During this unprecedented season of quarantine, life can feel like a never-ending Zoom call. The first few months of 2020 have proved to be a difficult time full of adjustments for everyone, and students are no exception. Students Delaney MacKenzie, Lindsay Corwin, Allison Canter, and Samantha Brigham joined Dr. Adrienne Wallace and I on PR Hangover to have an Oprah-style discussion on how COVID-19 and quarantine are affecting the mental health of students. 

How are students doing, really? 

After Grand Valley State University announced that classes would be online instead of in person, many students made the decision to go home to their families, while some students stayed at school. Sam Brigham noted that since she lived in northern Michigan and certain travel restrictions had been put into place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, she felt that she had to stay at school instead of going home.

Regardless of where we’re physically located, Delaney, Lindsay, Allison, and Sam all agreed that they felt like they were able to look at the ‘big picture’ of it all—knowing that in the end, we’re all staying home and taking precautions in order to keep people safe. However, even then, Allison notes that dealing with the unknowns of COVID-19 can be enough to “Drive someone up the wall”.

Does quarantine make everybody feel anxious? 

Some students noted that they’re actually feeling less anxious during quarantine. For some, there’s less responsibilities, less face-to-face communication with others that may usually make them anxious, and we’re not physically running from place to place. 

However, sitting at home all day can cause some to feel less productive, even if they’re actually getting more done. This feeling can cause some students to feel a different kind of anxiety than usual. Additionally, the increased number of Zoom calls or phone calls can cause social anxiety for some. 

Everyone agreed, though, that anxiety caused by a global pandemic impacts most people, even though it may vary from person to person. “We never thought we’d be sitting in quarantine. This was never part of the plan,” Said Allison. Again, several students noted that the unknowns were the most challenging part of quarantine, especially those who were graduating. 

Where do you feel like the most productive version of yourself? 

Delaney, Sam, and Lindsay all noted that they feel like they’re typically more productive outside of their home. According to Delaney, a change of scene from time to time is what helps her be productive. Sam agreed, saying that she typically moves from one space to another in her home throughout the day in order to keep productivity up and to avoid getting too comfortable in one spot. 

What coping skills have you all adopted? 

Everybody agreed that having a routine and sticking to a schedule was the most important coping skill they’d implemented. Elements of those routines varied—some students did daily workouts with their roommates, some had weekly game nights, and Sam even said that her and her friends started virtually playing Fortnite together every night, which had become a valuable part of her wind-down routine at the end of the day. 

In addition to having a routine to help keep us sane, we noted a variety of other outlets for stress and anxiety, such as turning to more creative outlets, like painting or drawing, or going for a car ride for a while and just singing their favorite songs. Regardless of what they were, everyone was in agreement that it’s important to have some designated habits or skills to help us stay sane during this time. 

Self-improvement during this time can be great and awful. How does what other people are doing impact what you feel like you should be doing? 

All of us felt like we already had high expectations for ourselves, and during quarantine, there’s an added pressure to ‘self-improve’ endlessly. Social media doesn’t help this, as it can make it seem like everyone is losing weight or learning new languages except for you. Some students agreed that limiting the time they spend on social media has been beneficial, as well as listening to what their body and mind are telling them. 

Essentially, students felt that there’s a big difference between exercising during quarantine in order to get the blood flowing, and exercising during quarantine because someone you follow on Instagram lost 15 pounds during quarantine and you feel like you should now too. We agreed that it’s important to ask ourselves: “How can I disconnect the desire to do this thing from what social media is telling me?”

How has the switch from in-person to online classes been? 

From an educator’s perspective, Adrienne says that there’s a big difference between being trained to teach online classes versus having two days to learn how to teach the rest of your semester online. 

Despite how challenging it felt for educators, students all agreed that the transition from in-person classes to online classes felt seamless, especially classes in the Advertising and Public Relations program. Some students noted that while certain aspects have been challenging—like motivating group members who seemed to go MIA during quarantine or trying to get ahold of professors who never seem to respond to emails—they were able to take that ‘big picture’ outlook and remember that this isn’t what anyone signed up for, educators included, and to know that they’re doing the best they can. 

What strategies would you recommend for when someone starts to spiral? 

An overall theme of the strategies recommended by students was to connect yourself to someone or something. Some students have a therapist that they’re in touch with during quarantine, but if that’s not possible, having a family member or friend that you can reach out to can help you feel less isolated and can help keep you grounded if you feel like you’re spiraling. 

Other strategies that can help included journaling, which students said helps them put their problems into perspective when spiraling can make them feel daunting and out of control. Lindsay says she enjoys small manageable tasks, like crocheting, just to help with fidgeting. 

Favorite quarantine snacks… 

SARAH: I’ve been taking a liking to cottage cheese and apples, which is odd because I hated cottage cheese with a passion before quarantine started. But if you’re looking for an easy, high-protein, filling snack, this is it. 

DIRECTIONS

  • Take an apple, wash it, and slice it up. 
  • Get about half a cup of cottage cheese and put it in a bowl. 
  • You can dip your apple slices in the cottage cheese, or cut up the apple slices even smaller and mix them into the cottage cheese. 

ALLISON: Allison noted she’s become a big fan of sweet potatoes during quarantine, and shared her recipe for ‘Allison’s sweetest potato’: 

WHAT YOU NEED

  • One large sweet potato of your choice
  • Seasoning: Curry powder, Paprika, Garlic salt, Pepper, Vegan chicken seasoning, Minced garlic, Minced onion
  • An oven that works
  • A cookie sheet
  • A knife

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to HOT (450 degrees)
  • Poke holes in your sweet potato with a fork, put in microwave for one minute to soften
  • Dice and cube your sweet potato
  • Put sweet potato on cookie sheet
  • Put like a good drizzle of olive oil and start SHAKIN those seasonings mama
  • Put it in the oven for like idk 15-20 mins until they’re like crispy yanno

YUM you are done, serve that thing.

LINDSAY: Lindsay said she’s jumped on the banana bread train during quarantine, and shared her favorite banana bread recipe: httpss://www.spendwithpennies.com/classic-banana-bread/#wprm-recipe-container-174675 

DELANEY: If anyone is looking for a TedTalk, she’d recommend ‘The power of Vulnerability’ by Brené Brown:  httpss://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en. Brené also has an Netflix special called “The Call to Courage”, and Delaney also recommends her books ‘Dare to Lead’ and ‘Daring Greatly’.

The Participants: