While we still need to stay distant, socializing is still important. Here are a few safe socializing tips to keep up your emotional health without compromising physical health.

Last March, students, faculty, and staff found out that they would not be returning to campus after Spring Break, and everybody suddenly had to deal with the reality of dealing with being at home 24/7. We shared some self-care tips for being at home, but now that the fall semester has started, everybody is experiencing it differently. Some students are still taking all of their classes online, some are taking a few of their classes in person, and still others are fully in person and living on campus. But even for those who are living on campus, socializing is different. For example, only a maximum of two people are allowed in a residence hall room at a time. Students can’t meet with clubs in person or have parties together. And for freshman, it’s so much harder to meet new people. But despite everything, social interaction is not only important, but necessary.

Dr. Jennifer Weiner, Program Director of Fisher’s Human Services program and a licensed Psychologist has done research on social support emphasizes the importance of social connection.

“It is important to maintain social connections even if that must be done virtually. Our human need for connection and support is greater than ever, and it’s critical to remember that the mental health consequences of isolation can be insidious.” Dr. Weiner says. 

Here are a few ways you can find that connection during this in-between time.

1. Form or Join a Study Group

Even though it's harder to study with a group in person, studying with other people will still help you feel more motivated to learn. Photo taken pre-COVID

Classes are a great way to meet college friends, and there is no reason this has to change. Taking a difficult class? Whether you are interacting with your classes fully online or with classmates sitting in desks six feet apart, you don’t have to learn the material alone. Set up a study group on Zoom or Teams and pick a specific time to meet each week. You may not be able to meet in the library, but you are still learning with other people. Not only are you learning the material better than you would have studying alone, (which several studies from universities and educational organizations claim), but you are also building a support system with a group of people sharing your experience.

 “The notion that there are many mental health benefits from having supportive people in our lives is well documented,” Dr. Weiner says.

 

2. Take Care of Yourself by Joining a Student Organization

Self-care exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, and exercise are important for maintaining your mental health, and Fisher’s yoga club is still meeting virtually and gives students an outlet to practice these exercises in a group. According to Healthline, several studies have shown that yoga decreases anxiety and depression. Many yoga instructors also claim that there is a certain kind of collective positive energy from group practice that you would not experience practicing on your own. 

Yoga is a great way to keep up your mental health, especially when you're doing it with a group, but it's not the only group you can join virtually at Fisher.

Yoga not your thing? According to Dr. Weiner, just connecting with others can also reduce anxiety and depression, and there are many other student organizations that are meeting virtually that you can choose from. Meeting other like-minded people who share your interests and socializing them regularly is always a great way to both have something to look forward to and build a support network, both of which are important to mental well-being. You can find a list of student organizations here

3. Stay Connected with Your Professors

Fisher’s faculty are leaders in their fields and have connections to many well-known Boston companies. Fisher’s small size also gives students opportunities to connect with them not only for their careers, but also to form lasting relationships. Building these relationships will be harder this semester. Even if you are taking classes in person, keeping the required six-foot distance makes asking a professor for help with a problem or conversing with them before class trickier.

However, your professors are still here for you. All full-time faculty members are holding virtual office hours, and they publish their schedule. Some will just login to an open virtual meeting during specific times, but it is better to confirm by making an appointment.  If you are taking a course being taught by an adjunct professor, you can still schedule times to meet with them, even if they may not be as available as the full-time professors. Definitely take advantage of these opportunities to connect with professors because it will make the class feel more personal and give you the opportunity to see just how supportive Fisher’s faculty can be.

Fisher faculty

Fisher's faculty is still supportive virtually and are happy to hear from students. (Photo taken pre-COVID)

Moving Forward

This list offers a few suggestions to get started, but it is by no means complete! Be creative and continue to explore the many ways you can stay connected with your community. Professor Weiner stresses how doing this will not only make us happier, but is also vital for our mental health

“ Our human need for connection and support is greater than ever, and it’s critical to remember that the mental health consequences of isolation can be insidious. So keep texting, zooming, and talking to people whenever possible. Your mental health depends on it. “