Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

Looking back at January of 2020, I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness and humour at the naivety of a younger me. While authoring her New Year’s resolutions, she had not the slightest idea what awaited her and the rest of the world at the corner of the new year.

That was the last time I remember getting together with a large group of friends and strangers alike. We all had a spring in our step and a hopeful gaze into the future. 2020 seemed like the perfect beginning to a year where it would all come together for us. Alas, we found out in a few weeks’ time that life had other plans in store for us.

It has been a hard year-and-a-half for a lot of us, and we’ve run into some seemingly insurmountable hurdles. The loneliness, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the planet and humankind, many of our loved ones succumbing to COVID, as well as a growing sense of division and unrest among the population have taken a toll on our collective psyche. In many ways, this new reality is an adjustment that I am still not completely used to, and therefore is an active work in progress. However, as I tend to remind myself often, it is not all doom and gloom, and I hope to share some of the coping mechanisms I have personally implemented in my everyday life to make existence more bearable, if not easier.

Discovering the concept of connectedness to nature, and the collective sharedness of our individual experiences in society has been a key learning for me. Especially in the beginning days of the pandemic, where it was so easy to fall into the pit of isolation and a feeling of entrapment between four walls, this indigenous paradigm I learnt in school grounded and centered me. It brought me out of the physical smallness of my little basement room, and encouraged me to work on my relationships I had perhaps abandoned within my community. I organized outdoor meet-ups, long hikes along the bluffs, and Netflix movie parties from home. Most importantly, I made it a point to be there for others, and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to reach out for help when I felt weak. As reinforced by the pandemic, without a collective community to share laughs, tears as well as triumphs, individually, we are nothing.

The pandemic presented its many challenges to all sections of the population. I can speak through the lens of my experience and the shared experiences of my friends and classmates as full-time university students. Coupled with virtual classes and a lack of socialization, as well as unending external stressors such as financial difficulties, loved ones falling ill, mental health issues flaring up, the pandemic came close to costing us our sense of self. On the flipside, the circumstances of the pandemic left us no choice but to spend time alone, and get to know and rediscover oneself. It was important to sit with and evaluate one’s thoughts and feelings. I resorted to a concoction of nature therapy, meditation, as well as physical exercise, which has helped my depression and anxiety immensely. Furthermore, outdoor exercise helped me reconnect with my neighbours, further making my small world feel slightly larger. More recently, after mulling it over for nearly two years at this point, I got in touch with a social worker to help me unravel my brain and thought process. I do not feel quite the same sense of dread when my alarm goes off for my morning classes, and I attribute that to my well-being routine.

As we navigate a life-altering event together, it is important to pause and reflect on how far we have come, and how much we have grown together as a collective. I make sure to celebrate my wins, no matter how big or small, and as the blog ends, I encourage you to look inward and do the same. Be kind to yourself and others around you, and allow yourself grace and forgiveness for making it thus far while overcoming all of your personal obstacles. You are special, you are celebrated, and you are not alone. We are, truly and meaningfully, all in this together.

Author: Fabiha Tahsin