Life @ U of T

Mental Wellness in a Difficult Time

In light of the ongoing period of self-isolation and social distancing, I thought I'd share some of my top tips for staying positive in this difficult period of time.

1 ) Meditation

I've been experiencing a spike in stress due to the recent adjustments in the wake of COVID-19, so I've been trying to practice meditation consistently in order to reduce my tenseness. If you're interested, the Multi-Faith Centre Facebook page displays all of the recent meditation events that have now been moved online. Recently, I had the pleasure doing meditation with Wake Up Toronto through a Zoom session. I didn't realize just how much anxiety I had pent up until I actually began meditating and my immediate thoughts were worries about the future, my health and safety, assignments, etc. Trying to clear my mind was incredibly difficult, which forced me to recognize just how important meditative practices are in relieving these constant fears. Through the Buddhist practice of dharma talk, our instructor led us through a 20 minute meditation period, followed by insights on how to deal with negative emotions. I found this section of the session to be especially helpful because it encouraged me to recognize my pessimistic feelings instead of repressing them. The concept of taking care of our suffering means that we can validate thoughts that centre on emotions such as loneliness or fear, without letting them completely take over our minds. By acknowledging them, we can let them go and make room for more positive ideas. However, if we ignore them, these negative thoughts are more likely to run rampant in our subconsciousness, and they often become even more pervasive throughout the day.

2) Discovering joy within the home 

Even though it sort of sucks to feel stranded in the home, if you can make the best of it, I recommend taking this time to enjoy the space around you. Cleaning your home, tidying, or organizing can be a nice way of clearing up your space and your mind. Doing workout videos on youtube can also be a wonderful way to relieve stress without leaving the house. All you need is a few metres of space in a bedroom or living room and you're set! Being forced to stay indoors is also a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family. For example, I've been watching more movies with my mom (the new movie Knives Out is incredibly good). Being home means I also have the opportunity to hang out with my cats.

Cleo, helping me with my homework

3) Embracing Hobbies/Free Time

When I realized just how much time was set aside in my day for commuting, walking between classes, running errands, etc. I discovered that those were times I unconsciously set aside for mental breaks from school work. Now that these options are no longer available to me due to social isolation, I think it’s important to redistribute those mental breaks into other activities that I rarely do otherwise. For example, I’ve been trying to play the guitar, draw and paint more, or read for pleasure. Even watching an episode of an uplifting show, like a sitcom that can make you laugh (some of my favourites include How I Met Your Mother, Brooklyn 99, Modern Family, Friends, etc.) is a great way to relieve stress. Even taking a nap! As long as it doesn’t mess up your sleep schedule, a good ol’ nap can be nice every now and then.

A really strange self-portrait(ish)

4) School work

While school work can feel like a burden right now, I found it helpful to put a positive spin on the build-up of readings, lectures, and assignments still left to do. I genuinely enjoy all of my courses, so instead of thinking about the continuation of school work as something stressful, I’m trying to think about it as an opportunity to learn more about politics, philosophy, and read interesting novels or articles. During this time, it’s important to exercise, not only the body, but also the brain. I find schoolwork more stressful if I let all of my assignments build up. This is especially because the time I spend procrastinating is rarely enjoyable anyway, considering a sense of fear and anticipation is always lingering in the back of my mind. It took a few days to admit it to myself, but it’s probably best to face my fears and finally resume a somewhat-normal work schedule. Of course, it is important to recognize that this time will be difficult for some more than others, and it is crucial to prioritize mental health. If your courses are more stressful than beneficial, I advise you to check out the new CR/NCR options provided to students or email your professors for accommodations.

Hopefully some of these ideas were helpful! It's a strange time in our lives, but acknowledging that everyone is going through this together means that we can be in solidarity, even when we're apart.

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