Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there are thousands of students stuck abroad or at home, who are waiting to see how the situation develops and how it will impact their education.
Whether you are already studying or plan to enrol next autumn or next year, you can use this quarantine period to take care of yourself. This doesn’t mean you neglect what’s happening or pretend nothing has changed. You simply take advantage of the time you have and invest it in worthwhile activities and your own self-development.
There are countless things you can do while staying inside, so don’t believe our list is exhaustive. But here are some of the most exciting activities you can use to go through this period easier. Even if some of these suggestions might not work for you, hopefully, they can spark some of your own ideas to try out.
1. Create a workout schedule
Working out is a great way to take care of your body and mind as well. It pushes your heart and muscles and improves the blood and oxygen flow, helping you feel better and think more clearly. The best part? There are numerous practice routines you can do at home, with the use of little or no equipment.
There are many types of work out you can try:
- Aerobic (or endurance) exercises
- Strength exercises
- Flexibility exercises
- Balance exercises
- Flexibility exercises
There are many other types of exercises out there, so get creative. If you feel a lot of tension during this time, get a punching bag and start boxing! You can also mix and match but remember to create a workout schedule that allows your body enough time to recover.
You are one google search away from thousands of online articles, videos, and other sources for people interested in exercising at home; so, variety is not an issue. Just find the workout routine that’s great for you and get started.
Here are some popular YouTube videos and playlists for workout enthusiasts:
- Home workout and bodyweight exercises
- Get fit & #StayHome
- Stretches for the inflexible
- Balance & coordination exercises
You can also check out workout apps available for your Android or iOS smartphone:
Learn more about the benefits of physical exercise.
2. Dance the bad feelings away
It doesn’t matter if you’ve taken dance classes before or not. Dancing is a great way to lift your mood and simply feel better. Find your favourite playlist and go wild. But remember there are neighbours and they might not always appreciate your musical tastes. We know, we know…
There are numerous dance styles you can go for: tap, jazz, contemporary, belly dancing, hip-hop, ballet, etc.
Again, many resources are available on the internet. Here are a few examples to get you started:
Learn more about the benefits of dancing.
3. Practise yoga
Yoga is another excellent way to bring more movement into your life and release the stress and tension in your body. It also has great benefits for our mood, bringing more calmness and balance to our thoughts and feelings.
There are various types of yoga practices you can try: hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtanga yoga, restorative yoga, etc.
Ideally, you should learn the practices form a certified yoga teacher in a face-to-face scenario. But since that is not possible right now, you can take advantage of online yoga resources:
Learn more about the benefits of practising yoga.
4. Discover meditation
Meditation is yet another tool anyone can use to find more balance and awareness. Initially popular in the East, meditation is now a worldwide phenomenon, practised by people of all ages. Some of the major benefits are reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, and better focus.
The main purpose of meditation is to root us back into the present moment. While that’s such an overused cliché, we have to admit that way too often we spend our time thinking about the past or being worried about the future.
It’s difficult (if not almost impossible) to stop the flow of thoughts. But you don’t have to try. Meditation teaches you how to look at your thoughts without judgment and simply see them for what they are. By focusing on the breath, you can put some distance between your thoughts and feelings and see that they are temporary and don’t always require a reaction from your side.
You can choose from various types of meditation: guided/unguided meditation, focused attention, body scan, visualisation, loving kindness, compassion, etc.
There are hundreds of online resources for people interested in meditation. For instance, you can try popular meditation apps:
- 12 best mindfulness apps to help you keep calm during a crisis
- The best meditation apps to help with anxiety
Or use free guided online meditations:
- Isha Kriya
- The 6 Phase Meditation
- Guided breathing meditation
- Guided meditation on the body, space, and awareness
Learn more about the benefits of meditation.
5. Keep a journal and practise forgiveness
This quarantine period has shown us that the similarities between people outnumber the differences. Whether you are short or tall, successful or still figuring things out, rich or poor, extrovert or introvert, we can all understand the pain of others and empathise with how they feel and how they see the world.
It’s a great time to discover how we can better work together and find common ground. To achieve this, we must first start with ourselves and figure out who we really are, what values matter to us, and what things no longer serve us. How can you know yourself better?
Keep a journal, have an honest conversation with yourself, or take a sheet of paper and write everything you’ve ever wanted to say to someone, but never had the courage to. It can be a very cathartic experience, allowing you to release all your negative (or positive) emotions. It’s up to you to decide if you want to send it as a letter/email or simply keep, burn, or throw it away.
Writing down your thoughts, ideas, and opinions is a unique way to create order out of chaos and allows you to move on and focus on new interests. Journaling also helps us discover that we often overreact, and that reality is often different from our assumptions and expectations.
Learn more about the benefits of journaling.
Here’s a list of other self-care activities which are ideal for this period:
- Keep fixed sleeping hours
- Take long relaxing baths
- Use face masks, make-up, etc.
- Change your outfits every day
- Enjoy online parties with your friends
- Make your own cocktails or mocktails
- Don’t binge-watch your favourite shows…too much
- Stick to a daily schedule
- Don’t eat too much junk food or sweets
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
6. Read inspiring books
Reading is a great habit that improves our memory and vocabulary and allows us to express ourselves better. Whether you choose audio, kindle, or hard-cover books, few experiences can compare to immersing yourself into another world and exploring the vision of your favourite authors.
There are many different types of books and genres, which is why it’s difficult to recommend one book or one category that will be ideal for everyone. Still, here are several lists with some of the best books by genre:
- Top 20 self-help books of all time
- 12 Novels considered the “greatest book ever written”
- 100 must-read classic books, as chosen by Penguin readers
- 21 of the best science fiction books everyone should read
- The Sunday Times 50 Best Crime and Thriller Books
- The 20 Greatest Ever Romance Novels
We know there are many other genres or even books which aren’t on these lists. To be honest, they probably deserve an article just for them. But since that’s not our focus, we hope our suggestions are enough to make you think about what to read next.
Learn more about the benefits of reading.
7. Take online courses to improve personal and career skills
Learning is a lifelong process, and it shouldn’t stop once classes end, or, in our case, once classes are suspended. You’ve probably heard this before, but in the age of information, ignorance is a choice. While this statement is rather harsh, we see it as “if you want to learn something, the internet doesn’t allow you to have any excuse”.
YouTube is one of the main platforms where you can learn almost anything: cooking, playing an instrument, creating a website, you name it. It’s all about finding the right channel and putting knowledge into practice.
Computer & IT courses and digital skills
- The Complete Linux Course
- First Person View PC Build Guide (POV)
- How to Make a WordPress Website
- Python Tutorial for Beginners
- The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Crash Course
Design and photo/video editing
- Adobe Illustrator Course
- Complete Beginner Guide to Adobe Photoshop
- The best free photography course
- World’s Most Advanced Video Editing Tutorial (Premiere Pro)
Audio fundamentals and editing
Business, investment, and finance
- Millennial money: lessons with Robert Kiyosaki
- Investment course for beginners
- Financial accounting full playlist
- Gordon Ramsay’s ultimate cookery course
- F is for Flavor | Stella Culinary School
- S is for Sauce | Stella Culinary School
Learn a new language
- Learn French in 5 days
- Learn Spanish – Free Spanish lessons
- Learn German for beginners
- Intermediate English
To improve your language skills faster, you can also take advantage of interactive websites, apps, and games. Here are a few examples:
Please remember that the YouTube videos listed above are only a few examples. You can find courses and tutorials in almost anything that interests you. Quick tip: you can always adjust the YouTube playback speed to 0.75 or 1.25 if the default is too slow or too fast.
If you're interested in taking an English language test from home, here's their current status:
- You can take the TOEFL® iBT from home
- IELTS is suspended in most test centres
- PTE Academic is also suspended in most test centres, but they offer an alternative online test
- You can take the GRE® from home
- The GMAT is offered online since April
Popular online learning platforms
In addition to YouTube, many other platforms offer free or paid online courses. Some of the most well-known are:
Other skills, passions, and hobbies you can focus on:
- Draw – pencils, colours, chalk, pastels, coal
- Paint – oils, acrylics, watercolour
- Paint miniatures
- Play with modelling clay, kinetic sand, Fimo, etc.
- Build: LEGOs, dioramas, trains
- Learn to weave, sew, knit, or crochet – learn the difference between the 4
- Creative writing: write a blog, keep a journal, write a play or a story, or start on a novel, do poetry, write letters to your friends
- Keep a dream journal – maybe even try to draw your dreams
- Sculpture, woodworking
- Complete a puzzle
- Learn Origami
8. Take care of your professional development
Even if almost everything is locked down right now, it won’t last forever. If you’re looking for a part-time (or even full-time) job after your studies resume, take a few steps to prepare yourself:
Update your CV
Your CV (curriculum vitae) remains one of the most important documents during a job application. It’s the first opportunity to impress, and you should treat it seriously. There are a few things to keep in mind while writing a great CV:
- Keep it simple and consistent. Don’t go over the top with the design and visuals unless you’re applying for a design-related position.
- Don’t make it longer than two A4 pages. That’s more than enough to include all the relevant experience and academic background.
- List previous work experiences or jobs chronologically, starting with the most recent ones. It’s a good idea to include relevant personal achievements and typical tasks. The same thing applies to your education.
- If you have any gap periods during which you’ve travelled, focused on your hobbies, or had personal or health issues, briefly mention them and be ready to explain what happened during the interview.
- Volunteering and extracurricular activities can make up for lack of work experience. Just make sure you know what you’ve learned and how it has benefited you.
- Always double check your spelling before sending a CV.
Create or update your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is like the Facebook of professionals and organisations. There, I’ve said it. But what does that mean?
It means you can connect to experts from the fields you’re interested in, stay up to date with the latest business practices, and read interesting articles that focus on career, work-life balance, and professional development.
It has all the benefits of Facebook, but without all the cat videos (no offence, cat lovers), food picks, way-too-many selfies, stories, and check-ins.
LinkedIn also allows users to post and look for jobs all over the world. Actually, that’s how I landed this editorial position at Studyportals – through LinkedIn. You can apply to jobs from the platform and start communicating with an HR employee via chat. What more could you wish for?
If you don’t have one, setting up a profile is quick and simple. Already on LinkedIn? Then it’s the perfect time to update your profile.
Use online freelancing and volunteering opportunities to gain experience
Being stuck at home is not a good excuse to become a couch potato. We love watching TV series as much as anyone, but we also know you won’t earn a living like that. By the way, if you know someone who’s making their living by watching TV series, please let us know.
All jokes aside, online freelancing platforms are a great way to develop your professional skills or simply use your hobbies to earn some extra cash. During this time, you can also find organisations, especially NGOs, which are looking for people who can help them remotely.
Whether you translate texts, help to coordinate online meetings, or edit videos, don’t underestimate the importance of these opportunities. They’re a great asset for your CV and can make you stand out among the rest.
Here are some of the most popular online freelancing platforms:
If you’re looking for online volunteering opportunities, check out these websites:
- UN (United Nations) online volunteering
- EU (European Union) Aid Volunteers
- Translators Without Borders
- Do Something
These are only a few volunteering ideas and resources to get you started. You can be a volunteer with even less effort. For example, consider switching your current search engine (most likely Google) to Ecosia.
Ecosia is a service that works just like Google search but uses the profits generated through ads to plant trees around the world. It has already planted over 50 million trees!
Learn more about the benefits of volunteering.
9. Play games and have fun
When we were kids, everything used to be a game; we knew how to have fun and enjoy ourselves. For some of us, this ability is lost or at least decreases as we grow up and focus on other responsibilities, like education, career, and so on.
However, there are countless benefits of playing, especially for (young) adults who live in a world full of stressful tasks and expectations. Some of the main benefits are:
- Stress relief
- Increased creativity
- Improved relationships and social skills
- Better coordination and motor skills
During this quarantine period, it’s easy to feel stressed or overwhelmed by all the news about the new coronavirus. If you find it difficult to disconnect, playing games can help a lot. There are all kinds of games you can play, so we’ll only list a few examples and categories:
- Online video games on platforms like Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin, GOG Galaxy, etc.
- Board games (if you don’t live alone) or online implementations of board games, if you do.
- Get into role-playing games (RPG) – use pen & paper or online platforms: Dice Breaker, Astral TableTop, Roll20
- Get creative: watch movies with the sound turned off and invent the dialogues
Learn more about the benefits of play.
10. Enjoy online art
If you have a passion for art, a great way to take advantage of your free time is checking out online museums, concerts, and theatre plays. Given the current situation, you can expect to see an increase in the number of similar events streamed live on the internet.
For some streams, the connection isn’t always reliable, and there might be hiccups here and there. Still, if they attract enough viewers, more efforts and resources will be invested in creating perfect streaming experiences.
Just a few examples you can check out:
- 10 of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours
- 12 famous museums offering virtual tours
- List of live virtual concerts
- Online theatre plays
- Google Arts & Culture
11. Back-up important files
We all have important documents, photos that we hold dear, and other files gathered over many years. Yet, few of us take the time to back them up and make sure they are safe if our laptop/computer or phone breaks or is stolen.
Now, you have enough time to copy your files (especially important assignments, documents, or even your thesis or research paper) on a secondary hard-drive or upload them to cloud storage.
Popular cloud storage providers include:
- Google Drive – 15 GB for free. One of the best cloud storage services out there. It is well integrated with Google’s Online Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and offers more storage – 15 GB – than most of the competitors.
- Microsoft OneDrive – 5 GB for free. Microsoft’s online cloud storage has the advantage of being well integrated with its online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. Still, 5 GB isn’t a lot nowadays, so keep that in mind.
- Apple iCloud – 5 GB for free. Ideal for people who already use the Apple ecosystem and own iPhones, iMacs, or iPads. But 5 GB feels kind of cheap coming from Apple.
- Dropbox – 2 GB for free. You can increase your storage to 16 GB through referrals (each referral is worth 500 MB). However, the initial 2 GB won’t be enough for most people.
- Mega – 50 GB for free. The service is focused on user privacy and encrypts files before uploading them. However, to receive 50 GB, you need to participate in their achievement programme.
There are many other cloud storage providers out there. We’ve only listed the free plans for the services above, but they also have monthly and yearly subscription plans that allow customers to increase their online storage.
12. Finish what you’ve started
You might not realise it but finishing what you’ve started is a great way to clear your mind and improve your mood fast. Why? Because most people know when they fail to live to their own expectations.
That’s why we feel bad when we don’t do something that is important to us, or when we fail to keep our promises. There’s never been a better time to take care of loose ends:
- Books you’ve started or want to start reading
- Projects that are difficult, but worthwhile
- School assignments
- Old promises (to yourself or others), if they’re still relevant
13. Clean your room and your inbox
There’s a direct connection between the environment and your state of mind. For many people, living in messy and cluttered rooms is stressful, and doesn’t allow them to focus properly. The solution is simple: clean your room.
While you’re at it, you might also want to move the furniture or place the bed closer to the windows. Try new things out and stay playful; it doesn’t have to be a chore. Ask yourself: if this room could be exactly the way I wanted, how would it look like? Then start taking small steps in that direction.
You can do this with your books, notebooks, and other school materials as well. Things that go together should stay together, and it’s time to invest some effort into creating order around you.
After you finish cleaning the room, rejoice! You have the right to feel proud of yourself and admire the great job you’ve done. If you’re up for an extra challenge, start tackling the inbox. For many people, it’s a place that deserves a lot of attention and usually has hundreds or thousands of unread emails.
You can delete multiple useless emails and notifications using the ‘search’ and ‘select all’ functions. After you’re done with that, unsubscribe from all services and platforms you’re no longer using or interested in. To take it one step forward, you can sort old emails using folders (e.g. receipts, banking, university, healthcare, online courses) and create rules, so that new emails automatically go the right folder.
Being stuck indoors is anything but pleasant, especially now when spring is coming in many parts of the world. But it doesn’t mean you cannot take advantage of this period.
A good start is to admit that you don’t enjoy it and express your feelings. Talk to your friends, your family, and see how they feel. Try to laugh at things and find reasons to smile and encourage each other. You don’t have to pretend it’s all good and nothing’s happening but allowing fearful thoughts and emotions to overwhelm you won’t be helpful either.
The activities listed in this article can keep anyone busy. It even gave us a few ideas about things we want to try and new courses we might be interested in. Here’s a friendly tip: don’t try to do it all at once, and don’t expect to succeed every single day.
There will be moments when you simply don’t feel like working out, cleaning out, or whatever. That’s fine. There’s no need to put extra pressure on yourself. Take that day off and try again the next day. When you wake up in the morning, think about the 3 main priorities for the day and how you plan to achieve them. After each completed task, remember to take breaks and reward yourself.
You need to be aware that it’s very difficult to develop self-discipline because we all have bad or annoying habits which are hard to change. Being patient and taking things one at a time will make all the difference.
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, you won’t radically transform your life and habits in one day. But you can get there through careful planning, sticking to a schedule, doing things that you like and necessary things, patience, and perseverance.
We don’t know how long this pandemic will be, but we hope we’ll get out of it physically and mentally stronger and more grateful for our environment, freedom, and all the things we enjoy and have come to take for granted.