By Olivia Montes
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, through long-lasting state lockdowns, self-isolation, and social distancing, students across the country have had to adapt to moving back home and completing their respective courses online—all in a short amount of time.
From learning how to navigate communicative apps to virtual collaborations, the stress that accompanies managing the same amount of coursework in a different and unsettling environment, as well as trying to accept the uncertainty that has been and continues to linger over us, has mounted to the point where students find themselves unable to cope within their situation, or to even participate in their own work.
“We feel anxiety in response to the uncertainty of the situation; sadness related to losing our daily sources of meaning and joy; and anger at whatever forces are to blame for bringing this upon us,” Jelena Kecmanovic, adjunct professor of psychology at Georgetown University, wrote for The Washington Post in March. “[Because] nobody knows how long…it will be until we can resume our regular lives…the pervasive uncertainty of the situation makes it hard to plan a course of action and creates a high level of stress.”
With these feelings continuing to dominate rational thought, particularly as we gradually come back to our daily schedules, we find ourselves unsure as to how to readjust in a post-coronavirus world.
However, with these small steps, both workers and students can slowly but surely ease back into their routines in preparation for the start of a new year.
Be tolerant of one another’s spaces.
While the pandemic itself isn’t a new concept, the fear of contracting this virus has made several people uncomfortable—and even unwilling—to fully interact with others outside of a screen.
“Historically, certain behaviors become taboo for what on the surface are religious or cultural reasons, but probably originate from an understanding of their health risks,” Susan Michie and Robert West, professors of health psychology at University College London, said to Vox Media in April. “Cultures that don’t eat pork, for example, likely stopped because in warm climates the meat often carried dangerous parasites such as trichinella worms…[and] a cross-cultural shift will leave people less keen to engage in physical ways to show politeness or affection.”
While this reluctance towards immediately resuming everyday life is understandable, the length of time for each individual healing process varies from person to person—and having that physical space is key.
It’s important to allow people to have their own spaces, and to be respectful towards those still reeling from the aftershocks, rather than force them to let their guard down.
Be patient of one another’s abilities/lack thereof.
These past few months have introduced us to many firsts, specifically how to transfer virtually all assignments, lesson plans, and other activities onto an online platform everyone can access and use—and this is certainly not accomplished without its fair share of pitfalls.
“As this shift continues, technology plays an increasingly important role now that more knowledge workers have familiarized themselves with its benefits,” Vox Recode’s Rani Molla said in May. “And while many are already familiar with these apps [including Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams], it’s important to remember that hasn’t been the case in all offices.”
For a lot of us, this is our first time learning how to use these apps each day; it’s vital to know that problems, from the usual technical difficulties to unstable Wi-Fi connections, will occur, and there will be those still struggling to master a basic understanding of each platform along the way.
And, while not everyone may possess the same technical know-how as the next person, that’s okay; the more that courses use the same apps to communicate and host meetings with one another, the more secure people will become in participating and contributing to the conversation.
“The longer people rely on this sort of software, the more permanent it will become,” Molla adds. “But it will still take some time for [all] to adjust to new ways of working.”
Show a little empathy for those still coping.
As we continue to receive more information regarding the state of the pandemic, our collective knowledge about it appears to be limited—and, as we are aware, this lack of knowledge can become increasingly concerning with each passing day.
“As the news about the coronavirus pandemic becomes grimmer…many of us are experiencing a variety of negative emotions,” Kecmanovic said. “It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them.”
Just like how each experience dealing with the pandemic varies from person to person, everyone is juggling different responsibilities outside of the classroom and must often sacrifice one task in favor of another.
While this could easily be cause for anger, remember that all of our lives have changed drastically since the initial outbreak; instead, offer your support for those struggling.
“When survival anxiety is high and goods feel scarce, it’s easy to blame or scapegoat others, forgetting that we are all in this together,” The New York Times’ Simran Sethi said in March. “Now is the time to turn toward each other.”
And above all, be safe.
Though there have been strides made to both containing and eradicating COVID-19, the pandemic is far from over. There are still accomplishments that need to be made to ensure that all can resume to a state of normalcy, but until then, we need to make sure we ourselves are taking the proper precautions needed to reach that widespread comfort, including washing our hands, wearing a protective face mask and/or covering, and practice social distancing.
“In these stressful times, it’s important to try to manage our own anxiety and do our best not to pass it on to others,” Sethi said. “This moment calls on us to not only care for others but to also be gentle with ourselves.”
As we continue to face the future, it becomes vital for us to not only exercise taking self-care, but to also assure those around us that we will manage to get through this.
And, by practicing these ideas, we are coming closer to the post-pandemic future we want.
Featured Photo caption: By practicing the following ideas, we are coming closer to the post-pandemic future we want.
Photo courtesy of Jack Moreh