Taking care of your mental health should always be a priority, but for me and I suspect many others, it's been especially challenging during the coronavirus outbreak. As someone with anxiety and depression, I already struggle with day-to-day activities, but the loss of normalcy, increased social isolation, and seemingly endless amount of uncertainty has only made things worse.
As a college student, I was forced to leave my apartment and return home for the remainder of the semester, as classes transitioned to online learning. I don't do well with change, good or bad, so these abrupt transitions were emotionally draining. All I wanted to do was attend classes in person, go out to bars and restaurants, see a movie, or shop — or even just spend some time in my own space. Yet, every day I woke up in my family's house, resisting the life I had been thrown into.
I began to live on autopilot. Although I woke up, got dressed, ate, attended my virtual classes, and did my homework every day, I never emotionally invested in any of these routine tasks. I didn't make any real decisions, including what I ate, watched on TV, or wore. I also never stopped to consider how I was feeling because that meant acknowledging — and eventually accepting — this new normal. And although every day was filled with the same repetitive tasks, I could never remember what I actually did, which only made me feel guilty and worthless.
Though I knew it was important, staying at home didn't help my mental health, either. For a long time, it was too cold to even venture outside to unwind or get some exercise. The loneliness of social distancing was equally suffocating. I dreamt of hanging out with friends — and although I could still communicate with them, there's something about face-to-face interaction that's much more satisfying. I've always preferred talking to someone in person, rather than through texts, calls, or video chats. As a result, I began to withdraw and was slow to respond to people's messages, when that had never really been a problem before.
I started to feel disconnected from the world around me, like a passenger in my own life.
I started to feel disconnected from the world around me, like a passenger in my own life. It was as though all the energy had been sucked out of me, and I couldn't focus on anything. I even started to question what I was doing with my life, when so many of the things I once enjoyed suddenly felt fake and unnatural. I was trapped in a haze, and I didn't know how to escape.
Although I never feared getting COVID-19, I was — and still am — afraid of what life will look like after the pandemic. Will the fear of others linger? How many more people will be laid off from their jobs? How long will we have to wear masks everywhere we go? Will offices and classrooms ever return to normal? Life as we know it has undeniably changed, but nobody knows just how significantly yet, and that scares me. This uncertainty caused me to spend countless nights overthinking every little thing, imagining worst case scenarios of the new normal, even though I knew doing so would accomplish nothing.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it's how damaging the loss of routine, seclusion, and stress about the future can be. I wish I could tell you that things will get better tomorrow or next week or next month, but no one can know for sure. What I can tell you is that, if you're struggling to comfortably settle into this new normal, you're not alone. All we can do is try not to let the fear and anxiety consume us as we learn to navigate what comes next.