COVID-19 impacts students’ mental and physical health


Zulfiqar Ahmed

Opinion Editor, Summer Fitzgerald, is stressed out looking at her computer screen.

DeKALB —The COVID-19 pandemic has created many obstacles for students, including mental and physical health challenges. 

The consequences of the pandemic, including isolation, job loss and the closure of universities have contributed to anxiety and depression among young adults.  

With the spring semester beginning remotely, NIU students are still facing the challenges of online learning, such as distractions, motivation problems and not being able to meet with friends and professors face-to-face. This can be especially apparent with lab or practical components, where in-person learning may be the only way to complete a course. 

“We have online labs in place if we need them, and our faculty has done a really good job at developing them so students can get as much of a learning experience as possible, but they’re never gonna be as good as in-person,” said Beth Reiter, a lab manager for NIU’s department of chemistry and biochemistry.

While Illinois fully reopened last year, the ease and convenience of staying home, watching Netflix, ordering delivery and even working from home has made going out seem like a chore to some. 

With the uncertainty of the pandemic looming overhead, some students have found it difficult to get into a healthy routine. 

“Getting in the habit of going somewhere every day, it’s actually jarring,” Reiter said. “You can’t really get into a routine (because you don’t know what to expect).”

Along with the mental health challenges, COVID-19 has also presented challenges to maintaining physical health. 

With fast food and delivery being a convenient option especially during the pandemic, healthy options can be difficult for students to indulge in. 

“(COVID-19) causes extreme changes in your lifestyle,which can cause stress and anxiety, and with quarantine you have to isolate,” said Keygan Balaja, a graduate student and intern in NIU’s Nutrition and Dietetics program. 

Staying home and having food accessible can also cause more emotional eating, according to Balaja. 

Earlier in the pandemic, COVID-19 restrictions forced gyms to close. While home workouts quickly became popular, students likely did not have access to the same resources or machines as they would at a gym. 

“I think a lot of students are suffering from anxiety, which makes people feel stuck, but I feel like having an outlet, and thinking of the outdoors as a way to support your health (can be good for students),” said Christine Lagattolla, assistant director for the Outdoor Adventures program at NIU’s rec center.

With over half of the population of DeKalb county fully vaccinated paired with looser COVID-19 restrictions, more students have been taking advantage of the fitness resources on campus.  

“It’s pretty crowded on the (basketball) courts,” Lagattolla said. “It’s a steady stream of students working out, but there’s so many factors that have changed over the years and students go to other gyms as well.”

Besides going to the gym, NIU’s Outdoor Adventures program hosts a multitude of outdoor activities, ranging from hiking and camping trips to ice skating.

“I think it gives (students) a different approach to what it means to be healthy,” Lagattolla said. “You’re gonna get tired, you’re gonna get tired from school, it’s okay to take a break, but at least get moving. The outdoors is a good opportunity to exercise without thinking about it.”