During this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, dental hygienists and dental hygiene students are learning to navigate a new normal. Dimensions Brand Ambassador Yvette Reibel, RDH, BA, BSDH, MSDH, a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Dental Hygiene at the University of Minnesota shares indispensable tips on how to thrive in dental hygiene school during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Many, if not all of you, never imagined your dental hygiene journey would be affected by a pandemic with drastic restrictions like you have been experiencing with COVID-19. When faculty were preparing for or enjoying spring break, we never thought some of us would be changing course delivery, navigating through alternative licensure exams, and trying to maintain connections with our students using online platforms. We have been living and adjusting to new guidelines and routines that seem to change rapidly. Some of you may be feeling anxious, stressed, or isolated during this time. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with these wide ranges of emotions.
KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALONE
With restrictions imposed on college campuses across the US, it is easy to feel isolated and alone. Although physically we are not in classrooms, labs, and clinics, we are together online. Understanding that this may not be enough for some, if your state allows you to physically meet with a friend or classmate while practicing social distancing, go for a walk. Additionally, your class may want to think about setting up a virtual class meeting once a week to socialize or set up a meeting with a faculty member to keep in touch. Just know that these feelings are shared by most of your classmates and faculty as well. It is important in this time to stay connected and support one another until we return to campus or clinic.
STICK TO A ROUTINE
Even though attending courses and completing assignments from home may sound relaxing (especially the ability to sleep in), developing a routine will help you stay productive. Without a routine, our days can blend together. During the week, establish a routine around when you wake up, eat breakfast and lunch, workout, and complete assignments, lectures, and projects. This routine will help establish a level of normalcy and will differentiate the weekdays from the weekends. It will also increase your productivity and accomplishment of assigned tasks.
MANAGE YOUR MEDIA TIME
The pandemic has provided us with more time to surf social media platforms and binge watch TV shows. While small doses are probably harmless, being plugged into social media for large amounts of time may expose you to more pandemic-related information than you are comfortable with. Remember to manage your exposure to current events in relation to how you are feeling. Tuning in repeatedly may cause an increase in stress and anxiety. Stay informed but make an effort to find other things to fill your free time.
FIND OTHER THINGS TO TALK ABOUT
As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, it is easy to have this be the main focus of your conversations with others. I suggest that you avoid having the pandemic consume your whole conversation and, instead, learn more about the person you are interacting with. While it may be impossible to not talk about it at all, focus on the positive topics with your friends and family. Ask a friend if he or she has tried a new recipe or exercise routine. Moving your focus away from the pandemic may lead to a less anxious reaction and you may learn some new skills.
In closing, please know your dental hygiene faculty are here to support you in this time of uncertainty. We are trying to make the most out of this situation and we have your best interest in mind as we go forward. We would rather be in classrooms, clinics, and labs with you as you work toward becoming a dental hygiene professional. In this temporary state, we are still here for you, we want you to succeed, we support you, and we are excited to welcome you into the dental hygiene profession.