Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Contrary to popular belief, Skype is not the best method of communication for long distance relationships. The “lagginess”, the mic problems, and the pixelated portrayal of your loved one are all too familiar for those in relationships spanning great distance. With the circumstances of COVID-19 causing us to be holed up in our homes, relationships (both romantic and platonic) have drastically changed with virtual communicative platforms like Skype being the only way we can really spend time with our loved ones outside of our immediate vicinity.
For a teetering ambivert like myself, this quarantine has provided me with plenty of “me time” to focus on myself and pursue projects dedicated to self improvement, but has simultaneously put me in slumps where I feel gnawing loneliness and a longing to see friends and family. Despite being able to communicate through a ready stream of available resources, I find that a lack of real-life interaction stunts my social routine and contributes heavily towards feelings of negativity and isolation. Transitioning my life to the inter-webs, though seemingly easy, had in fact altered my social expectations as well as my social capacity.
I realized a few weeks into quarantine that by forcing myself to catch up with everyone I interacted with on campus regularly, I was crossing my personal boundaries by not allowing myself time to process and adjust to my new life. I realized that neither me nor my friends were obligated to maintain a steady routine of communication at the cost of our mental well-being. We were all struggling with our individual battles: toxic households, anxiety about the pandemic, loved ones with COVID-19, and so much more. Allowing myself to understand what I was going through, to provide myself with the time I needed to regain my internal balance, was more fulfilling and beneficial than attempting to recreate my life before quarantine over a screen.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we are forced to reevaluate not only how we communicate, but how we will redefine our social expectations; both from others and ourselves. Feeling pressure to maintain our social interactions to the same degree as before, despite the sudden shift of circumstances, can lead to immense burnout and mental or emotional drain. In this unprecedented time it is important to understand our internal needs. If the circumstances of our daily lives can be readjusted, it is normal and okay to change the ways we socialize to avoid overextending our energy.
Now, this does not mean cut everyone off. I am in no way suggesting to adopt a hermit lifestyle (unless of course that is your personal preference). But find a balance that helps you feel fulfilled, and above all, is healthy for your emotional and mental well-being. I discovered that I liked Face Timing with friends every few days in the afternoons, having group calls some evenings to catch up with those I might not contact regularly, and spending the last few hours before bedtime by myself; winding down with an activity I love or drifting off to audio books.
Imperfect situations call for ingenious, and oftentimes unexpected, solutions. Don’t be afraid to reschedule a phone call, have a night in (although I doubt circumstances would even allow a night out), or have a well deserved lazy day. If you feel that you need time for mental clarity and emotional recharge, embracing these changes in your life may be the best favor you can do for yourself.
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