I was sitting in my boyfriend’s grandparents’ house when I got the email. As I was scratching their dog Scout behind his ears, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and saw the inevitable red dot on the “Mail” app. It wasn’t a surprise to me. My friends and I had been waiting with bated breath, wondering what was next. After watching Harvard close its doors for the rest of the semester, it was only a matter of time before other universities followed suit. The email told me that WKU was no different. I was nonchalant — calm, even. I put my phone back in my pocket, continued petting Scout and announced, “WKU just emailed. Classes are online for the rest of the semester. The campus is closing.”
Truly, though, I was suddenly thrust into a new realm of unease. Before, all of us were uneasy because we had no idea what WKU would do in the wake of this situation. Now, all of us were uneasy because we had no idea what school life in quarantine would be like. I had taken one online class the previous summer; during that time, I was also working as a technical writer at a software company and preparing for the Praxis exam, just another step toward teacher certification. Despite my various obligations, I found the online class to be manageable — challenging, yes, but manageable. However, four classes? It seemed unprecedented.
As Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way,” and indeed, for me, life found a way to be relatively normal. For some of my friends, this was not the case. Some of them found their worlds crashing down around them. They were in a constant tizzy of anxiety, and all I could do was offer love, support and advice from the digital sidelines.
That is the purpose of this article. Admittedly, I am no certified counselor. Personal experience with overcoming mental illness has given me the tools needed to overcome the pressures of quarantine. These are the things I have found help me stay positive and maintain motivation. Admittedly, there is no silver bullet in mental health. What works for one person may not work for another person, but I hope some or all of these suggestions work for you.
Make a routine
You don’t necessarily have to make a schedule. I’ve been waking up naturally — without an alarm clock — ever since quarantine began; however, I do have a routine. I wake up, take a shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, have breakfast and start work. I work on assignments until noon. I take a walk in the neighborhood, making my usual loop along the sidewalks. When I get back home, I make lunch, eat and watch “Itaewon Class” on Netflix. After eating, I’m back to work. At some point around 2 o’clock, I’m fatigued from assignments and play Animal Crossing. The rest of the evening is free time.
I’m not suggesting that you take up this regimen; rather, I encourage you to create your own. Having a routine creates a sense of normalcy, which is what lots of us seem to be missing in quarantine. In a time where everything seems messy, having a routine will at least tidy up your personal life.
I’ve been seeing lots of joggers on my walks. As someone who used to run frequently, I often wonder if they’re running because they enjoy running or if they’re running because they feel as though it’s the best way to burn calories. When I ran frequently, for me, the answer was the latter. I did not enjoy running. It took time for me to realize that exercise is not about burning calories, it’s about feeling your best. You cannot feel your best when you feel sadness.
Here is what I recommend: find an exercise that you enjoy. Don’t just run because you think it’s the best option; if you genuinely enjoy running, run. If you enjoy walking, walk. If you enjoy dancing, dance. If you enjoy yoga-ing, yoga. Exercise does not have to hold a sense of drudgery. Make it fun.
Purposefully do things you like to do
It’s easy to convince yourself that any moment spent not working is a wasted moment. Without the structure of classes, I find it hard to differentiate what is and isn’t slacking off. Here’s the secret: do things you like to do with purpose. Idly scrolling through Twitter is going to feel like slacking off. Mentally scheduling a time to scroll through Twitter will feel like a purposeful break from the monotony of work. Playing Animal Crossing, learning songs on guitar, reading books I want to read, completing crossword puzzles, watching Netflix — it all feels less like I’m neglecting responsibilities when I am doing these things with the intention of alleviating stress.
Talk to your friends
We’re all bummed by social distancing. We can’t do all the fun things we used to do. Simple things like eating out is currently an impossibility. I’m actually scared when I chance a visit to the grocery store these days. Seeing other faces simultaneously makes me incredibly happy and incredibly nervous. The suckiest thing out of all of this is missing your friends. I used to see my best friends every day; now we’re all quarantined in our homes spread across Kentucky and Tennessee.
Fortunately, we live in a day and age where technology like texting, Snapchat, Houseparty, FaceTime, and Zoom exist. I can stay in touch with my friends by simply shooting them a text. When the last seemingly-apocalyptic pandemic occurred in 1918, the best form of communication was the telegraph. Glad we’ve got iPhones now! It’s easier than ever to feel close to people who are far away. The trick is putting our best technology to practice. For example, Zoom doesn’t have to be used exclusively for classes. Schedule a Zoom meeting with your friends. Stay home; stay connected.
It’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. It’s OK to feel stressed. This situation is unprecedented. Likely not even your grandparents have experienced anything like this in their lifetimes; however, we have recovered from worse tragedies, and every time, we have recovered by sticking together. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression and led the U.S. through World War II. In one of his many fireside chats, the former president remarked, “Together we cannot fail,” and indeed, we will get through this together; however, to get through this together, you must get through it. Self-care and kindness are so important, now more than ever. Stay positive. Stay motivated. Take care.