Student diary: About self-care in quarantine

Me at the window of our Tartu apartment, looking for the signs of spring. Photo from a private collection

COVID-19 is omnipresent at the moment. Coronavirus has reached Tartu and we are all affected. To prevent the spread of the virus and due to the state of emergency declared by the Estonian government, not only the university, but most of our personal social life now takes place at home.

I know this situation of social isolation is new, challenging, and also a bit scary for all of us — take it from me, an international exchange student who has not even lived in Tartu for two months and was looking forward to an exciting semester abroad. Still, we have to keep in mind that this is a communal problem, not just a personal one. When experts tell us students to stay at home, we stay at home – it’s that simple. We are in this together now; responsibility and solidarity have rarely been more important than they are now. 

But instead of preaching morality here, I would rather like to give you a little personal insight into how I deal with this situation. I decided to stay in Tartu because I simply feel safer here than I would back home in Germany, where the crisis is currently more severe. I have my own room in an apartment that I share with my two absolutely amiable flatmates. I thought I’d rather sit this one out here in Tartu. However, I would also be lying if I did not admit to myself that I am hoping for this situation to improve soon.

Since the university canceled face-to-face classes I am continuing my studies online. Instead of lectures, we switched to e-learning and seminars turned into so-called webinars (online seminars held in conferences over the internet). Of course it takes time to adjust to these new methods of digital studying, but for now it’s going surprisingly well. Our lecturers and the entire teaching staff are doing their best to make this transition as convenient as possible for us students, and I think I can speak for all my classmates when I say that we really appreciate it.

Anyway, as more cases of suspected coronavirus occur, quarantine and self-isolation will become the norm in the near future. So it is up to us how we deal with this situation. Even though we’re all struggling, I believe that in every crisis also lies an opportunity. See the chance in it and embrace it. This forced break may lead to something positive; for example, I think that we will all learn more about self care.

Taking the time to nurture and take care of ourselves is crucial to our well-being, especially now. Let’s take some time to rest and recover. And then do the things we enjoy. I came up with my own little “self-care routine” that helps me to keep calm in these stressful times. For me, it is waking up when the sun tickles my face and I hear birds singing outside of my window. I’m trying to cherish these little things like creating new playlists, reading intriguing books, writing letters, or exercising. For this, I like to come up with a specific plan for each day to keep myself busy but also make sure I do things that I enjoy.

Finding a creative output can be a great way to actually enjoy all this free time. Whether it is painting, learning languages, watching movies, yoga, baking, TED talks, board games, meditation, puzzles, podcasts, online live concerts or whatever – the list is long and everything works; you just need find your own thing. The key to self-care is that it should be something you enjoy and that may look different to each of us.

I truly believe that this crisis will bring out the best in people.

Keep going, be strong, and stay safe.

Anja Tovirac is an exchange student at the University of Tartu from Germany.

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