Keeping My Mental Health in Check Despite Social Isolation
As panic about COVID-19 grew, I wasn’t surprised when my high school announced it would close the campus to stem the spread of the virus. Days later, a “shelter-in-place” mandate put Californians on lockdown, ordering everyone to stay home unless we have to go out for essential needs like buying food or medicine. Across the country, people are adjusting to online schooling, telecommuting and very little social contact.
The night school was cancelled, I spent an hour on FaceTime with my friends talking about it. Initially, some of us felt a slight relief, but it wasn’t long before the reality of the situation set in. For the next month — maybe longer — we would have no physical contact with each other, no school, no sports or other extra-curricular activities. Worst of all: no way to get out of the house.
Suddenly, the fear of possibly contracting the virus was overtaken by another, more pressing worry. What will happen to me during quarantine?
For many of my peers and me, social isolation poses a very real threat to our mental health. Having school every day provides structure and routine, giving me rhythm and familiarity to fall back on when I’m not feeling my best. When I’m at school, every day has a purpose. I’m motivated to get out of bed, even just to see my friends. As stressful as school can be, it breaks up the long stretch of days that, in its absence, turns into an endless cycle of suffocating boredom.
Without the structure of school, I am doing my best to create a new routine for these upcoming months. I’ve created a space in my day for schoolwork, interning and other activities — a stand-in for a class schedule.
I FaceTime my friends more regularly than I used to. Last week, we all watched a Netflix show together through an app called Scener. I try to go outside everyday. In the mornings, I walk around U.C. Berkeley’s campus by myself, making sure to stay at least six feet away from people around me.
Adjusting to living under quarantine is strange, but I remind myself it’s not all terrible. I’m able to continue hobbies I wouldn’t have time for otherwise, like cooking or drawing. I’m also free to work at my own pace without the pressure of strict deadlines.
Even though I’m essentially barred from leaving my house, I feel more independent. So while coping with the loss of my regular life is difficult, it’s not a completely joyless process. As hard as this is for many of us, it’s essential for keeping us safe. And eventually, life will go back to normal.