2020 was the most universally stressful year of our lifetime, and the first months of 2021 have been no different. During these difficult times, it is important to find ways to cope and take a moment to escape reality while still staying informed. My summer 2020 was packed with hiking and camping trips far away […]
2020 was the most universally stressful year of our lifetime, and the first months of 2021 have been no different. During these difficult times, it is important to find ways to cope and take a moment to escape reality while still staying informed.
My summer 2020 was packed with hiking and camping trips far away from cell phone reception. Physically removing myself from the city gave me the peace and quiet I needed, and appreciating nature helped remind me of the times before COVID and political unrest.
Escaping into the wilderness is not a long-term sustainable fix, however, as keeping up on the news and being active in the community is increasingly important, and I can’t just run away to the forest whenever I get sad. Finding and maintaining a balance between staying informed is tricky, but it needs to be done.
To keep the news from getting to him during normal circumstances, social studies teacher Mr. Michael Hood sets specific times where he allows himself to read the news.
“I’ll allow myself to [read the news] with my coffee or something and then I’m donem” he says.
The recent riots at the Capitol made it hard for him to stick to this.
“I can’t stop reading [the news]. That’s unusual.”
Going back to school adds another layer of stress for many of us. To combat this, Mr. Hood starts every class with breathing exercises that he uses for his own stress. According to him, doing a breathing exercise for 5-10 minutes a day in addition to keeping up on daily exercise is just as important during normal circumstances as they are now.
He says that the simplest things often end up being the most effective, which people tend to forget. The most important activity for Mr. Hood is walking,. I remember passing him as he did his morning laps on the track while I ran the mile during PE my freshman year.
“I never ever ever ever miss it,” Mr. Hood says of his physical exercise. He says when he doesn’t walk, “I start feeling anxious, I feel jittery — I don’t feel right.”
Another good outlet for relieving stress is creativity, and Mr. Hood has begun teaching himself how to play guitar. English teacher Mrs. Maureen Wanket deals with stress by writing, whether it is one of her novels or a homework assignment for her MFA program. It allows her to escape our chaotic reality and enter into her chaotic imagination. For Mrs. Wanket, writing is isn’t exactly an easy fix.
“Writing is really really hard,” she says. “But it provides an escape.”
Most weekends, Mrs. Wanket can be found tapping away on her computer. Meeting certain writing goals for her MFA program as well as her personal projects gives her a sense of accomplishment.
Hoping to gain peace of mind and freedom from her worries, Abbey O’Malley (‘22) bought a plate from the dollar store, wrote her anxieties on it, put it in a plastic bag (for easier cleanup), and smashed it on the ground.
“I was overwhelmed with anxiety and I needed to vent and let go of everything that I had been holding onto,” the junior said.
She says the method worked, and she plans on doing it every few months.
“Watching [the things I wrote down] shatter was like the things holding me back breaking away, freeing me from that.”
Activities such as these are an important component of maintaining mental health. Finding something to look forward to that brings joy and peace is an important way to keep stress from overwhelming us while providing a break from the monotony of quarantine life.
Although it is good to stay informed, mental health is so much more important. Go for a walk. Write a story. Break a plate. Do anything to keep you grounded.