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Wellness > Mental Health

How to Reconcile Your Problems with the Enormity of a Pandemic

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

There is a lot to be said and to be learned about human behavior, during a global crisis such as this. From the integrity of healthcare workers to the flippancy of Floridian beach-goers, people are reacting to the coronavirus in very different ways. With bustling cities and streets turning into ghost towns, the world seems on pause. But our own lives progress nonetheless. And with life, as we know, come our daily problems. 

I remember sending a text about how I was frustrated that the school was making us schedule our move-out dates because we had work schedules to work out at home already. I received a response of “Oh my gosh, Katie. People are dying.” This interaction poses an important question: how do we reconcile our own problems with the enormity – and the subsequent enormous suffering – of a pandemic?

This is actually a dilemma we face everyday, but in the midst of a pandemic, it becomes much more obvious. I remember asking a professor whose book I read, “How can I complain about the problems I face as a woman when, for example, women of color have it much worse?” She responded with the concept of allies. She said I could be a civil rights feminist or an environmental feminist or whatever I wanted. Problems are not in competition with each other. In fact, that is how problems stay problems. Advocates should work together to create progress, instead of comparing the validity of their issues. It is counterproductive to do so.

Of course, this tangent is not exactly the same as comparing personal problems to global ones. In that aforementioned text interaction, my friend thought I was being ignorant of the bigger picture. There are a lot of directions I can go in to describe how that assumption is dangerous, especially between friends that know each other better than that, but I think it is important to address that competition between personal and global problems. Much like advocacy, it is counterproductive to compare their values. In the big picture, trying to work out when I can move out is a microscopic problem, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t live our lives in the big picture. Our lives are an infinitely stratified sample of all the world has to give, and that is where we face most of our problems. As horrible as it sounds, people’s living situations are more applicable to their own lives than the number of cases of a virus around the world. To be concerned about the former is not to be ignorant of the latter. Both exist at the same time. 

Your emotions are valid. Do not try to qualify your issues with larger issues because, if you take into account your stratified interactions with the world, your issues are just as important as those larger issues. Qualifying can be a good exercise to remind yourself that needing to move out is not the end of the world, but do not ridicule yourself for being worried about it. Maybe emotions aren’t rational, but no one ever claimed they were – or should be. Your emotions are valid. Remind yourself that, yes, there are bigger issues out there, but only as a tool to ground yourself, not as one to punish your emotional state. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. 

Katie Jackson

Chapel Hill '23

Katie is an undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill. She is part of the Campus Y Outreach Taskforce and HYPE Tutoring. Interested in sustainability, economics, and global culture and policy, Katie plans to study business, public policy, and environmental sciences. Katie loves her kitten named Hiccup (yes, from How to Train Your Dragon), her two dogs, her other kitten (even though it is technically her sister's) and her cat.