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Mental Health

It’s Been Three Months Since “Normal” College Life Resumed: Where’s Your Mind At?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Maybe it’s how you’re always 15 minutes late to class because it’s impossible to speed on Comm Ave. Maybe it’s how your favorite study space on campus isn’t quiet anymore. Maybe it’s how Warren never has tables when you want to eat lunch. Whatever the reason, if you’re feeling a wave of exhaustion and frustration this semester, you’re not alone.

Throughout this semester, I’ve heard discussions of people feeling unnaturally tired and busy. It’s that time of year when the workload catches up to you and missing classes becomes a tempting option. But, it may be more than that. With so much going on, it can be easy to forget that it has only been three months since in-person college resumed. 

Even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors had been predicting the long-term mental health fallout that the pandemic held in store. According to mental health strategist Mark Henick, the pandemic was a traumatic social event. As with any trauma, individuals go into survival mode, doing whatever they can to get past a situation without actually processing what is happening to them. So, the problem is what is left now after restrictions have been loosened: residual stress, depression, and navigating re-engagement with the world. By hearing about the “mental health pandemic,” the issue can seem quite removed from our lives. But, it plays out in its own way at university. 

When it comes to getting back to college, the concept seems to apply most to those who were in their freshman year when the pandemic hit. It’s fair to say current sophomores got the worst end of the stick, missing out on freshman year of college and senior year of high school, but juniors have their own unique situation. Many missed the transition from communal living and having company a few steps away to living in your own space whether it’s an off-campus apartment or a brownstone with an unreliable washing machine. On top of that, having to plan out meeting people and study groups has created a sense of whiplash between isolation and independence when there should have been the gentle transition buffer of sophomore year. Things just seem to be moving too fast. In the blink of an eye, people are looking to you for guidance when your last memory of “college” is freshman year?! 

While many have embraced going back to campus, there is still a nagging feeling that things are different. I find myself looking back at freshman year and wondering how I was able to do so much, meet so many people every day, sleep less than 6 hours a day doing schoolwork, AND have the energy to go out every weekend. It’s hard to realize when you’re in the thick of it, but social isolation during the pandemic really put things into perspective. It’s easy to forget how much time it takes to commute to classes. As nice as the walk across campus is, it can also be very long and less efficient than Zoom. Shifting from the productivity of online work to in-person classes has brought on feelings of guilt and anxiety. Any meeting or class is an entire event that needs to be given sufficient energy and planning. The same goes for meals. The time to walk to the dining hall, plan out who you’re meeting, and how many dining points you have left can wear a person out after the comfort and ease of meals at home.

Major respect to college students who maintain a routine when tedious assignments and spontaneous run-ins with old friends throw wrenches into your day-to-day activities. But, that’s what university is all about after all, and that’s what makes it some of the best days of our lives. The problem comes in when you find yourself drowning from not being able to balance it all. With the (hopeful) end of the virtual era under the pandemic, there arises the need to compensate for lost time. Many fell into the trap of overestimating the resources they could afford, keeping remote semester ballparks in mind, and signing up for every opportunity that presented itself. Overcommitment further contributes to deteriorating mental health, pulling time away from the less tangible, yet essential activities that contribute to your peace of mind whether it’s running, reading, or hanging out with friends.

It’s definitely great to have in-person experiences again, but even positive changes after the pandemic can be stressors. Adjusting to college, after more than a year of online school and reduced contact, is a significant change to say the least. So, cut yourself some slack if you aren’t able to take on as much as you used to!

It’s not all bad though. I believe the pandemic has given everyone time to reflect on themselves as individuals, not just who they are in relation to others. With all the time crunches and stress of this semester, it’s important to use your time and energy on what matters to your happiness and success — even if it means making mistakes along the way. Embrace who you’ve become, and know that you are not alone in your feelings for this semester!

If you ever need help, BU has amazing resources to ensure that every student is heard. Behavioral Medicine, under Student Health Services, offers appointments to all, as well as information to help with issues that may be causing distress. In addition, there are clubs like Active Minds that tackle mental health and provide safe spaces to discuss emotional wellbeing. BU’s mental health committee has also been doing its part with fun and calming activities, from origami nights to peaceful yoga sessions. 

The past year has been hard, so enjoy your time back on campus! you know you deserve it.

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Originally from Bangalore, India, Meha is a junior at Boston University majoring in Medical Science with a minor in Psychology. When she's not cramming she loves going on long walks, playing sports and traveling.
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