You’ve all seen it.
The lists of possible “quarantine hobbies” you can take up, from baking banana bread to learning how to draw. Example “daily schedules” that almost always involve waking up at 7am and being extremely productive. The brightly filtered Instagram stories of homemade coffee, puzzles, home workouts, and families playing board games. Way too many TikTok dances.
This can look like a glorified staycation
From the outside looking in, the world seems to be on a glorified staycation. Everyone seems to have adjusted seamlessly into this temporary new normal, happily bonding with their families and practicing their many new hobbies.
There are definitely some people who are enjoying this “break” the outbreak has brought. My mom was over the moon happy to have my brother and me (both college students) home and the entire family together again, and she too loves a good homemade French press coffee. But for some of us, our experience is the opposite.
I am a junior Early Childhood Education major at a college that is on the quarter system, so I began all new classes after “spring break.” I put that in quotes because it hardly felt like spring break; I had to cancel the trip I had planned to go to California with my mom, the plans I had to see my hometown friends, and the overall pleasant mental break I so desperately needed. I also cancelled an internship at an elementary school I was supposed to have this quarter, and moved all of my major-specific classes (that rely heavily on in-person group interaction) online.
If you’re a student maybe this really threw you for a loop
If you are also a high school or college student, this probably threw you for a loop as well. Your routine has been yanked out from under you, you may have had to move out of a dorm or apartment, and you may be missing out on moments you were looking forward to so much. We are all sad, disappointed, maybe even heartbroken. We are all grieving the losses of these special moments.
For me personally, it feels almost wrong to feel grief. Everyone else is meditating, cooking gourmet meals, and knitting. They’re having the time of their life! Why can’t I even bring myself to get up at a decent time and make my bed?
Anxiety makes it worse
As someone with anxiety, this entire situation is extremely triggering. If you have anxiety too, you know what I’m talking about. Routine is something that really helps anxiety, but I am not able to keep any part of my normal life right now.
I should be at my apartment at school, working with kids, and studying with my friends at the library. Instead I am at home, learning entirely online, and I can’t even go into Starbucks (an extremely important ritual in my world). There is no consistency for me to hang on to. It also turns out that all my previous coping mechanisms involved leaving the house, whether it was to walk around Target or sit in my local Starbucks. I feel like I’m floating, trapped, and everything is completely out of control. I can’t bring myself to be productive, because right now I am so focused on just surviving.
You may have anxiety, or you may not. You may be doing yoga, or baking cakes, or you may just be getting through each day like me. But I want you to know that no matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, neither one is right or wrong, and you are not alone.
Don’t believe what you see on Instagram
What you see on Instagram is filtered through rose colored glasses. Not everyone has found their new talent and not everyone has a family situation that warrants bonding over board games. Humans, by nature, struggle with change. We are all adjusting and coping in our own way.
I tried creating a “schedule” for myself. I tried channeling my inner cheerleader, and took up stretching like I used to when I was in the sport. I tried FaceTiming with my school friends to do class together. I tried baking banana bread. I tried taking more walks. But to be honest, none of these things really worked for me. None of them were the key to solving my quarantine anxiety, so I feel like I’ve failed. But I haven’t, and neither have you. If you have also been trying and haven’t succeeded yet, that’s okay. I’m right there with you and we will keep trying.
There is so much pressure to be productive, but it is truly okay if all you do during these few weeks is get through them. If you don’t get to walk across a graduation stage, or go to prom, or have that internship, or even just enjoy your last few months before summer with your friends, it is completely okay to be heartbroken. It’s completely okay to feel anxious. It’s completely okay to struggle. You don’t have to get up early and make fancy coffee drinks. You’re allowed to just survive, because in an unprecedented time like this, even that is a win.
Don’t give in to the Instagram pressure. If you’re having a hard time, you’re not alone. Know that there is no correct response to this situation. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, and continue doing the best you can. We can’t control the situation, but we can control the way we respond to it. Remembering what we are in control of is empowering.
Mia is a Junior at DePaul University studying Early Childhood Education, and she loves seeing the world through the eyes of the young children she works with. Mia was a competitive cheerleader for 6 years, and in addition to going to graduate school one day, she hopes to return to this sport that is part of her soul.