Quarantine: Stressors and Mental Health
The typical high school student wakes up dreading the destination of their morning commute. Each day consists of class after class awaiting the weekend, feeding right back into the exhaust of Monday morning. But during quarantine, the school days are shorter, commutes are non-existent, and weekends are a far-fetched fever dream. The stress of schoolwork and time crunches has been replaced by the weight of isolation.
Ms. Londay, an upper school health teacher and leader of the health team, points out the reality faced by many families, “People are in small spaces, and unemployment rates are higher than ever, there’s financial concerns, there’s health concerns, there’s all of the social unrest that’s going on and so I think that the accumulative stress of all these experiences for somebody who is feeling that stress… then you know you’re gonna lash out at family members sometimes, or you’re not going to have the most patience. Whatever it is, that can create tension in the household.”
As we transitioned into quarantine, we had to remove ourselves from normalcy to be physically safe. The necessary lockdown of the country with New York City as the virus’ epicenter hit its students mental health hardest. With a number of different stressors: family, differing household structures, distress/fear of the virus, etc., counseling waitlists continue to grow. Things as simple as change in sleeping or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health issues, mental health conditions, and a lack of energy/motivation can be side effects of this pressure.
As we sit in the same chair day after day staring at a screen, death tolls, case numbers, worsening conditions in our homes, innocent people being killed, and an incompetent leader stare back at us. “The news was distressing, you know? The news- it’s all important to read it and know what was going on, but it was also very distressing,” comments Ms. Londay, in regards to our country’s current climate. The overstimulation of social media, news, and coronavirus updates have taken a massive toll on the health of kids, teens, and adults. In the deeply divided state of our country, it becomes difficult not to look at the newest updates about politics. As online communication becomes the main source of interaction outside of families, it is important to recognize the reality of both the present time and those around you. While it feels impossible to distance ourselves from the news and media, we have to.
We consistently have to work to stay in touch with our friends and family, while also keeping up with our hobbies. In isolation, it is essential that each person find a coping mechanism to stay connected to what they love and somewhat disconnected from the over- stimulation of the media. Ms. Londay explained that she “love[s] being in the yoga studio, it was my quiet time, my sanctuary and having to do it via zoom just wasn’t the same experience for me. So normal coping strategies that people had we were finding they weren’t sufficient anymore.”
With the start of hybrid learning, the familiar Packer environment feels distant from the reality of the situation we are experiencing. There are numerous emotions one may feel entering the school again. There can be stress of schoolwork and commute and/or fear and anxiety about the virus. The upside is that all of this means progress towards a new normal that we will adjust to. We are constantly moving at 100 miles per hour in New York City; the modifications we made to our lifestyle at the start of quarantine is just as drastic as the adapting we will have to do in order to get back to a somewhat normal way of life.