Let me just start with a very important disclaimer: the world that we are finding ourselves in right now is exceptionally ludicrous. The world was already naturally unpredictable, chaotic and sometimes daunting. College students lived in a world of political division, academic responsibilities, relational obligations, extracurriculars and somehow finding the time amidst all of that to just be a person who can function. Life was already wild; we just found ways to tame it.
But now, with the introduction of a global pandemic, the uncertainty of the world can seem especially discouraging. We know that this virus will eventually go away, but the road that will take us to that point is still unclear. We do not know everything that’s going to happen, and we do not know how long it will take for us to see the end of the road. With that uncertainty, there comes a more immediate concern, which is the measures we must take in order to slow and stop the spread of this virus, specifically social distancing and avoiding public places. The combination of state-mandated isolation and unpredictability regarding the circumstances requiring said mandates is a recipe for mental health struggles. Even actor and the kindest man on earth (according to Barry co-star Bill Hader) Henry Winkler took to Twitter to say, “I am, like so many of us, filled with anxiety.”
For me personally, I know that being back in my hometown rather than in my room in Wyckoff has not been great for my mental health. I feel like I am in high school again, and it’s hard knowing that all the people I have met this academic year are also back in their hometowns, most of them nowhere near my own. It’s hard knowing that I already had some of my final memories with the seniors I met this year and that they have had their last semester at Hope cut so short. In addition to being separated from new friends, the hope of contact with friends in close proximity has been dashed too, with many states (including Indiana) being under a stay-at-home order, leaving me mostly alone with my thoughts and my schoolwork.
With all of this said, it brings me back to my disclaimer that the world in which we are finding ourselves is exceptionally ludicrous; thus, it is very much okay to not feel okay right now. We are in a situation unlike anything else we have seen in our lifetimes. We have to find different ways to cope with a very different situation.
I should start by saying that your worth during this quarantine is not determined by how productive you are during this hiatus from society. It’s easy to see people on social media taking up new hobbies or starting new creative projects and thinking that you should be out there (out there being in your own house) conquering the world (the world also being any domestic undertakings you may assume). While there is no inherent harm in productivity, remember that you need to rest as well. We all have plenty of work to do already with online classes, and you should not feel guilty if you neglect to learn how to play the piano or start a wicked home workout regimen while on lockdown. Do with the time what you think needs to be done. Take up as little or as much extra responsibility as you would like, just make sure you can do it joyfully and healthily.
Another thing I have found to be helpful is to be outside as much as possible. Not outside at a public playground, not outside with a group of friends and not outside in a heavily foot-trafficked area. Take your dog for a walk or go on a walk with your family (or by yourself). Go on a bike ride. Not only is physical activity essential to your physical well-being, but also your mental well-being. Being outside, while still being away from other people, is a great way to remember that things exist outside of the four walls of your bedroom.
The most important thing to remember is that with each new day, we are one day closer to the end of all of this. Every day that passes is a day towards healing and the return to normalcy. Stay safe. Don’t hang out with your friends. Love people well. We will get through this together. I can’t wait to see you on campus next semester.
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