UT University Health Services

Staying Well While Staying Home

Social distancing is critical for reducing the spread and impact of COVID-19. Though these practices are designed to keep you healthy, being apart from others can have an impact on your well-being. It’s important to make conscious choices about health and wellness during this time. This page provides tips and things to consider as you take care of yourselves and others during this time.

Healthy social connections improve our capacity to cope with stress and can boost our overall physical and emotional well-being. In a time of social distancing, it may be difficult to maintain social connections and social support. To alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, here are some ways to stay connected:

  • Check in with friends and loved ones by phone or text. Simply checking in with people can help manage your stress and result in feeling less isolated.
  • If you have access, consider virtual gatherings in lieu of in-person events. Online platforms are great ways to have face-to-face contact while maintaining social distance. So even if your social outing is canceled, consider moving that event online!
  • Apps designed to keep groups of people in contact are great for group chats and check-ins. To initiate a group chat, ask your friends or loved ones if they’d like to join, set group agreements about ways to use the chat, and brainstorm ways to support one another.
  • Social media can be a great way to feel connected; however, it can at times feel overwhelming. Create boundaries for yourself with social media and online use. Consider logging off or taking a break from digital platforms if you feel overwhelmed.
  • If you’re in need of emotional support and would like to talk to a professional, you can call the Counseling & Mental Health Center at (512) 471-3515.

Physical activity can look different for everyone. Consciously including movement throughout your day is imperative for your physical and mental health. Whether you enjoy a more structured workout or going for a walk or run, all forms of physical activity positively contribute to well-being and feeling good.

  • Plan: Creating structure to your day is key. No matter where you are, prioritizing and scheduling physical activity can help ensure that you get some movement every day. If you’re used to participating in group workout classes, consider an online workout class. Being outside and going for a walk or run is great as long as you keep six feet between yourself and others.
  • Timing: Some people prefer to move their body in the morning, others in the afternoon or before bedtime. There’s no wrong time to be active. Being home more than usual could mean that you modify your previous activity schedule.
  • Get Energized. It’s normal to feel sluggish when you don’t have anywhere you have to go. Physical activity can help you get energized and manage stressors and anxious feelings. Be kind to yourself as your schedule changes.

It can be hard to maintain your regular eating habits while practicing social distancing. Paying attention to your nutritional needs during this time can help you stay well. Your daily routine may look very different. Plan for meals and snacks (eating every three to five hours) and listen to your body. Here are a few tips.

  • Get your fruits and vegetables. Try frozen, canned or pre-packaged fresh produce, which isn’t out in the open at the grocery store and can last a long time.
  • Get your macronutrients.
    • Carbs: Try beans, lentils and grains that people are less likely to buy like wheat berries, barley, amaranth, millet and buckwheat. If you can cook rice, you can cook these.
    • Protein: Try eggs, frozen meats (or fresh that you freeze), canned meats, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese) and legumes. If plant-based protein doesn’t fill you up, try a vegetarian meal with a fried egg on top to promote fullness and satisfaction.
    • Fats: Try avocados, nuts, seeds, oils, dressings, sauces and butter.
  • Utilize University Housing and Dining options. Check the current schedule here.

Sleep strengthens your immune system and your body's defense against contracting viruses and infections. It’s also essential for daily functioning including maintaining your mental health and overall well-being. Here are some sleep tips:

  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
  • If you feel tired during the day, supplement your sleep with a 20 to 30 minute nap between 1:00p.m. and 4:00p.m. Keep naps short and in the early afternoon to reduce disruptions of nighttime sleep.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Even while class and work schedules change, your body thrives on routine. Routine helps regulate your internal clock, which influences the rest of your health.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try light yoga stretches before bed, journal or get your thoughts down on paper, shut off technology at least one hour before sleep, drink a soothing cup of non-caffeinated tea, listen to relaxing music or sounds and/or meditate. Click here for more sleep tips.

When social distancing, you may spend much more time with the same people. Whether you’re with a partner, friend or roommate, navigating this dynamic can be challenging. Communicate about your needs and boundaries, practice the 7 C’s of Healthy Relationships and keep the following in mind:

  • Everyone experiences stress differently, and we cope in different ways.
  • Intentionally carve out time for yourself. For example, practice your own hobbies or self-care or check in separately with friends and family through calls, texts or video chats.
  • Conflict can be a healthy part of a relationship as long as everyone “fights fair.” However, emotional and physical violence are never okay. If you’re worried about your emotional or physical safety, call the Counseling and Mental Health Center at (512) 471-3515. In case of emergency, call 911.
  • Consent is necessary for all sexual interactions, as well as for other kinds of physical intimacy. If you engage in sexual activity, remember that Healthyhorns play safe. Use condoms to reduce STI risk. If unplanned pregnancy is a concern, use contraception.

Finances may already be a concern when you’re a college student -- undergraduate or graduate. A crisis like a pandemic can create additional financial worries. Financial support services are available if you need them. UT Austin resources include:

  • Student Emergency Fund: Provided through the Office of the Dean of Students, this fund provides limited emergency financial support to currently enrolled students. Average awards range from $25 to $300 per student.
  • Texas Global (International Student and Scholar Services) Financial Services: Provides scholarships and other financial support, including tuition and emergency cash loans, to international students. Tuition loans have a $4000 maximum, and emergency cash loans have a $500 maximum.
  • Voices Against Violence (VAV) Survivor’s Emergency Fund: Provides financial assistance to student survivors of sexual violence, relationship violence and/or stalking. Students seeking VAV support do not need to disclose details of their experience to access financial help.
  • Financial support to pay for food, health care, housing, childcare, etc. can be found throughout the state of Texas. 2-1-1 Texas provides information about statewide resources.

During the school year, it can be difficult to engage in hobbies and activities unrelated to school or work. During social distancing, you may have more time to explore creative ways to take care of yourself and engage in new activities. By doing this now, you can help to create lasting habits that span past this uncertain time. Here are some ideas:

  • Try out a new hobby. Carve out time to explore new interests (e.g. learn a new language, draw or play a new musical instrument). Check out online tools and video tutorials, including LinkedIn Learning.
  • Read a book for fun. Plan time every day to read something that isn’t a textbook. If you have a library card, download free audiobooks or explore other avenues for acquiring free e-books and audiobooks.
  • Meditate. During this time, it can be hard not to worry about the future. Help yourself be in the present moment by meditating. Visit the Counseling and Mental Health Center’s website for guided meditations.
  • Journal. If you’ve ever wanted to journal, now’s the time to create new routines that can become habits. Set a reminder on your phone to journal before bedtime to help process your thoughts and emotions.
  • Create playlists to send to friends. Both connecting with friends and listening to music can support your mental health. Spend time creating and sending playlists to friends. This can be a great way to check in on friends and let them know you’re thinking about them.

Longhorns take care of each other, whether online or off. While engaging digitally with your peers, you can still practice bystander intervention. Being part of a community that looks out for each other, even when practicing social distancing, includes recognizing when someone’s digital presence starts to show signs of extreme stress such as:

  • Drastic changes in the content or scope of their messages
  • Increasing evidence of reliance on drugs or alcohol
  • Mentioning symptoms of mental health challenges like depression or anxiety
  • Interactions take on a different or more extreme tone than normal
  • Drastic changes in their appearance in photos or videos

Choose to connect online with someone you’re concerned about. Schedule a video or phone chat. Let them know that they’re supported by someone who cares. The Behavior Concerns Advice Line is a resource if you’re concerned about a UT student’s behavior.




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