What should we do to stop constantly refreshing the unchanging election results on our phones and computers? Being a college student during a raging pandemic, an election and an accelerated semester here at Hope is challenging to say the least. But I can guarantee that we all are aware of what’s going on because it is constantly in the back (or front) of everyone’s mind. We could all use some healthy distractions and ways to cope with all of the craziness around us. And I know that many of us are wondering if it is possible to still be okay. Hannah Bugg, class of ’20 and Voorhees Resident Director, thinks it is possible to cope in this difficult time. She shared her best tips for staying sane while navigating this tricky semester and election season all at once.
She started by acknowledging that “the stress and anxiety from the election are very real, and I don’t think we should have to ignore them.” She doesn’t think that we should completely cut ourselves off from the news cycle, nor is it beneficial to spend hours staring at Nevada on the polling map. It is super important to find healthy habits and ways to cope with all that is going on, because neither avoidance nor obsession is going to help us in the long run. Bugg said that her first solution is scheduling specific times to consume media or look at the results, and she also recommends “hav[ing] a core group of people to check in and decompress with… some people who have healthy boundaries.” Talk about whatever is on your mind with them because “…to bottle it up isn’t good, to only think about it isn’t good, but it is important to find that middle ground.” That middle ground can be so difficult to find when headlines bombard us into obsession or when ignorance and avoidance seem like the only way to deal with everything. But that middle ground is everything and really the only way to be at peace, however hard it may be to find.
Compartmentalizing is sometimes necessary for Bugg, and she agreed that “to some extent you have to not think about things, otherwise you will get overwhelmed and not be able to get up in the morning and do your stuff.” However, she also said that too much compartmentalizing isn’t good either, and that we still have to acknowledge the hard things. Again, it is all about that golden middle ground.
Another thing Bugg suggests to other students and does for herself is finding something she has control over and putting time into whatever that may be. For her, this is mainly cleaning around her apartment or making food. She feels like she has most control over her living environment, and she said, “I will vacuum, I will open the windows, I will make my bed and fold my laundry. This makes you feel good because you are at least master of something. You can’t control the election, you can’t control COVID, but [you] will have clean sheets.” She said it is important to focus on the things that you can control, however small, and you will feel so much better than if you spiral into the things you can’t. Also, finding some little creative outlet makes a load of difference mentally. Her go-to is knitting, and for others it could be drawing, sewing or virtually anything that brings peace, relaxation and creativity. Another one of her favorite things to do is watching stand up comedy, especially John Mulaney because “laughing is so important.” Each of us has different activities we use to relax, and it is so important to find those little things and take whatever time you can to enjoy them.
A little closer to home, how are her residents doing? She isn’t quite sure or entirely optimistic: “It’s a mixed bag. I haven’t met a single person who isn’t exhausted at this point. I’ve seen over the last week that people have kind of receded into their rooms, or they are in quarantine.” Bugg added that for many their rooms are the safe spaces to be cozy inside and maskless. She doesn’t blame her residents for being hesitant to leave the quirky Voorhees rooms. She said, “You’re so stressed with so many things, so why would you leave that safe space? I think we are all just getting through. We are all excited to get to the end.”
The end of the semester is so near, and these last few weeks seem to be the hardest. Something special Bugg put in place for her residents is the ability to stop in her office and hang out with Frankie, her cat. A lot of people have taken advantage of that opportunity to relax, and many say the cat therapy has been really helpful and a nice break. She thinks that her residents are doing the best they can with their friends and are attempting to stay sane among the variety of things to be worried about.
Bugg recognized how difficult it is to be in college right now with the combination of COVID, the election and the virtually no-break accelerated semester finishing up. Even though she graduated last year, she was doubtful that she could handle being in classes right now. She thinks that most students are “…just running to the end and just hoping that over break they will re-energize.”
Bugg’s biggest advice to all of Hope is to “eat more vegetables and drink more water.” But even more in-depth, she wanted all students—not just her residents—to know this: “Cut yourself slack because you are doing so much.” She hoped that everyone felt encouraged by President Scogin’s frequent remarks, reminding us that we are strong and resilient in this difficult time. But even more important than that, she stressed that “you can fail, and that’s okay, because this is so much… I hope that people can honestly just get through this.” For many of us, this is just the goal. Our mental health, energy and sleep should be a priority, even over our academics. She said that “the culture at Hope is to strive and to succeed and to be a shining example to the world.” And it isn’t a bad thing to try your best at school work. “But honestly?” She added, “Just get through, and just by doing that, you are a shining example to me.”