School usually means a hectic and stressful schedule. Every student is familiar with the daily rhythms of waking up to a noisy alarm clock, rolling out of bed, and heading to school at what always seems to be too early of a time. This tiredness is not without foundation. Research has shown that sleep cycles move to later times during adolescence, meaning the usual school start times are too early for teenagers. In addition, with the rush to reach school on time, breakfast is often pushed aside. A Kellogg Company survey found that only 36% of high school students eat breakfast everyday. Although the survey might seem like it could be biased based on the company that conducted it, it is common knowledge that many high school students show up to class tired, irritated, and hungry. At night, after finishing their homework, many students will go to bed late, only to wake up early the next day and repeat the cycle all over again.
Enter COVID-19: Suddenly students are thrust into a whole new environment of stress as the deadly new virus spreads across the globe. On March 13, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Claremont school district made the decision to close campuses and switch to online learning.
With the new system in place, students’ schedules have changed. No longer do they have to wake up early just to be on time for a 7 AM class. Now, all classes are online and teachers just require students to finish the assigned work by flexible deadlines. With the strict rules of school relaxed, many CHS students have taken the opportunity to relax and work on self-improvement. Senior Justin Weiler shared his new schedule under the changes.
“I’ve been going to bed at or past midnight basically every night for the quarantine,” Weiler said. “However, I still make sure to get 8 hours of sleep.”
The increased time at home has also caused other changes for students. Weiler noticed his eating habits are different now compared to the old school days.
“I’m actually eating less than usual because I don’t feel hungry,” Weiler said. “I think it’s because I’m not using any energy to do stuff.”
With regards to breakfast, the easier schedule has not ensured that everyone eats the morning meal. Some students had already gotten used to not eating breakfast thanks to the previous early wake-up times. Senior Hannah Huang told how her experiences have formed a no-breakfast habit.
“I use that ‘extra time’ in the morning to sleep in, rather make myself breakfast,” Huang said. “My breakfast habit hasn’t really changed during the quarantine because I was never really a breakfast person in the first place. However, this is partially because I had a first period. Mornings would be rushed because I would try and sleep as much as I could and speed through the ‘get ready’ process.”
Staying at home has hurt many students’ exercise habits. Previously, students would get some activity from normal school motions such as traveling in between classes or walking home. Now, confined at home, it is harder to stay fit and get exercise in the smaller environment.
“Staying at home and being forced to remain inside the house demotivates me from exercise,” Huang said. “I have been getting a lot less exercise than I typically would during school days.”
While the average person is losing exercise to the quarantine, athletes around the world are finding ways to stay fit. The lack of gym equipment and formal training has not prevented them from working out at home. Some athletes are having fun with the situation and share their daily routines on social media. Stale Sandbech, an Olympic medalist in snowboarding, posted a video of using his little brother as a weight instead of metal ones. However, not all are taking it so well. Having important sports events cancelled with no end in sight have left many driven athletes frustrated. Psychology professor Bob Swoap is helping the U.S. Olympic table tennis team cope during this time. In an interview with Warren Wilson College, he shared their behavior.
“These athletes, who are so driven, are like tigers in cages right now,” Swoap said. “I think it’s really important to support anyone and everyone who is struggling during this difficult situation.”
While athletes are able to keep exercising in isolation, the longer the indefinite suspension of sports drags on, the more difficult it will become to retain high skill level. Simple home exercises are not a perfect replacement to sports practices. It may be a while even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted for some athletes to return to the same level as before. (See the article: “Thrown a curveball, pack athletes are forced to adapt to the new normal” for more information about the subject).
It is important to note the quarantine has been affecting everyone differently. While some people are able to keep their spirits high despite not leaving their house much, others become depressed at the situation and the negative news every day. This has led to real medical problems related to anxiety. Teenagers have been mostly exempt, but children of younger ages did not react well to the stress. Pediatricians from Italy shared their observations with the New York Times to warn the rest of the world what might happen in their countries.
“We have a lot of somatization [somatization refers to an intense focus on physical conditions that causes anxiety or depression],” family pediatrician Stefania Manetti said. “They keep going to the bathroom, they have abdominal pain, all these things.”
With no end in sight to the current home restrictions, it is important to adapt to the home environment and take care of oneself. Athletes need to remain in shape even without the promise of any sporting events in the foreseeable future. In addition, parents should take time and address any possible concerns their children might have. Everyone is taking the sudden changes to their lifestyle differently. By working together, people can adjust to the new environment without compromising their health.