That would surely be the life — but as COVID-19 reached pandemic levels, the world is facing more than their realized desire to stay home, a desire that’s now government-mandated.

Delayed action from governments in China unfolded at the start of the outbreak, Italian hospitals were forced to choose which COVID-19 patients to help due to low medical supplies, and the United States currently holds the most world known cases. It has left people believing that panic is the only thing left to do: this is far from the truth. 

Like many of us, I have been quarantined in my off-campus apartment in Riverside. While the rest of my housemates went back home to loved ones, I spent the first couple of days giving my boyfriend from the east coast a place to self-isolate from his family. He boarded his $40 flight and headed straight to my apartment after his school announced they were moving classes online, just like UCR.

I grew anxious fast; it wasn’t long until I began nervously researching all things coronavirus as well as persistently Facetiming my family, hesitant if I should come back home or not. Eventually, I decided it was best to stay cooped up in my apartment until I was certain that we didn’t have any symptoms of this asymptomatic disease. 

The more days I spent and continue spending alienated from family, the more this spring break didn’t feel like one. Other students surely feel this way, what with Spring Splash and other events meant to jump-start us into the new quarter now canceled. How are we supposed to stay motivated to finish the school year with all this uncertainty in the air?

We have been pushed to stay out of touch with others, at least physically, and some of us could be getting stuck in our own heads. Though, even if we can still stay in touch with everyone over the interwebs, there are still issues with things like productivity and mental health that we must address. Despite the difficulties, it’s vital that choices we make moving forward stay rational.

Indoor Living

For starters, don’t let being stuck inside restrict you from living. We may have already long outlived the dream of staying in bed all day and succumbing to the everyday homely distractions, but there is more to indoor living than this. The world, even within the house, is our oyster. Think of all the times you were stressed and in need of a break; think of finals week, cramming in study sessions at three in the morning — what would you have done when you didn’t have those responsibilities? Now is the time for it.

Be it a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or revisit, be it cooking, an instrument and all things in-between, you now have the time to learn it. The tedious time consumers like commuting to and navigating UCR are now gone; no longer are you spending 30 minutes waiting for the bus or looking for parking since most of our classes are now online. We can fill up our time by working on ourselves, for ourselves, productively shaping who we said we’d be but swore we never had the time for.

If you aren’t the creative type, then there’s nothing wrong with partaking in the creations of others. In your phone’s notes or your brain, you must have jotted down a list of Netflix series, Pixar works or video games you have been waiting to watch and play. Maybe your friend has bugged you for the millionth time to watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones” but you deemed it too much of a commitment. Now, nothing is too long to commit to. Instead of filling your brain up with worry and eagerness for this whole thing to blow over, embrace the isolation and bond with the characters on your computer screen. 

You and your friends can download the communication app Discord and stream movies and shows together. You can also catch celebrities on Instagram Live for entertainment, mainly through the platform’s  #togetherathome partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). Instead of paying $60-100 to see artists like Chris Martin from coldplay or H.E.R. live, you can catch their intimate concerts on Instagram Live. 

For the Extrovert Side in Us 

Whether we are indoor or outdoor people, as humans we are social beings. Being asked to stay apart is removing a part of what essentially keeps us alive and that can make us feel trapped. Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet. If planning doesn’t help, the world provides countless outlets for keeping us connected. Apps such as Facetime and Skype help us carry long conversations with loved ones. Keeping in touch with friends through party games like Jackbox and Heads Up! will help give you a laugh in these stressful times. You can also consider social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram’s challenges that seem to be revived from their predecessors (Vines and their challenges from 2016).

If you are completely tired of lounging about, there are also home workout programs to stay active. I have personally been using Chris Hemsworth’s Centr since he has an extended 3-month free trial due to the virus. Working out daily is something I haven’t done since attending UCR, but as intimidating as it might be to start, it is also a nice change of pace after adjusting into the routine. 

Plan It All Out

If you didn’t have a new skill lined up, plan for what you will do when we are allowed to be outside again. There are plenty of videos on Youtube and Squarespace that can help you find your niche. I definitely felt a little embarrassed typing in something bizarre like “rock climbing for beginners,” not only because I usually spend most of my days indoors writing and playing video games, but especially due to our current climate. Still, learning about the lingo and the community that comes with the sport was just as engaging. Try it and you might surprise yourself.

The amount of connection and effort through program partnerships and free subscriptions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic goes to show how important it is for us to stay connected with each other. We should encourage each other to keep our mental health in check just as much as our physical health. If you want to stay educated on the updates of the virus, the New York Times is providing COVID-19 relevant articles to the public when you create an account with your email, no subscription needed.

Instead of tackling each other for that last roll of toilet paper, now is the time to reflect on ourselves and our relationships. The problem is not boredom but initiative. The answer is not panic but self-care.Try initiating these things to keep yourself and those around you in check. Stay safe and stay (mentally and physically) healthy!