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The year 2020 has brought many changes for high school students, from virtual learning to social distancing. While virtual learning has been successful for some and challenging for others, social distancing has been a struggle for almost all high schoolers. Months of isolation from friends and classmates can negatively impact mental health and result in poor academic performance. That’s why it’s essential to connect with others on a consistent basis. Here are a few ways to do just that during this time of isolation:

1. Technology

Technology provides opportunities to connect with friends and family anytime, anywhere. FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype, Google Hangout, and Zoom are all fast, easy ways to talk with and see friends. Some options, like Zoom, enable more than two people to meet at one time, so you can enjoy a virtual study group or game night when you miss seeing your friends.

Are you and your friends movie buffs? You can watch Netflix together here. Any budding chefs in the group? Choose a recipe in advance and try your hand at it on your next group chat. Technology provides the means to interact, socialize, and collaborate with others from a safe distance.

2. Get Outside

As we learn more about how COVID-19 is spread, research shows that outside venues are safer options. For those times when technology doesn’t seem personal enough, getting outdoors from a distance with close friends can make a big difference in breaking up the fatigue of virtual get-togethers.

Even just taking a walk around the neighborhood can go a long way in boosting mental health. Consider getting to know your neighbors better and support each other from a couple yards away! You can ask older neighbors about their life experiences or help a neighbor rake leaves.

3. Hobby Hangouts

Virtual or in person hobby hangouts are a great way to spend time with friends and do something you love. Group photography adventures, craft nights, and book or movie clubs can ease the loneliness of isolation and expand on your knowledge and skills.

4. Volunteer

Community service is noticeably different now than it was less than a year ago, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still serve the community during COVID. Check out the Volunteer Fairfax, Volunteer Prince William, and Loudoun Cares Volunteer Center websites for up to date volunteer opportunities. From mentoring canines to calling donors and thanking them for donations, you can find a volunteer opportunity that appeals to you.

5. Workout Sessions

Hitting the trails for a run, hike, or bike ride increases endorphins, a hormone that reduces feelings of stress and pain. Exercise can elevate mood, strengthen bones, and improve the structure and function of the brain.

Looking for an extra brain boost? Exercise with a friend! Non-contact sports, like tennis or golf, are great ways to have a social connection from a distance.

One benefit of virtual learning is the longer breaks between classes. You can use this extra time to work out or just walk outside so you feel refreshed and ready to focus during your next online class.

6. Meet with a Tutor

Some students excel in a virtual classroom, while others do not. If you fall into the latter category, you might benefit from working with a tutor once or twice a week. By catering to your specific learning style, a tutor can teach lessons and concepts differently than your teacher and provide accountability with assignment submissions. Knowing you have additional support and resources available can increase confidence when difficulties arise with virtual learning.

While much has changed in the world, and education in particular, the need for connection remains the same. Utilizing technology, getting outside, initiating hobby hangouts, volunteering, working out, and/or meeting with a tutor on a regular basis can help you feel connected during this season of isolation.