Guest blog post written by Giuliana Jakob, a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing her kinesiology degree at Western University.
After enduring a global pandemic for nearly two years, it’s safe to say we have all felt physically and mentally exhausted from life’s continuous ups and downs. From cancelled holiday plans to seeing loved ones ill, nothing could have prepared us for the sacrifices and challenges we have faced. Although the lockdowns have given us all an excuse to pig out on holiday treats and watch our favourite festive movies, it seems as though we are ringing in the New Year much more quietly than expected.
As we enter 2022, I thought I’d feel more equipped to tackle the emotional and mental strain this pandemic has caused. However, as things change day to day, I’ve never felt more under prepared. Although we don’t have to fight anyone for toilet paper or Lysol wipes at the grocery store anymore, prioritizing our mental health and wellbeing should be the focus for 2022.
At the beginning of the school year in September 2021, I was fortunate enough to have a hybrid model of learning, with classes offered both in person and online. Re-adjusting to in person learning had its challenges, but shifting to online learning feels like a step backwards. After being able to see my friends, connect with professors, and even visit my favourite bagel shop on campus (shoutout to “The Spoke” for the best jalapeño cheddar bagels), it makes it that much harder to give up the perks of in person learning.
As I begin to transition from hybrid learning to a fully online format, it can be difficult to stay positive and hopeful during this tumultuous time. As my friends and family begin to ask questions like, “what are your plans after you graduate?” and “what do you plan on doing with your degree?”, the stress begins to escalate. As a fourth year University student, decisions regarding graduate schools and post graduate plans have been that much more difficult to make given the current covid climate.
The media and news outlets have openly discussed the physical ailments associated with COVID-19, failing to openly address the mental and emotional toll many of us have faced. I wanted to write this blog to spark a much-needed conversation regarding mental health as we prepare for another lockdown while juggling online work, school, and learning. Whether you’re a student like me or are transitioning online for work or other purposes, the lockdown negatively impacts us all in various ways. It’s important for us to continue combating the stigma around mental health by supporting one another during these times when we often turn to the internet and virtual communication for guidance.
Here are a few tips I wanted to share that have helped me cope at times when I feel my mental health is not at its peak:
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, it’s critical to dial the phone or send a text to friends or family you may not be able to connect with face to face. Although virtual methods of communication have their drawbacks (like trying to figure out whose Wi-Fi isn’t working), staying connected virtually can help decrease feelings of anxiety and frustration.
This will look different for everyone. Whether it be going for daily walks, at home workouts, making your favourite meal, or engaging in other forms of self-care, it’s essential to carve out time in your schedule for your own interests and hobbies. By creating healthy habits and sticking to them, we can control our daily activities and have a more positive outlook on the current situation.
By acknowledging that you feel burnt out, you can begin to slow down and stop overworking yourself. Trying to be productive while feeling burnt out can lead to even more fatigue, exhaustion and disappointment. Take time to rest and relax when these feelings come about to help recharge yourself, so you can accomplish the goals you have set out for the day, week, month, etc.
I’ve recently started writing in a journal to reflect on my struggles and successes of each day (I recommend grabbing the “Five Minute Journal” found here). By taking just a few minutes out of your day to write down a few things that you are grateful for, your goals and the challenges you have faced to reach them, you may notice a positive shift in your mental health.
Take time to acknowledge both the big and small victories you have been able to achieve over the past two years. Whether it be an academic or personal success, being able to simply live through a time like this is a victory itself. Be proud of what you have been able to accomplish and keep taking care of yourself!
Giuliana Jakob is currently a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing her kinesiology degree at Western University. She has been working with First Line Education for the past few months as an intern. In her spare time, Giuliana enjoys cooking, baking & travelling!
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