Searching for Optimism in a Global Pandemic

I've been losing sleep lately. A lot of sleep. But this is not your average attack of seasonal summertime insomnia; it’s a side effect of a significant addition of stress to my daily life. The coronavirus has turned everything about my daily routine and life at college completely upside down. Within 48-hours in late March, I went from an independent and ambitious college student to a couch potato who somehow manages to be late for online lectures.

The shock from the sudden change, combined with gravely serious circumstances of the pandemic which motivated this change, has sent me into an anxious spiral. Now, I can’t sleep, can’t focus on schoolwork, and find myself getting jittery every time my parents turn on the news. To sum it all up I, like many other college students dealing with the uncertainties of COVID-19, am physically and emotionally exhausted. 

girl laying on a bed

But I'm tired of being tired. I don’t want to spend another day on my couch, letting stress get the better of me. So, instead of dwelling on the negative, I will be trying to find the optimistic angle in each day of these extraordinary times we all find ourselves living in.

I'll be the first to admit that it is going to be difficult to find the silver lining on a black raincloud that is drenching the world in fear. But the reality is, I have little to no control over the spread of the coronavirus or how it affects my daily life. So, the only thing I can control is how I react to this ever-changing situation. Therefore, the only positive thing I can do is search for optimism while following the government's recommended stay-at-home policy. To do this, I will be finding optimism by practicing gratitude, compassion, and of course, social distancing.  

Gratitude is the easiest way to find the bright side in any dark situation. For instance, earlier this week, when I decided to start searching for optimism, I could only focus on the limitations that had been suddenly put on my daily life. I can’t see my friends, go back to my dorm, or even see sick loved ones. But then, on a trip to the grocery store, I realized how lucky I am. The miraculously stocked shelves at my local Trader Joe's made me realize how privileged I am to live in a safe suburb where I can easily get everything I need and go home to a house where I have my own space to unwind. Life in the time of coronavirus may be difficult, but there are still so many things to be happy about that we often take for granted. Expressing thanks for things like a tasty meal prepared by a family member, or just simply being grateful for a sunny day, can go a long way towards making this global crisis a bearable experience. When in doubt, I just tell myself: "hey, it could be worse." 

Another thing I have recently been doing to find optimism is expressing compassion for others. COVID-19 is literally affecting everyone in some way or another. As easy as it is for me to have a pity party about all the things I am missing out on (and in the beginning, I did throw myself a pity party), I have found it more empowering to find small ways that I can help others around me. In the past couple of days, delivering a hot meal to a disabled neighbor two doors down (don’t worry, I wore a mask) has given me more satisfaction than dwelling on my own problems. If optimism isn't readily available, I've learned that its important to at least give someone else a reason to be optimistic. So when I go to bed at night, even if my own day was cruddy I can find happiness and optimism in the knowledge that I at least was able to help another person who needed it. 

person standing on field facing a sunset

Finally, I've been social distancing, but not quite like everyone else. In addition to avoiding in-person social interaction, I've been distancing myself from social media and even digital contact with friends. Now, it might seem crazy that I would want to limit my social interaction even more than COVID-19 already has, but I realized that right now is an opportunity for deep reflection.

In my normal life at college, I don’t usually have alone time, not to mention an extended solitude which would allow me to better myself as a person. I'm not going to martyr myself, but I am going to take the coming weeks as an opportunity to journal, read, and contemplate what I want from college and even life. At the end of the day, I cannot get the time spent in quarantine back, so the most radical way I can express optimism is by trying to better myself for the future. Ultimately, I know that whenever the curve flattens, I will come out of it knowing that I will be a stronger person moving forward in life. I don’t think I can find a better source of optimism than that. 

The feeling of optimism is a funny thing. It’s not important when it’s easy to find, but a small scrap of it is often all that’s available when it’s needed most. My search for optimism amidst the spread of COVID-19 is far from over. But, by staying safe and trying to see the proverbial glass as half-full, I know that things will be okay.


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