Stressors linger along with the pandemic


By Ashley Zelazoski, Staff Writer

It is obvious that over the past few years, there has been a sudden shift of energy in the world. The unfortunate reality is that more and more people every day come face to face with the harsh reality of death and loss as the epidemic continues to rage on. The pandemic has restricted us from visiting loved ones unless it is through a screen, gyms are closed or have extra restrictions which deters people from getting quality exercise, and eating habits for many have been much harder to maintain as pandemic stress and anxiety have many families frequenting the drive through rather than the grocery store. These are just a few of the stressors that play into the declining mental health of our nation as we continue to navigate the pandemic, however, finding motivation and inspiration in such depressing times is not impossible and the simplest forms of self-care can make a huge difference.

In March of 2020, before the world as a whole knew how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic would become, a two week stay-cation was an appealing idea to many. We quickly learned that as a nation we thrive and function off of routine and structure, and Covid lockdowns completely deprived us of this. If you feel that you have lost this structure, creating a new at home morning ritual can be greatly rewarding. This ritual can be as simple as making your favorite breakfast in the morning and getting in a good stretch or it can be as intricate as waking up at 7:30 a.m. every day, taking a jog around the neighborhood, and journaling your thoughts or planning out your week. Harper College student and essential worker Kaylee Green touches on how creating a morning routine has allowed her to keep a positive mindset. “In the beginning of the pandemic, I was definitely struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed and change out of my pajamas every day, it seemed pointless if there was nowhere to be and no one to see.. Simply waking up at the same time every day, taking some extra time for skincare, 15 minute meditation, and some reflection journaling every morning have allowed me to feel excited and refreshed every day even if it was spent inside.”

Routines can seem mundane, but it is the best way to build some good morning habits and keep motivation flowing.

One of the most well-known tricks in the book for improving mental health is to exercise and move as well. With gyms closing down for lockdown, many got into the habit of not working out and being much less active. While our bodies probably certainly enjoyed the break, staying active is very important when it comes to energy and mental capacity.  YouTube is an endless source of workout videos for all difficulty levels and easy to work at your own pace, even a quick 15 minute jog around the block. The movement will decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and negative mood while increasing cognitive function and self-esteem. A morning workout will have you rejuvenated and energized for your day.

The lack of social interaction is apparently hard on everyone. Having to limit interactions to only people in your immediate circles can be a shocking shift for many social butterflies who thrive off of conversation and collaboration with others. While this is an introvert’s dream, this change can be very upsetting to those who crave social interaction. Zoom has been a great tool not only for classrooms but for hanging out with friends and even first dates! While the thought of this may be odd, we really take for granted how important face-to-face interaction is and how the lack of it can be very hard on our mental well-being.

“It is a really hard and dramatic shift going from being around all my coworkers, working in groups with classmates and seeing my friends after a long day, to being stuck inside the house as much as possible with only my immediate family” Green said. “It is a great feeling of loneliness and isolation… Zoom and Facetime calls definitely made the transition easier for me.” Staying connected and sharing your experiences and feelings with those who understand and are experience similar challenges can be very comforting.

Overall, the global pandemic has brought a plethora of new challenges into our everyday lives. Some days our situation looks as if it is improving, and others it feels as if we are taking three steps back and like we will never escape the hold of this pandemic. This does not mean that we cease to exist, drop everything, and stop living our lives. In such stressful and unprecedented times, it is important that we remain mindful of others, express gratitude for our health and wellness, and use this time as a period of self-reflection and attempt to become the best versions of ourselves for when life can possibly return to somewhat of a sense of normalcy.