It’s OK: We’re Not Working From Home, We Are At Home During a Pandemic

May 6/2020

By Denny Choi (1st year MPH), Sarah Richter (1st year MPH), Sterling Stutz (1st year MPH), Anindita Marwah (2nd year MPH)

“There is nothing I can do anymore. I can’t go out. I can’t go see people. I don’t even know when this will all end. I feel powerless and helpless.”

Several weeks into physical distancing, many people and students are feeling its direct impact on their mental health and are coping differently in this current situation.

While this has been an opportunity for some to spend more time with their family members or loved ones, the lockdown has taken a severe toll on some members of our student community, especially those with existing mental health conditions.

Feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness are very real for many of us.

Left to Right: Sterling Stutz, Sarah Richter, Denny Choi, and Anindita Marwah

Let’s talk about students.

When asked about how we are doing, we often default to the “I’m not being productive” answer. But, it’s important that we all recognize that this is okay. Feelings of uncertainty and unsettlement are normal during a pandemic. Some of us might be preoccupied with thoughts about our health, or the health of a loved one. Others might be feeling anxious about the current state of the world, or what the world is going to be like once this ends. It is OK to realize that these feelings and thoughts are normal in these unprecedented times.

As one twitter post suggests, “you are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work.”

While some people take this time to power through their PhD theses via Zoom, it’s OK if all you do in one day is reply to one email. It’s OK if you just write one sentence for that essay then take a break to tackle a crossword puzzle. It’s OK if you bake cinnamon rolls or have playtime with your pet. It’s OK if you cook lasagna for your family. Talk with your profs and supervisors and ask for an extension if needed. We are all going through this together. No guilt required.

We have also had some of our friends and family members take care of a loved one or dependents during this pandemic. That could be very challenging at times. This quote from CAMH gives us an idea as to how to go forward:

“Check in with the person from time to time… Always keep the lines of communication open. At the same time, ensure you take care of yourself, and limit the amount of time you devote to supporting others.” 

The take-home message from all of this is that there is no single, right way to respond to a pandemic like this one. As it is unprecedented, we are all figuring it out as we go. Please, keep taking care of yourself. Keep in touch with friends and family through virtual platforms. Limit the amount of news you consume every day. Ask for extensions and help when needed. While this situation is truly out of anyone’s control, you can be in charge of your own attitude and outlook on this.

Below is a list of resources for those in need: