Photo C/O engin akyurt on Unsplash

By Alakshiya Arumuganathan, Contributor

Can you believe it has been over three months since McMaster announced the end of in-person classes? The moment I heard there was going to be a pause in classes, I had many emotions going through my mind. I couldn’t wrap my head around the possible truth that COVID-19 is a lot more severe than we first thought.

As soon as they announced classes would be online, I automatically assumed that everything would be easier. However, as deadlines were piling up, I had difficulty staying focused and motivated. I lost my momentum and feared my academic performance was declining. I became a victim of stress, worry, anxiety, declining health, loneliness and relationship difficulties, among others. These challenges got worse each day and I feared I would never be able to overcome them.

Weeks went by and I managed to successfully submit my coursework, however, my mental health was deteriorating, and I assumed that if I stopped feeling my emotions, everything would be fine. It reached a point where I did not invest in any time for myself.

One day, I came across a course McMaster was offering called “Coping with COVID-19”. Reading about the course sparked an interest and I realized I needed to make a change. I knew that change is progressive and it does not happen overnight, but with a positive attitude and consistent effort, you have a good chance of seeing great results.

Through this course, I learned multiple coping strategies that anyone can use — during quarantine and beyond. This course helped me discover my path to success, understanding my purpose and helping me achieve my own holistic personal development.

A few coping strategies that struck me were mindfulness, meditation, self-care, listening to podcasts, practicing emotional first aid, watching relevant TEDtalks, connecting with friends and family and understanding cognitive therapy and the thinking/feeling connection. Everyone has their own coping strategies so these may or may not work for you.

One tactic I used to help manage my pandemic-related anxiety was to minimize my time devoted to watching the news. Seeing the staggering number of cases increase each day along with hearing about deaths made me feel more anxious. Watching the news at night ruined my sleeping habits so I decided to dedicate only an hour in the morning to keep myself informed.

Another habit I developed was incorporating meditation into my daily routine. Meditation helped relieve my stress, anxiety and worry. There are many forms of meditation so take the time to understand which type is better suited for you. Some of my favorite ones are breathing awareness, walking meditation and guided imagery. After I meditated, I wrote down two things I was grateful for along with what I planned to be mindful of for the day. Self-reflection allowed me to build emotional self-awareness and a positive mindset.

With the new knowledge I gained, I took the initiative along with a friend to start up an online platform on ways students can cope with their mental health during COVID-19. Our project includes various resources including a 20-Day Self-Care challenge which can be carried all throughout your life.

Initially, I felt overwhelmed with the thought of completing all 20 habits in the challenge.  However, with the help of my friends and family, I was able to push through. Surrounding myself with a positive support system helped me have a better outlook on life and incorporating all these strategies into my life helped me feel stronger — mentally, physically and emotionally. I continuously aspire to grow stronger and become the best version of myself.

I have the tendency to isolate myself when I am not doing well mentally. Once I started feeling comfortable with myself, I decided to connect with friends and family again. I wish I had done this sooner because having a social support system really has an impact on your well-being.

Through media and social pressures, we have been told that showing our emotions is a sign of weakness. Remember that it is okay to feel those emotions. These times of uncertainty can be scary but we are all in this together.

You are the only person who can change your life.

 

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