Isolation has become something we all know. Days turned to weeks turned to months— time has lost all its meaning. Whether that's a good or bad thing is still up for debate, but it definitely feels like everything has blurred together since March 2020. Everything is mentally draining, emotionally tiring, and downright exhausting. I know I've been feeling like that. Early quarantine feels like a blur, and I can't tell what day it is. Classes are a lot harder to do; FOMO hits hard even though we're not allowed to do a lot of socializing, and it's hard to be hopeful. Every day feels like Groundhog Day, and it's the same experiences over and over again. It's reassuring that no one is alone in the emotional rollercoaster they're on- a minor comfort when we need it the most. We're not alone. At the beginning of isolation, it felt like everybody came together for once. Something so dark as a pandemic unified people across nations, languages, and cultures; it made us appreciate every moment of joy.
We all had new free time, new experiences, new everything, but that has come with a cost to our mental health and sleep schedules. We had new freedom, even if it wasn't what we expected. But that freedom has been a blessing and a curse. We have more time to explore our passions, to take care of ourselves, but it's taken a toll on our mental health. We have stress dreams, heightened anxiety, disordered eating. Studies recently done in Lyon showed a 35% increase in vivid dream recall, with 15% having an increase in negative dreams. A study in Italy showed that confined Italians experienced nightmares and symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What you're experiencing isn't in your head-it's normal to be having these experiences. There is so much free time during isolation, and we've been withdrawn from our usual routines, so our brains have less stimulation. We have much more memory recall in our dreams, making them more vivid. Paired with heightened anxiety, our sleep quality is lacking, so we keep waking up, which makes dream recall much more potent. It's a very messy equation that ends up making isolation more difficult.
We have normalized living in a pandemic. We see death counts broadcasted next to the daily weather forecast. We're worried about catching COVID-19, and life as we know it has changed. It's terrifying, and it's normal to feel uneasy about that.
That change is a mixture of good and bad has been heightened by social media. There have been the aforementioned negatives: mental health issues, nightmares, sleepless nights, stress, and living in an actual pandemic. There have also been some positives. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have had creative challenges, trends, and entertainment at the ready for the millions of people staying home. It has been an outlet for people to be creative, meet new people, and bring laughter to their new daily routines. There was pressure from some "influencers" to make the best of your quarantine, get 6-pack abs, learn languages, and continuously be on the grind. Some people were using their platforms to say you have to have a productive quarantine to be the very best, and if you don't, you're lazy, lack a strong work ethic, and don't care about yourself. Followers of these people reported feeling ashamed for not working nonstop. But taking care of yourself, in whatever healthy way you choose, is as important if not MORE important than being on that "grind." If you're spending your quarantine taking care of yourself, stopping the spread of COVID-19, and doing whatever you need to do through the day- you are doing more than enough.
If you were sent back home with abusive, stressful, or toxic households, quarantine was rough. For many, school/campus was a safe haven. And while it's understandable that students were sent home for safety reasons, being stuck in a stressful environment is not good for mental health. Attached at the end of this article is a carrd (link sheet) with links to different hotlines for abuse, suicide, eating disorders, and other assorted hotlines sorted by topic. Do not be afraid to reach out to get help, either by this hotline, to friends, or a professional.
Compiled as well are some tips that can help with your mental health:
Call someone daily, or at least hear someone’s voice you know once a day. It helps ground you and realise that you have people around you that care about you.
Go for a walk, open your window or door, and get fresh air (if it is safe for you to do so). Getting fresh air can make you physically feel better, but also a change in scenery helps.
Dance, sing, write. Do whatever creative outlet you would like, and have it ready whenever you feel overwhelmed with work/school/life. It doesn’t have to be a perfect work of art every time, as long as it can bring a smile to yourself or make you laugh.
Make sure you’re eating/drinking/sleeping enough. Eating and drinking enough won’t cure your mental health issues, but it improves your physical health which improves your mental health.
Have something you can relax with (like your favorite movie) but also something to challenge you- your brain needs stimulation, but also needs to relax if you’re too stimulated throughout the day.
Try daily affirmations- repeating to yourself, “I’m good enough” never hurts to remind you of the truth.
Lockdown has been hard, and it’s understandable if you’re struggling. Reach out to those who care and can help you- you’re not alone.