Sometimes the bright side is invisible. You can’t see it and maybe you don’t even want to see it right now. Everyday feels more difficult and draining than before. We always hear that “things get better.” True. But when? Since March, this entire year has felt like the same day on repeat. I have felt a million and one emotions and I think that they've probably been more negative than positive. If nothing seems to be improving, and you cried last night and other nights too, then this one’s for you.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this year has been tougher than most, due to quite a handful of reasons. Obviously, the global pandemic has been a big one. Witnessing loved ones and friends and family have or even pass away from COVID is certainly not just a universal experience that everyone expected to go through during their lifetime. And not seeing our friends and family members whenever we want takes away a significant part of our happiness and excitement too. Even things like going shopping for fun or going to the gym for some exercise endorphins have been compromised. Now we’ve got to remember masks, wait in lines, be careful not to get too close to someone else, and feel the need to sanitize our hands every 5 seconds. All of it together has not left me feeling very happy-go-lucky .
Switching to virtual learning has by no means been enjoyable or easy, either, at least for me. I personally liked having a reason to leave my room and interact with others even if it is just in a classroom. It is hard to concentrate through Zoom and even harder to actually sit down and complete the work. School is already a huge stressor for a lot of us, and these aspects only add to the frustrations. I know a lot of students correlate their self-worth with their academic performance, because it is made out to be such an important indicator of intelligence and success. When school work kind of seems to be crushing you and grades are dropping, it doesn’t make you feel any better.
Last but certainly not least: mental health. If your mental health has been not so great within the past few months, I can assure you that you’re not alone. Unfortunately, social media has been known to sometimes glorify mental illness. But anyone who has dealt with any kind of mental illness knows that it is not glorious. With everything I have written about above and then some and then some more, taking care of our mental health is more important now than ever. College can be a lonely place for several people, and this loneliness feels magnified during this time. (Though being alone is really kind of a good thing right now. You’re helping to limit the spread of a fatal disease, so if you’re lonely right now, remember you’re actually helping to speed up the process of returning our world back to normal! Thank you.) Our brains are flooded with hundreds of self-deprecating thoughts that can lead to or contribute to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc. It can feel nearly impossible to remove yourself from this kind of mindset once you go down that path.
I know this article seems overwhelmingly negative — don’t worry, the positivity is coming in a moment. But first, I have to say that all of these crappy feelings and emotions are normal right now, and also always. The most important part is to try not to let these things control you completely. For now, it actually is really important to find the bright side. If it’s invisible, create it. Find one thing, no matter how small, that makes you feel even the tiniest bit better. It could be watching an episode of your comfort TV show, picking up your favorite food for dinner, or completing just one task off of your to-do list to relieve your stress slightly. You also can’t forget this (cheesy, but who cares) saying: you have survived every single bad day you’ve ever had. It's cliche, but it's also true. If things do begin to feel really unmanageable and scary, though, reach out to someone for help. A friend, a family member, or a therapist. (Therapists should not be overlooked; they are very helpful and it is quite literally their job to listen and give you advice to the best of their ability.) Regardless, with all of the crazy, incomprehensible things that are happening in your life and the lives of others right now, doing the best you can is enough. If you still want to cry tonight though, that’s cool. This one’s still for you.