I didn’t even notice the heavy blanket that formed on my body at first. I didn’t even notice my depression and anxiety were triggered.
I never thought I would have to leave campus without emotional preparation, I thought I had another month and a half before I had to go to my hometown of Mooresville, North Carolina and the love-hate relationship that I have with it. I hate going back to my hometown because the environment tends to trigger old habits that are very toxic to both me and my family.
It didn’t hit me that my semester was officially cut short until the first two weeks of quarantine. I was only supposed to not see my friends for two weeks, but then that grew into two months. The blanket of anxiety and depression started to get heavier, to the point where I couldn’t stay productive anymore. I lost interest and motivation to do anything other than lay in bed, scrolling on my phone. Sometimes, even social media was too much for me, so I would just lay in bed for hours. The only productive thing I found myself doing was watching Hulu with my sister.
I thought that after finishing classes, I would have time to do other things, and that maybe I could put the bit of motivation I had for schoolwork towards productive activities around the house. I was very wrong. The moment that my classes were done, my motivation completely disappeared, and my attitude completely changed. I started to develop new habits I’ve never had before. For example, I would sleep through most of the day, and I would get anxious when I forced myself to do anything remotely productive. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I knew I had to try to do something about it. Here are the steps I took to try to take back some of the control that I lost during quarantine.
The ideal first step is to make an appointment with a therapist. I tried to avoid help from others as much as possible, and I used the excuse of the pandemic to avoid calling my therapist. But eventually, I made an online appointment. If you want to get help sooner rather than later, you could try using betterhelp.com. You can take quizzes to figure out what kind of mental health issues you have in order to find the best therapist for you. It’s $40 a week for unlimited online sessions with a mental health professional. Another affordable and accessible virtual behavioral health clinic is ihopenetwork.com. My friend who has used this resource recommended the crisis hotline when you need to talk to someone right away. All you have to do is text 741741, and they will connect you with someone.
However, the actual first step that I took was to change out of my pajamas and into clean clothes. I try to peel myself out of my bed and into a clean pair of sweatpants every day. You don’t have to dress up; it just has to be a clean outfit. After changing into clean sweats, I take care of personal hygiene. When you’re stuck in an episode of depression or any other mental illness, you forget about brushing your teeth and showering. When you are doing these tasks, try to focus on your breathing and concentrate on the process of personal hygiene, because it’s the simplest form of self-care.
The next step is to make weekly to-do lists. I have a giant list of things I need to do, I want to do, and if I have done everything else, I can do. I have not done half of this list, but it does feel good when I cross something off of it. Examples of things that I have on my list are doing my laundry, finishing a chapter of my book, and starting a puzzle. The key to making these lists is to put easy tasks that you are able to complete in a day or couple of hours. I tell myself that if I at least do one of those tasks on my list per week, then I can reward myself with some UberEats. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you can also reward yourself with an episode of TV.
Like plants, human beings need sunlight. According to the US National Library of Medicine, the Vitamin D in sunlight can improve people’s mental health. It can be hard to actually push yourself to go outside for a walk, so I recommend sitting next to the sunniest window in your home and sitting there for a couple of hours. You’re still getting sunlight without forcing yourself outside. I’m lucky enough to have two big windows in my bedroom, and I can just lay in bed while I am getting my daily intake of sunlight.
Lastly, don’t pressure yourself to be productive, because that will just make everything worse. Productivity will come naturally to you when you need it, but right now, you don’t need to be. This quarantine isn’t a time for becoming the next Isaac Newton or William Shakespeare. It’s a time for you to stay home and stay healthy. You are going to have good days where you finally finish that opinion piece you promised the opinion editor of The Beacon that you would finish a week ago, but there are going to be other days where you are just able to switch into a cleaner pair of sweatpants. Both of those are okay, because as long as you are keeping yourself safe, nothing else matters. Productivity doesn’t measure your self-worth.
It’s national mental health awareness month, so for those who are friends and family members of people with mental illnesses, please don’t forget to support and be there for them; a Facetime call can mean a lot. Sometimes people with mental illnesses struggle with asking for help or even for support, so it’s your job this month and every month of the year to help your friend or family member to not feel ashamed for struggling with their mental illness—especially during quarantine—and ask them what you can do for them to make their quarantine experience a little easier.