Photo C/O Anthony Tran on Unsplash
By Thivishah Rajsekar, Contributor
The COVID-19 global pandemic has many of us adapting to a new normal. McMaster University became one of many institutions that had to adjust to the present dangers of this pandemic, cancelling classes and announcing that its Fall 2020 semester will be online.
Initially, I was upset about having to spend my final semester online, but after taking time to really reflect on what is happening, I realized that this decision was made to ensure the health and safety of the McMaster community. However, adapting to such a change in a short period of time was not easy.
Many students, like myself, are experiencing fear and anxiety over the new learning conditions. I personally have the tendency to be consumed by thoughts about not being able to see friends, struggling to get through quarantine or even missing out on prospective employment opportunities due to COVID-19. A great way I learned to manage this kind of thinking is by protecting and valuing my mental health.
It is important to stay resilient and sustain your mental health during quarantine in order to help you cope. Especially as students, we don’t want to add the weight of additional stressors to our lives. Yet, for many of us, the isolation and social distancing we are experiencing to prevent the virus from spreading is leading us to neglect other aspects of our health.
Research has shown that mental and physical health are interdependent — having good mental and physical health helps you function in society. I can attest to the fact that poor mental health has a negative effect on your overall well-being.
At the beginning of the summer I had no responsibilities, so I made an effort to improve my mental health through my self-care practices. I took the time to exercise, keep in touch with friends, watch Netflix and pick up old hobbies. I also made sure to avoid being overly consumed by social media. I felt extremely accomplished trying to relearn how to play the flute and experimenting with art for the first time in years.
However, once summer school started, I noticed a change in my habits. I stopped pursuing my hobbies and devoted most of my time to school. Yes, school is important, but there should always be a balance for everything in life. I am only taking one course, but given that I am in my final year, I often felt that this is my last opportunity to boost my GPA.
As a result, I unconsciously committed way more time to school than needed. After a few weeks, I started feeling lazier than normal and felt hungry more frequently, which has negatively impacted my body. I also noticed a difference in my mood, as I constantly felt tired and irritable.
It was at this point that I realized that I needed to change my habits. When I finally acknowledged that I needed to switch things up, I went back to investing more time into my interests. To help with my mental and physical well-being, I started to consistently do at-home workouts and go for walks. I also revisited childhood hobbies like drawing, playing the flute and crocheting.
To help with my intellectual wellness, I invested some time in online courses to help me improve my employability skills, such as learning Excel. Going back to my old habits and exploring new self-care habits has boosted my emotional, psychological and social well-being.
All in all, fostering resilience during quarantine allows you to remain positive even in the face of adversity; improved mental health leads to increased productivity at work, home and school. Although you may feel that you are alone, remember that we are all in this together! Technology plays a key role in the 21st century and you can still make those same connections virtually.