These past few months of online classes have been a new experience for everyone. At first it seemed like it might be a nice break from running around campus, but it became clear rather quickly that this time was more of a loss than a gain. This virus has affected people in all areas of life. Whether it be directly through contraction of COVID-19 or indirectly through the cancellation of important events like graduation, this pandemic and subsequent isolation has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year, it could not have come at a better time. Many psychologists have recognized that this time of high stress is a form of trauma our minds have to cope with. While this pandemic is not enough of a disturbance to cause PTSD, its effects are jarring enough to lead to or exacerbate psychological conditions like depressive and/or anxiety disorders, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
While we are still in classes or studying for finals, it can be a bit easier to ignore the global chaos by distracting ourselves with school work (or by procrastinating said work). But after the semester comes to an end we will truly be “bored in the house, in the house bored.” The mental toll will switch from constantly worrying about what’s due in your classes to what to do with your day. I think, regardless of whether school is in session, monitoring your mental health is important — each state of being brings with it different struggles. This newfound freedom can cause your sleep schedule to fall apart even more and make you lose the little bit of structure and purpose online classes provided. While it will be a relief to not have any more looming deadlines, now we’ll have empty time to fill.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several tips for dealing with today’s stressful times. The first of these tips is to take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories — this includes taking breaks from Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets that may serve as frequent reminders of our current situation. It’s important to stay informed, but not to the point where you are losing sleep over things you cannot control. The second tip is to take care of your body. This includes exercising, eating well and avoiding negative coping mechanisms like overeating or abuse of alcohol (if you’re of age). The third tip is to make time to unwind. While it’s important to be productive, your productivity is not the be-all and end-all. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re “taking it easy.” Try setting a time when work stops and “me time” takes over. The fourth and final tip is to connect with others. Just because we are self-isolating doesn’t mean you should stop talking to your support system. Now that social interaction through campus life will be non-existent, it’s important to call, text and FaceTime the people you would normally talk to.
I know one of my biggest struggles during this time has been finding a balance between “me time” and “go time.” It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines you set for yourself, but it’s important to remember that these are not normal times we are all dealing with — so one “bad day” (or more) is allowed. A productive day of quarantine doesn’t look the same as a productive pre-quarantine day. Sometimes it’s a win just to take a shower. So take it easy on yourself and have a mentally healthy summer!