By Samantha V….

Many people’s mental health may be challenged during this time of crisis, especially those with preexisting conditions. Our daily routines have been disrupted, we are unable to connect with our loved ones face to face, and we have anxiety and grief surrounding those who are ill, the possibility of becoming ill, and loss of loved ones. Therefore, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are serious consequences of the pandemic, even when we know that separation from one another is the best thing we can do to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. With that being said, I think it is just as important for us to focus on our mental health as well as our physical health and absence of illness during this time.

Personally, I have had the unique experience of beginning therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it’s very common for people to avoid seeking help such as therapy for many reasons. These may include: stigma, fear, lack of insurance/access, and even the things that may cause you to need therapy (anxiety, depression, etc). For me, I knew I needed therapy before this crisis occurred, but I was too busy. With my schedule packed with school, work, finding time to work out and have a social life, my mental health definitely took the back seat in my life. But, once I had no choice but to be home with no real responsibilities besides my schoolwork, I realized now was the perfect time to set it up. Not only had I felt I would benefit from therapy for a while, but I also was coping with my life being completely different from before and I knew that I risked slipping deeper into a poor state of mental health. Obviously, I could do things at home to keep my sanity, such as staying active, keeping a schedule, staying busy, starting new projects, etc. but doing that would be simply repeating what I had been before the pandemic: distracting myself and avoiding my feelings.

Although I’m grateful for having this time to work on my mental health, it hasn’t been easy. I think most people would agree that therapy can be a scary thought. Unearthing negative emotions while simultaneously opening up intimate details to a total stranger isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, and it’s not any easier via FaceTime. The pandemic also offered new challenges that you wouldn’t normally have in therapy. For example, it isn’t easy to find privacy when you’re quarantined with three other family members, especially when you share a room with your sibling. I spent some sessions in my car, some in my room when it was vacant, and other times a friend generously offered to leave their place so I had a private space to use. My family sort of stigmatizes therapy and I would often spend time talking to my therapist about my family, so this was a huge obstacle. There are also technological challenges. Many times we would experience interruptions in the video chat platform we tried to use, or sound/camera issues, so we would resort to FaceTime. I’ve always had anxiety about seeking therapy and the pandemic has definitely added layers of problems that have resulted in added anxiety. Regardless, even though I dread my weekly therapy session, I always feel better afterwards.

Even though getting therapy has been a struggle during these times, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to take extra care of my mental health. Not only am I able to address new challenges that I’m faced with in quarantine, but I can also address the problems that I’ve been having before any of this happened. Being quarantined has also given me the opportunity to reflect. Instead of using my busy life to distract myself and seek unhealthy coping mechanisms, I’m able to relax, reflect, and focus on bettering myself and finding healthier ways to cope. That’s not to say that I haven’t struggled with the pandemic just like most people and I definitely empathize for all the people struggling right now. However, despite the new challenges we are faced with, I’ve found a way to take care of my mental health during this time and I’m very grateful for that. For those who are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic, I hope you can all find a way to do the same, even if it doesn’t include therapy.

Samantha V. is a graduating senior majoring in Public Health at SUNY Albany.

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