Living through a pandemic for over a year has been a time of self reflection, hardships and learning to find joyful moments in the midst of uncertain times for many people. The University News asked 12 students to reflect on their personal experiences living through a whole year of the pandemic and the ways it has affected their mental health.
Celia Searles, senior, she/her
During this pandemic, senior Celia Searles says mental health has been difficult to manage. For Searles, daily tasks have become a struggle in the pandemic, and the most challenging part of this experience for her has been “trying to find the motivation to do mundane daily tasks when it feels like they don’t matter in comparison to the larger struggles in the world.” Additionally, this pandemic has shown her how important socializing is in her life. However, living in this pandemic has had some positive aspects, and Searles says that she has learned to value time with friends and family, and to not take that time for granted. To practice self-care, Searles says she makes time to be goofy with friends and family and tries to laugh as much as possible. When asked what advice she would give to herself regarding the pandemic, Searles says, “Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to have off weeks or months and take breaks from screens and Zoom.”
Alayna Parsons, junior, she/her
During this pandemic, mental health has been a struggle for many. Alayna Parsons says that she now feels more apathetic and fatigued than ever before. She wishes that she could go back in time and tell herself to appreciate her experiences. However, the experience has allowed her to reflect, and Parsons says she has learned to be content being by herself, and she “no longer relies on others for happiness.” During the pandemic, Parsons has enjoyed some time with family, and over winter and summer breaks, she and her dad would take regular walks with her dog and then get Starbucks afterward. For Parsons, living in a pandemic has been very challenging, but has had moments of happiness, and she would call this chapter of life “a pause.”
Helena Cooper, junior, she/her
For Helena Cooper, this pandemic has been a period of growth and learning to take care of herself. She says that at the beginning of the pandemic, she forgot to take time to care for herself and recognize that she is just a student trying to cope with living in this pandemic. Cooper lives in a studio apartment with no exterior windows, and when the pandemic first started, it was a very difficult experience for her to be in that space. However, life in a pandemic has allowed Cooper to reflect and practice self care; she says that she has been dancing a lot and learning how to exist with herself. Moreover, she has learned to listen to her body and brain, and not focus on just “powering through” work without paying attention to her feelings. Cooper has also had time to learn about her own boundaries in relationships with family and friends, and how to establish these boundaries. When asked what title she would give this chapter of her life, she says, “Dancing through life.”
Morgan Mckenny, freshman, she/her
For freshman Morgan Mckenny, living during the pandemic has been filled with moments of sorrow, heartbreak and joy. Mckenny says that her late great-grandma could not understand why she couldn’t attend her sister’s funeral after she died from a COVID-19 outbreak at the care facility she lived in. This experience was heartbreaking for Mckenny, but she says that if she could go back in time to give herself a piece of advice for living in a pandemic, she would say, “you won’t regret being safe.” In regards to mental health, Mckenny says she is doing “fine,” but it has been disheartening seeing the severity of the pandemic in America and the “lack of leadership.” Despite this, Mckenny has still had some joy-filled moments and says that she has enjoyed a year of at-home birthday parties, watching TV and movies that make her laugh and finding new things to love and enjoy. When asked what the pandemic has taught her about herself, Mckenny says that it has reaffirmed what she knows: she has a “great heart” and truly wants the best for everyone around her.
Michael Noda, freshman, he/him
For freshman Michael Noda, this pandemic has taught him that he is more independent than he thought. Noda says that since he has been spending more time indoors, he has noticed that grades have gone up. Despite not being able to see friends as much face-to-face, he can still play video games with them. Noda says he has been doing fine with mental health, but he has learned that he doesn’t really practice self-care. If he could go back in time to give himself a piece of advice, he says that he would tell himself to enjoy every moment with friends and family. Noda is from Hawaii and says that he would go out surfing with his friends often, and these are some of his favorite memories with them.
Lauren Morby, sophomore, she/her
For Lauren Morby, going to school during the pandemic has been a challenge. She says that her mental health has been difficult to manage, and it has been tough to do school work when it feels like the world is “blowing up around you.” Since the pandemic started, Morby says that her mental health has deteriorated; she feels more anxious and stressed out than ever, and says that life “can get lonely.” Even though she is introverted, she has learned that it is very important to spend time with others to feel a sense of normalcy. For Morby, living in the pandemic has brought personal growth and strengthened relationships. Morby says she has learned to be patient and allow herself to feel her emotions fully. She also says that her relationship with her mom has gotten stronger, and she was grateful to spend a lot of time with her. When asked what advice she would give to herself about living in the pandemic, she says to make sure to “ask for help if you need it.”
Abby Funke, sophomore, she/her
For Abby Funke, living in the pandemic has included themed dinner nights with family, listening to lots of podcasts and learning to communicate and interact with others in new ways. She describes this chapter of her life as “evolving” and says that she now realizes that she is stronger than she gives herself credit for, and can get through tough things she didn’t know she could. During quarantine periods, Funke spent a lot of time with family, and her family would have themed dinner nights, which she describes as some of her favorite memories from the pandemic time. To practice self-care, she journals, listens to podcasts and does facials. A piece of advice she would give herself before the pandemic is to “be open to change.”
Kent Kleinschmidt, junior, he/him
If he could go back in time and give himself a piece of advice for living in COVID-19, Kent Kleinschmidt would tell himself to make summer plans. Kleinschmidt says that after everything shut down, it was difficult to stay inside and be at home with nothing to do for such a long time. Even though he considers himself “not super social,” COVID-19 has shown him that he prefers to be around people, and it has been difficult to feel isolated at times. Because of this, Kleinschmidt states his mental health has gone down a lot because he lost socializing time that he really values. To take care of his mental health, Kleinschmidt says that he schedules time into his schedule to relax and do nothing and that “free time is just as important as school” because mental health can have a large impact on school.
Adrian Ortiz, junior, he/him
Junior Adrian Ortiz was studying abroad in Madrid during spring semester of his sophomore year when everything was first shut down. He describes this as a strange experience, but he now has a job at SLU, and this has allowed him to feel a sense of normalcy. Ortiz says that he has learned to take care of his mental health by simply doing things that make him feel joy. He would title this chapter of his life “finding a better understanding of myself.”
James Tillman, sophomore, he/him
Sophomore James Tillman says that his mental health has gotten worse during this pandemic, but the experience has forced him to grow up and mature a lot. To take care of his mental health, Tillman says that he now meditates and takes time for himself. For Tillman, spending time with friends and family has been an important part of his self-care, and he says that one of his favorite memories from the past year was having a picnic with a friend on top of a parking garage. This pandemic has presented many challenges for Tillman, including adjusting to online classes and “looking better without a mask on.”
Madison Seda, freshman, she/her
This pandemic has been a strange time for everyone, and freshman Madison Seda says that a key part of taking care of her mental health has been finding a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. Celebrating her birthday in September was a highlight of this past year for Seda, even though it has been challenging “navigating and balancing everyone’s varying comfort levels with COVID.” She says that her mental health was affected more when spending time at home because she worried about the health of her family members, and spending time with friends at SLU has been a way for her to take care of her mental health. Throughout this whole experience, Seda has grown a lot as a person and says that she has learned that you don’t “have to do everything on your own.”
Elaina Falconer, sophomore, she/her
Having an espresso machine has been a life-saver for sophomore Elaina Falconer. She says that “having coffee every morning” brings her joy every day, and it has been really nice to have a little thing to look forward to every day. When asked about how her mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, she says, “honestly, it has been lonely.” Falconer says that the pandemic has highlighted how much she hates being alone, and wearing masks has made it difficult to socialize. “I really miss seeing people’s smiles,” she says.