University at Home? – 10 Ways to Stay Motivated and Learning During COVID-19

Has online learning forced you off campus? If so, you may be struggling to stay motivated without the aid of a typical classroom environment. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay motivated and learn in this pandemic. Here are 10 tools to keep your mind active during COVID-19.

1. Exercise

Besides helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise has plenty of mental benefits, too. Getting in a regular sweat session is excellent for cognition, as it increases blood flow to the brain. Studies also show exercise can increase the hippocampus’ size, which is the memory part of our brain that diminishes as we age.

Aim for thirty minutes per day of moderate exercise, like walking, yoga, or bike riding.

2. Meditate

Just a few minutes of meditation a day (between five to fifteen) has fantastic calming effects. Meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and it lowers inflammation in the brain. Plus, it engages new neural pathways, which is not only excellent for increasing mental flexibility but can also make you more self-aware.

Another meditation bonus is that it helps you fall asleep faster. Being well-rested makes it easier to focus in class, and its calming effects can help you have more productive study sessions.

3. Sleep

When it comes to sleep, the importance of rest on cognitive health cannot be understated. Long-term poor sleep habits are directly related to cognitive decline as we age, which means that if your sleep patterns are erratic, you’re sabotaging physical and mental health.

Though the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic can make it hard to fall asleep, aim for seven to nine hours per night. This amount is optimal for resetting the brain, giving it time to heal, and improving our mental health.

4. Learn to Use Your Non-dominant Hand

You already know that using your non-dominant hand is challenging, which makes it an excellent—and easy!—way to increase brain activity. Use the wrong hand as you go about daily tasks for an extra brain boost. You’ll find it difficult, but keep at it—the difficulty is what makes this tip useful.  

5. Socialize

Seeing people you love can help keep motivation high.

Why? Because socializing increases blood flow to various parts of the brain as you listen and come up with responses. It also helps fight depression, which can make learning difficult or downright impossible. Even for introverts, being around others in the right doses is highly beneficial.

So instead of scrolling on your smartphone, spend some quality time with friends. Though in-person socializing might not be an option, use tools like FaceTime and Zoom to connect. Even sending a friend a quick message can be a mood booster.

6. Draw Your Town from Memory

This simple exercise is a fantastic way to get your brain working and stay sharp. All you have to do is close your eyes and picture your town or neighborhood. Once you see all the details, draw them on a piece of paper. Include as much information as you can, such as streets, parks, landmarks, etc.

Once you’ve finished, compare your map to a real one. Did you miss some obvious things? Was the exercise more demanding than you anticipated? Navigation is automatic when we’re physically in a familiar place. But forcing yourself to navigate your hometown, then draw and label the map, activates your brain in a new way.

If you thought this exercise was easy, try making it more difficult. Draw a less-familiar place, or try to replicate a map of the United States.

7. Try Something New

Been awhile since you took up a new hobby? Now’s a perfect time! Learning new skills encourages brain health because they create new connections between brain cells. One study even showed that older adults learning new skills performed better on memory tests.

So stretch your mind with non-academic activities to keep it sharp. Take up a second language, try inline skating, or start learning that instrument you’ve always been interested in.

8. Try Brain Games

Brain games are an excellent way to improve mental focus and stave off brain aging. They also help memory, response time, and logic development. Plus, the options for challenging your brain with both pen-and-paper and app versions are endless, and you can even find word tools for school. Some of our favorites are:

9. Eat Well

Eating well is vital not just for our physical well-being, but also for our brain. You know the saying “you are what you eat,” and what we eat plays a direct role in our mind’s structure and health. Food also aids short- and long-term brain function.

To keep your mind functioning optimally, make sure to eat a varied diet low in saturated and trans fats. It should include plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and omega-3 fatty acids. And try not to abuse caffeine, which can make you jittery and unable to focus.

10. Set Boundaries

Finally, disconnecting from online learning can be challenging. It’s easy to feel the stress of school around you always, especially without your campus’s social scene available to take a break. Without taking time for yourself, burnout may be just around the corner.

So be sure to set boundaries regarding when, where, and how much you study—and follow them! Planning time away to recharge is critical to maintaining a healthy balance.


Author Bio: Gil Artmoore has spent the past decade working in various roles in IT departments for many businesses both small and large. Recently, Gil started writing out the things he has learned, experienced and witnessed in the small business and tech world during his career. He is eager to share his insights with the rest of the world.


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