Feeling Stuck with Indefinite Freedom

Superstitious as I am, I was prepared for bad news when Friday the 13th rolled around last March. That particular Friday was spent with a friend in Edinburgh’s infamous Vodka Revolution; sipping on popping-candy espresso martinis, followed by a walk through the Meadows, slightly buzzed and very content. The news then broke that not only were my second-year exams cancelled, but all Danish citizens had to return as soon as possible. This news was more like an emotional kick to the stomach than the traditional horror-movie-like scare I had been anticipating on such a day. Long story short, the next few days were spent in a persistent melancholy state, which only worsened when I stepped off the plane in Copenhagen, as I realized I probably wouldn’t see my little Edinburgh family for six months.

This pandemic brings an odd sense of déjà vu with it, as if life has rewound to ten years ago when we had little autonomy in our lives. Not only do we have to adhere to our government’s policies on social distancing and quarantining, but many of us are back in our parents’ homes and have to follow to their rules on things like, what to eat and when is an acceptable time to get out of bed in the morning.

I think most of us agree that we love our families, yet there is something about living independently in a city bursting with friends and an abundance of things to do, that makes returning home difficult. We embrace the freedom that comes with university and are beginning to define ourselves as singular entities apart from our families. We are in a purgatory state between childhood and adulthood, which means going home can be frustrating as our families aren’t used to us being the adults we feel we are, in Edinburgh. I’ve noticed that I always mold back into the daughter/sister role whenever I return home and lose some of the sense of empowerment I feel when in university.

These tensions of returning home combined with the psychological toll of this pandemic, can easily lead to anxiety. So, can we find a way to get through these next months without just counting down the days until it’s all over?

As a second year Sociology student, my deadlines and exams have been cancelled and my chances of getting an internship have also gone out the window. This means I, like most other university students, have months ahead of me with absolutely nothing to do. I started my time in isolation by making a long list of everything I wanted to achieve with this extra time, from exercising more to learning a new language.

It has been ingrained in us from a young age, that we should be constantly bettering ourselves and learning new skills that will make us stand out for future employment. Any downtime is time that could be spent productively, whether that be listening to an educational podcast during a bath or reading a pretentious, classic novel instead of that one mystery book you actually want to be reading.

It is, however, important to remind yourself that, yes, you might have more time on your hands than you usually do, but we are also in the middle of a devastating crisis that could be impacting you in ways you don’t realize.

We are in the midst of a time where we should be out making memories we will reminisce for the next many decades. Instead, we are idly sitting on our parents’ sofas while yet another day flies by. Compared to the severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, such frustrations might seem trivial, however, it is important to acknowledge emotional and mental health in this time as well.

Being anxious about your family’s wellbeing is normal. Fearing what the future will look like is okay, and you are allowed to mourn the cancelled plans and the expectations you had for the next months. You might not personally know anyone with the coronavirus, but following media that reveales shocking death tolls every day and worrying about your loved ones will most likely impact on you.

WHO states mental health conditions are expected to rise as a result of the pandemic, so acknowledging and taking care of your psychological and emotional wellbeing in this time should be more important than worrying about making yourself more employable.

Remind yourself that this too shall pass and try to value the time spent with loved ones, as everything you love about university will eventually return.

Just like university itself, nothing lasts forever and those espresso martinis will be waiting for us when we return.

 

Below are some links on how to take care of yourself during this time:

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/looking-after-yourself/coronavirus-and-mental-health/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2020/03/24/how-to-protect-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-according-to-psychologists/#1ac2474e41cb

Image: Sarah Kaplan via Flickr

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