Loneliness and Covid-19

lifestyle, reflection, self love, Uncategorized
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Me, before a socially-distanced, masked-up visit with my sister

BY KIARA LEE-HEART

 

Let’s face it, the pandemic has unravelled just about any and every social norm there was pre-March 2020. This includes but isn’t limited to attending large gatherings without a care in the world, visiting friends, entertaining overnight guests, traveling and hopping on and off flights, and more. All the things I listed are either non-existent at this point or extremely altered, so much so, that they are virtually unrecognizable from pre-pandemic times.

Our new frontier has brought many folks a deep sense of loneliness. For many of us, we can’t see our friends and family (at least how we want to), we can’t fully celebrate major life events the way we would have wanted to, and  circumstances and situations (quarantining, social distancing, etc.) have just made things very unconventional, to put it mildly — all in the name of slowing the spread of and avoiding Covid-19.

I’m going through it right there with you. My entire work life went online in an instant; my students were completely shocked and I had to put in the extra work to help them adjust and succeed, while many of them were battling ill mental health as a result of the pandemic, dealing with Covid-19 illness and deaths and other matters that caused them to feel lonely. When the pandemic started, my husband and I were in the midst of trying to start a family and boom — I was blessed with a bun in the oven. And just recently, I received a very prestigious journalism award (The Green Eye Shade!) for my work with Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Two very big things I have not been able to properly celebrate because of the pandemic. And with some of my own family and associates, there is discord on how to handle social distancing and everything else virus-related. It’s a doozy.

As I’m spending a lot of time by myself these days and as I’m very conscious about staying safe and healthy (especially with one on the way), I’m learning the best ways (for me) to cope with loneliness during the pandemic. What works for you and what works for me surely aren’t the exact same, but perhaps sharing how I cope can help you figure out how you can stay sane.

  1. I hash out my feelings. For me, this can happen in a few different ways. I love to write and many times, poetry can be my way out of a dark place. So I write and I read what I wrote. Over and over. It’s often my release or my “let me get that off my chest” outlet. Most of the time, even when I write, I talk to someone in my circle, which is comprised of family and close friends. They are the kind of people I can tell my truth to and the kind of people who will listen. I talk about my feelings and they validate them. The recognize that living in a pandemic is odd enough and that working from home while taking on scrupulous measures to stay safe and healthy while pregnant during a pandemic truly takes the cake. But there is a big difference between hashing out my feelings and feeling sorry for myself and I try my best to avoid the latter. My feelings can be messy sometimes, but I let the mess out to deal with. I don’t let it fester in my mind for too long.
  2. I validate my own feelings. Don’t worry, I’m not back-pedaling on the talking to friends and family piece I mentioned in number 1. What I’m saying is I give myself the space needed to feel lonely, isolated, sad or whatever negative emotion may be taking over me. I’m a worker bee at heart but sometimes, a day that was meant to work on my to-do list turns into a day I meditate and polish my nails. Sometimes, I give myself permission to feel blah, but only for a little while, and then focus on things that make me happy. I recognize that the blah comes and I have to figure out my own best practices to deal with the blah. I realize I can’t healthily go on if I act like the “blah” doesn’t exist.
  3. I embrace (safely) spending time with people who share similar views on the pandemic. This is an isolating time, but that doesn’t have to mean we can’t spend time with our people at all. I’m one of those people who is trying their best to be cautious and avoid potential virus-spreading situations. As of right now, I wear masks out, I don’t eat in (or outside at) restaurants, all vacation plans have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, and I do not spend time inside anyone’s home, even with a mask on, among other precautions. I have my household and now an unborn child to protect. So at this point, I embrace quality time spent with those who respect my feelings about the virus and my particular situation, being pregnant. I talk to my family on the phone all the time and when we visit in-person, we are outside with masks. My best friend and I have “car dates” where I make us smoothies or fresh fruit juice and we talk and spend (socially distanced) time together from our cars. Before I got pregnant, I did virtual happy hours on Facetime (which are surprisingly fun, I must say). Some people think I’m overreacting during this pandemic, but hey, that’s on them. Those are not really my people, and I’m okay with that. Quite a few of my family members contracted Covid-19 and some have even passed from it, so I already know what this virus is capable of.
  4. I reflect and count my blessings regularly. I find myself trying to find the bright spots of this crazy pandemic time. I need light in my life now more than ever. So I end up reflecting on all that God has done for me and mine. I was recently gifted a gratitude journal from a close friend of mine (thanks, Tanya!) and that has helped make these blessings even more explicit. Reflecting on my blessings during this particularly challenging time has helped me tremendously on some of my worst days. Reflecting on my blessings on a good day makes that good day even better. I’m thankful for being employed during this time. I’m thankful for good health in my immediate family during this time. I’m thankful for this baby I planned and I prayed for, even though living out this special time amidst a pandemic was certainly not in my plans. When I count my blessings, it really puts my temporary feelings of loneliness and isolation into perspective. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that there is a bigger picture this is all part of.

 

In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou struck a chord when she said “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Our loneliness, our isolation is our story. We don’t have to shout it from the rooftop if we don’t want to, but we don’t have to leave it trapped inside of us. We don’t have to let it suffocate us.

Let it be. Be lonely. Be angry. Be sad. Be fragile. Be human during this unprecedented time.

Be human and when you’re ready, deal with yourself. You deserve it, pandemic or not.

A College Student’s Guide to Staying Sane During the Coronavirus Pandemic

advice, lifestyle

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BY KIARA LEE-HEART

It’s a crazy time to say the least. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. Our normal routines have been disrupted and life as we know it in in constant flux; day to day we’re learning something different about the Coronavirus, its impact and expert predictions about the pandemic. With so many colleges and universities moving to online/ remote teaching and making other significant changes in response to the pandemic, many of you are concerned about your college careers, all while dealing with stress and anxiety that can threaten your physical, mental and emotional health. This is why I decided to put together this post. Disclaimer: though I am a recent PhD grad, I teach at a university and I have recently taken a more holistic approach to my health, I am no expert in higher education administration, medicine, policy or anything like that. Nonetheless, I hope that what I have to offer helps you out, even just a little bit, because these days, we need all the love and light we can get.

 

  1. Figure out exactly how you’re going to take care of your body. This virus has spread at an exponential rate and you need to be especially ready, because you’re already stressed about your status at school. This is the time to get your hands on a multivitamin, vitamin C, herbals, etc. and to be intentional about incorporating healthy foods in your social isolation/ quarantine stash. I just got back from the store and let me tell you – there are plenty of fresh fruits and veggies left; it’s all the junk food and filler food that is gone. Also, unbeknownst to many – you can freeze fruit! Just soak the fruit in water to clean it, put it in a gallon-size freezer bag, and stick them in the freezer (peeled/ chopped into smaller pieces). When stashing non-perishables, try to incorporate multigrain or veggie-based things (que the veggie & whole grain pastas, etc.). You want your body to be the best it can be right now and what you put in your mouth plays a large role in that effort. Another important part in that effort is staying fit. I am a huge fan of working out outside; you should give it a go! You can run, stretch, practice yoga, do HIIT and virtually anything else outside – just be creative about your exact setting. If working out outside is not your thing, there are plenty of home workouts online (i.e. YouTube) that can be done in your house (there are even apartment-friendly ones).
  2. Save any and all records. I’m mainly talking about unofficial transcripts and syllabi. You need to get your hands on them and save them in a safe spot. I say this because you want proof of what you’ve done IF something goes awry. If you’re in a situation where the sequencing of your classes change, your professors/ advisor leave because of the pandemic or anything like that, you want proof of the work you’ve done. I don’t mean to scare – I just want you to be prepared!
  3. Class of 2020: You’re going to graduate. Although it might not be when you originally planned to, it’s still going to happen – and no one can take that away from you. This is a period of time where we all unfortunately have to adapt to drastic changes in our regular routine. If your graduation is postponed (or soon to be postponed) just think of it this way – you have complete license to be as loud, litty and extra as ever on your big day – whenever it may be. I would also hone in on #2. Nothing wrong with being over-zealous about the hard work you’ve done.
  4. Be transparent with your professors during the online/ remote transition. If you don’t quite understand how to use an online learning tool that is now part of your new normal, tell your professor. If you have limited access to the internet or a computer to even partake in online education, tell your professor. If your fear and anxiety about the pandemic, online education or both are interfering with your participation in class, please tell your professor. I’m a professor and let me tell you, we’re anticipating that and more from our scholars. If you wait until the end of the semester to let your professor know about an issue, they’re going to be frustrated, and you’re going to be frustrated at them being frustrated and it won’t be good for anyone! We need to know these things early on to best accommodate. I can also tell you with confidence that now more than ever, your professors want you to do well. Don’t be scared to look out for yourself.
  5. Don’t get too consumed with yourself. Focus some attention on your loved ones. It’s easy to slip into “woe is me” mode with everything that’s going on. It’s natural, but don’t stay there too long. You’re not the only one in this, remember? We all are in it together. With that being said, show your loved ones some love and get out of your own head. Call them up. Facetime with them. Share funny memes with them. Make (hypothetical) plans for when the pandemic is over. Work on tracing your family’s genealogy with your relatives. These are just a few ideas of some ways to spend time talking with those close to you in the midst of social distancing while taking your mind off of your own troubles.
  6. Give back, if you have it to give. There are kids out of school with no food and there are elderly people who are most at-risk with no way to get food. Your help is so needed! I can’t think of a better time than now to give back, if you’re able! It won’t be hard to find a reputable person or organization collecting money to feed those in need. There may even be some people who can’t get out to the stores that you could help in some capacity. My mom and I recently donated to Community 50/50, an organization well-known for feeding those in need. Right now, the organization is collecting to feed kids who live in an area of Richmond, VA that is considered a food desert. Every little bit helps!
  7. Nourish your spirit. Do what you need to in order to make your spirit feel good. For me, that includes having quiet time, reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for (especially when I’m feeling discouraged), writing poetry, praying in the morning and getting into my bible at night. What does nourishing your spirit mean for you? If you don’t know what it means, figure it out soon. During times like this, it’s just as important to take care of your inside as it is to take care of your outside. It doesn’t have to be religious. It doesn’t have to be non-religious. It’s what is best for you. Whatever nourishes your spirit makes you feel whole, connected and refreshed. Who wouldn’t want the bright spots of wholeness, connectedness and refreshment during these trying times?
  8. Embrace your new routine. Your routine will make or break your success the rest of the semester. You must be intentional about this new routine. You are probably so distracted and so thrown off by the current state of affairs that you need an extra push to get you in (online/ remote) school mode. Maybe you find that you work best in the afternoon. Maybe your home workout works better on Tuesdays and Thursdays because of your other obligations. It might be harder for you to focus finishing up this semester online since you’re home more, so you may need to find a designated part of your home to work in. For most of us, life as we know it has drastically changed and that calls for drastic change on our end to keep up.

 

 

Life has changed, but life hasn’t stopped. You have a lot to do, see and achieve, but we all have to get through this pandemic first. You got this. We got this.

 

Stay safe, stay sane and stay socially distanced!