A laptop, notebooks, and mug of coffee sit on a desk in front of a wall of plants and books

Learning from home setup / Image via Jade Vandergrift

At the beginning of the year, when attending class meant climbing the 403 steps at VIU in the dreary, pouring rain of January, the idea of studying from home sounded like a pretty good gig. Blankets. Snacks at your disposal. Not having to wear pants. Dreamy, right?

Fast forward nine months, and we’re quickly finding out that LFH (learning from home) isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and endless cups of coffee. If you’re like me, you’re feeling scattered, unmotivated, and uninspired. All classes are blending into one, and keeping track of them is difficult. But if online learning is going to be “the new normal,” at least for this semester, we might as well try and make the most of it!

Here are eight tips to help optimize the work you’re doing from home, whilst keeping your mental health in check.

Establish a routine

Try and wake up at the same time every day. Make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea. Make yourself a to-do list or a study schedule and stick to it. Trying to mimic the routine you had before you-know-what struck is a good way to make the situation feel more “normal.”

Get dressed

No, I don’t mean put on restrictive denim jeans or an uncomfortable shirt. We are at home, after all! Keep your tried and true athleisure wear close. Basketball shorts. Lululemon. You know, pants with an elastic band. Just not the same clothes you slept in.

Create a workspace

This is so your subconscious knows that when you’re there, you’re there to work. And keep it clean. Countless studies have shown that a cluttered space equals a cluttered mind, contributes to a higher level of anxiety and insomnia, as well as significantly reduces one’s ability to focus. (Hint: Your bed doesn’t count as a workspace.)

Keep your phone hidden away

Preferably in another room. On silent. Bury it in the dirt in the backyard. Whatever keeps you off Instagram when you should be writing a paper.

Take breaks

Don’t allow your body and brain to run on fumes. Keep your tank full by taking a couple breaks throughout the day to make a nourishing meal, go for a walk around the block, have a shower, stare at the wall—whatever floats your boat.


Moving your body is one of the best ways to keep your mental health in check. This can go hand-in-hand with Tip #5, too. This is one of the best things about LFH because you can trade in the time it took to get to class and use it to build a healthier exercising habit, whether that’s going for a run, or doing a free half-hour yoga class on YouTube.

Maintain a social connection

One of the best things about being in university is the social aspect of it. Being stuck at home in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t mean that the most fun part of university has to go away, it just means we must find different ways of staying connected. Set up a Zoom or socially distanced study date with some classmates. Reach out to friends and family. Find activities you can do with friends that can be done safely.

Be kind to yourself

This is a weird year, and even just remembering that this isn’t a normal situation, is important. Give yourself grace when you’re having an off day and try and bask in the goodness when you’re having a good one. The mental peaks and valleys of this pandemic are real, ya’ll! So don’t give yourself a hard time if tasks that typically come easy to you are a little more challenging.

We’re all in this together. As cliché as it is, it’s true. While our methods of maneuvering this online learning world might be different, we’re all in the same boat.
And who knows, maybe when we’re back to trudging up those dang VIU stairs, we’ll laugh and say, “Hey, remember when we only had to walk 15 steps from our bed to our computer desk? Yeah, good times.”


Kristen Bounds is a fifth-year Creative Writing major focusing on non-fiction and journalism. Her writing mostly centres around her passion topics: environmentalism and social justice. Apart from talking about plastic to anyone who will listen, she enjoys reading, surfing, and is quite partial to a cold hazy pale ale.

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