Screen time reaches an all-time high. You lose track of time, and days seem to blend together. That “just one more episode” turns into a seven-hour Netflix binge in bed. We all know that staying at home is the most effective way to “flatten the curve,” but with it comes consequences— one of them being a severe case of “I don’t want to do anything.”

Before I discuss some tips to help break this cycle of unproductiveness, it’s important to note that it’s okay to be a little less productive in these trying times. Channels worldwide are overflowing with news on increased hospitalizations, racism, and death rates caused by COVID-19. Schools have shut down, some resorting to online schooling and a credit/no credit, pass-fail policy of grading. Despite these accommodations, pressure from our parents and the media to utilize this “free time” better— whether it be to read five books each week, finally clean and organize our room, or pre-study for the SATs— can become unhealthy for our mental well-being. The culture of overachieving is especially prevalent amongst students, who risk feeling like a failure if they don’t maintain normal levels of productivity. But in the midst of a global pandemic, when taking care of yourself mentally and physically can often be challenging, optimizing every second of every day should not take first priority.

That being said, perhaps you want to make the most of this quarantine and emerge out of self-isolation looking and feeling better than ever. After all, challenges are just opportunities in disguise, right? But online education poses several challenges in terms of motivation; after all, sitting on the couch at home with your teacher on the screen doesn’t foster the same atmosphere of focus as being situated in a classroom surrounded by motivated classmates. If you find yourself being lazy and want to do something about it, here are five tips to maintain motivation in quarantine:

  1. Get out of your bed! Though it’s tempting to attend class in PJs in your bed (when else would you get this golden opportunity?), sitting upright at a desk is crucial for focusing. Treat your online classes as actual classes, and make sure you have all the writing utensils and notebooks you need. Try to mimic the classroom atmosphere as closely as possible. Doing so will not only increase your level of concentration, but also help retain a sense of normalcy. Plus, dedicating your bed only for sleeping is always a good habit to follow for better sleep.
  2. Complete the little things. Make your bed. Clean your desk area. Water the plants. Doing these simple chores that take minimal effort activates the reward center of our brain, raising our dopamine levels and giving us a sense of accomplishment. This can, in turn, act as fuel to power through the more time and energy-consuming assignments, like writing a paper.
  3. Follow a daily schedule. Instead of staying up until 3 am on social media, aim to go to sleep and wake up at consistent times. Remember to set time aside for meals and snacks as well. Having a “quarantine routine” that works for you can be beneficial for your mental health in general, as it establishes a sense of structure and stability in these uncertain times. Make sure to give yourself flexibility though, and leave time for breaks in between study sessions.
  4. Get moving! Being stuck at home doesn’t have to translate to a sedentary lifestyle. Walking around the neighborhood, walking your dog, or jogging around the park (maintaining a distance of six feet from other people, of course) are all safe ways to get your daily exercise. If you prefer to stay inside, there are multiple quarantine workouts that you can find and follow on the web. Taking this time to explore new realms of exercise that require minimal equipment, like yoga, can be an added bonus. Exercise has been proven to boost productivity by reducing stress and fatigue, and the release of endorphins is uplifting for your mood as well.
  5. Maintain communication with your friends. Social distancing is bound to leave you feeling down and lonely sometimes (it’s in the name), but thanks to modern technology, keeping in touch with your friends and family has never been easier. From texting to video chatting and everything in between, having peer support to lean back on and people to talk to can help alleviate some of your loneliness. Additionally, if you find it harder to focus by yourself, having a digital study group is a great way to stay on task.

Quarantine affects everyone differently. Are you feeling stressed or burnt out, and all alone? Cress Health’s mobile mental wellness app aims to foster an online community of support and connect you with peers who are struggling with similar issues. Reaching out is the first and most important step— doing so will not only improve your overall mental health, but the Cress app will also enable you to discover and connect with people from all over the world who are willing to help you on your journey. We’re all in this together. Download the Cress app today!