By JAI-LEAH GARCIA
I would say my most memorable year so far in college has been sophomore year. I’m only in my second year so I haven’t experienced the rest of college yet, but I doubt much will be more memorable than spending the end of my sophomore year in quarantine while taking online classes. Especially since the quarantine has actually helped my mental health.
This year, I started taking classes that focused on my psychology major, I joined BellACappella, the female a cappella group on campus, and I was also an active member in Latino Student Association. I was beginning to have an active schedule where I didn’t have as much time for myself which began to have an effect on my mental health.
By the second semester of my sophomore year, my mental health began to drop significantly. I was always stressed about missing deadlines or having rehearsals leading up to our upcoming concerts; this was causing my anxiety to become higher and it felt like it was never going down. My performance in classes was beginning to decrease, causing me to fall into my depression again. Life at that point felt like it was moving quickly and I felt that I never got a moment where I could breathe and settle. It wasn’t until an unlucky event made life change into what I feel now is the new normal.
The day the University announced classes were moving online, I was devastated, like every student. I felt as if someone slapped all my hard work right across my face, especially with the uncertainty of my a cappella group’s spring concert still happening. All that I could think about was “all my hard work, gone.” It was also the time when I had started going to the Talley Center for therapy and learning that everything was going online made my whole mentality feel as though it was never going to repair itself, even though I wanted to fix myself.
The first week of online, I started to set a routine for myself to feel as though I was still in school. I started doing things that I never had time to do like opening my windows, making my bed, getting ready slowly, etc. The Talley Center was still doing therapy sessions through Zoom, which helped me relax a bit knowing that I wanted to fix my mental state. It was a difficult first week since uncertainty and confusion was still high, but after a couple of weeks in quarantine, I began to see a change in me and my mental health.
Doing the same routines resulted in a reassuring pattern that I never got to experience before. Without having to worry about an upcoming concert coming or being worried that I will be late for class, it felt nice to have that stress and anxiety out of my head. I was able to have time to take care of myself and see the positive sides in taking life slowly. Seeing the positive is a work in progress since it feels like the news outlets only talk about the coronavirus, but it’s nice to know that with people staying inside it’s actually helping the planet cure itself.
After one session that I had with my therapist, he was surprised to see how positively I was adapting to “the new normal.” I remember telling him all the positive effects that it was having on me and how my mindset was more optimistic than pessimistic as it had been in the past few months. I look back at the conversation and I actually feel my life glowing rather than feeling as though there’s a rain cloud looming over me at all times.
Quarantine has taught me several aspects about myself that I never would’ve experienced if my sophomore year continued as it was. It’s okay to take a break from life once in a while. Having life slow down has made me take care of myself more, and I can honestly say that I needed it. It taught me that free time isn’t a bad thing. I always hated having free time because I felt as if I had to do something productive. Now, I think back and I actually love having free time to do whatever I choose even if it isn’t the most productive. I love having this time to take care of myself and being able to better my mental health.
Quarantine, in the end, helped better my mental health and instead of seeing this as negative, maybe try to see it in a different light. As the uncertainty continues, it’s nice to think of this time as a time where we can better ourselves and take things slowly. I know that once life resumes back to normal, I will use these tactics that I learned during quarantine during times that I feel that life is moving quickly again or when I feel that a break is personally needed. Learning these skills have given me better methods to take care of not only myself, but also my mental health and I hope that it brings some positivity to those who may also be struggling during this uncertain time.