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If you told me three months ago that I would be finishing my sophomore year of college from my basement in Chicago I would have laughed at such a comment. But with today marking week 10 of quarantine, this “new normal,” as we like to call it, really has become just that.
A few weeks ago I took a minute to be vulnerable on my Instagram account that features my reporting. I admitted to my followers that despite my uplifting and motivational content that I work to release for Annenberg Media each week, this pandemic has most definitely dragged some of my emotional wellbeing down with it.
A few days ago I was trying to be productive––basically just staring into the soul of my Mac’s browser with a cup of coffee on hand ––and suddenly found myself overwhelmed with anxiety, uncertainty, and a debilitating fear of the unknown. I stuffed my face with banana bread, changed from jeans to sweatpants, cried, cried some more, and then a lightbulb went off. Why have I been putting this incredible pressure on myself to be productive, to accomplish more than I normally do? I mean that only makes sense, right? What else do I have to be doing?
Left and right we are being advised to take this time to start that business or write that book. If you are feeling creative or doing something of that nature as a coping mechanism that is great, but let’s take a second to remember that this isn’t a normal time or normal circumstances by any means. We haven’t been given a three month vacation to accomplish our life goals. The expectation that we will come out of quarantine with a thriving podcast, ready to rule the world is quite frankly, absurd. We are staying at home to help stop the spread of a terrifying and deadly disease, not to start a booming business––let’s not forget that.
Nonetheless, with the mix of cancelled internships, living under our parents roofs, and the stress of a compromised college experience, we seem to be holding ourselves to the a high standard, a pressure where it can be hard to catch a breath. But how can we hold ourselves to this standard when we aren’t on campus? When we don’t have a classroom to learn in or teachers to talk to? When we can’t see our friends in passing or grab lunch with a friend?
To gain more insight on how we can best lift this weight off of our shoulders, I spoke with Alexis White, an L.A based entrepreneur and founder of The A-List, a comprehensive education company that offers academic counseling and tutoring services to students of all ages. “We need to allow for the mental space that this entire scenario occupies,” White said.
For many, going to the grocery store now feels like a life or death decision. So “to think you are going to write the best paper or secure the best summer internship because now you have time to write ‘the best cover letter’ is asking too much of yourself,” White said.
White highlighted the importance of going back to the basics, whether that be enjoying a morning cup of coffee with your mom or going for a run in your old neighborhood. It is also a great time for self reflection, White said. She suggests taking the time to “ask yourself, what do I like to do? Not for a job, but what makes me happy everyday.” It is important to remember that “everyone is just as bored and confused and stressed out as you are. Whether they are 70 or 17.”
As a successful entrepreneur and mom of two, White took a moment to reflect on the trajectory of her career, admitting that it took ten years to build her business. She emphasizes that as college students, even those who are graduating, “you have so many years after you graduate from college to figure your stuff out. Literally so many years.” White believes that stressing about a less-productive six month period of time is, “Totally useless. Life is going to give you back this time. I assure you.”
White has been going off a three touchstone rule everyday. “Just do the things that make me feel semi-human” White said. “For me personally, that’s breaking a sweat, eating healthy, and FaceTiming a friend.”
White emphasized the importance of letting go of the expected and allowing these circumstances to take you where they do. As uncomfortable and scary as that may be, right now “it is a day to day process, and those little moments of joy are really all you can ask for at this point.”
So while it may feel like everyone around you is making the world’s best cheesecake or organizing every spice in their kitchen cabinet, it is important to remember the myth of productivity that surrounds us. Because it really is a myth. In other words, if you are browsing Twitter or reading that book in sweats all day you get an A plus.
Originally published at uscannenbergmedia.com.
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More Thrive Global on Campus:
What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need
If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help
The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis