No matter your reality, the recent forced move-out presents challenges for everyone. For some, leaving Oxy means going home. For others, the house in our hometown is not a home. To help us all through this hard time, I have some advice for coping with the current chaos. These methods will by no means eliminate your struggles; however, they can help ease the mental burdens of the COVID-19 situation.
First and foremost, anything you are feeling right now is valid and okay. No matter what, judging your feelings is not necessary or productive right now. If you are anxious about your loved ones, the world and/or the economy, that is understandable. Do you hate being home? So do many of your peers. Are you relieved? That’s normal too. If you are too depressed to do homework, that’s all right; your professors will adjust for you. If you’re happy, that’s not a crime either. This pandemic is unprecedented. There is no “correct” way to feel in any situation, and that is even more true at this time when no one knows how to react. Judging yourself feeds negative feelings and negates positive ones.
Similarly, this is not the time to have expectations — for the world or yourself. Some days, you may feel too overwhelmed to attend virtual class or work out. You may occasionally eat a whole gallon of ice cream instead of a bowl after dinner. All of our lives have changed drastically in the last few weeks, and it is unrealistic to expect ourselves to live as if nothing has changed. Sometimes, living is about surviving, not meeting goals; this is one of those times. If all you do is get out for a walk, rather than your usual workout, that is an achievement. If all you can motivate yourself to do is eat three meals and shower, that is an accomplishment. No one can be perfect right now — don’t expect that of yourself.
It’s also important to find some time to be alone without isolating. Social distancing makes it hard to socialize with friends, but it’s very possible you don’t have much time apart from your family. You may feel overwhelmed by spending more time than usual with them. So, try to build in some alone time. Spend a little extra time in the bath or go for a walk outside — anything that gives you a second to check in with yourself and take stock of your genuine feelings.
It is also essential that you keep in touch with your friends. We are lucky to live in the age of FaceTime and phones; take advantage of this! If you are tired of constantly video chatting, there are ways to virtually watch movies together through Netflix and Zoom. If technology gets tiring, you can also become a pen-pal for some of your friends and send letters back and forth. Communicating with those outside of your home will help decrease loneliness, self-judgment and anxiety by giving you the opportunity to hear from others experiencing the same things as you. Moreover, talking to your friends can force you to stop judging yourself by taking you out of your own head. We can’t all live on campus together, but we can and should create a semblance of community through technology.
Finally, if you are able to do anything that fills you with joy, do it! With all that is going on, doing something that brings a smile to your face matters much more than taking thorough notes for your virtual class. If you need sunshine, walk outside or stand in the sun whenever you can. If music helps, sing in the shower. If you love to bake, then bake! The world is weighing us all down; if any home activity can counteract that gloom just a little bit, please do it. Personally, I take a little time every few days to shut my bedroom door and sing some of my favorite songs. Having this time to let go and get caught up in the music is the only time I can completely forget the chaos.
You deserve to feel your genuine emotions. You don’t need to do anything besides survive. You need both privacy and connection. You can still find joy.
The author for this piece is Adelia Nunn, a member of a chapter of the organization at Occidental College. Active Minds is a national organization that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and promote good mental health.