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Three Ryerson students share how they’re getting through COVID-19
For the most part, Canadians have been staying home and observing social distancing and self-isolation guidelines for weeks now. Ryerson University has moved all classes online and only essential businesses and services in the province are allowed to remain open.
The increased hours at home — separated from partners, friends, school and work have taken a toll on some students. Here are three Ryerson students’ experiences on how staying isolated during COVID-19 has affected their mental health.
Earlier in 2020, media production student Heather Ngo faced a tough time with her depression after finding out her boyfriend had cheated on her. What helped her get through it was having a routine: waking up, going to her internship to learn sound design at a studio in downtown Toronto, attending classes at Ryerson, doing her homework and then going to bed.
She was even offered a chance to do some voice acting auditions at her internship. However, in March, COVID-19 started spreading more rapidly and she was “ripped” out of her routine. She couldn’t work from home since she was shadowing another employee, and she’s now moved back to Markham to live with her parents, because she was running out of food downtown.
Ngo said that since living in her parents’ house again, she has found herself slipping into her old habits from when she was depressed: sleeping and eating a lot. To change her mindset about having to self-isolate, Ngo introduced a new routine into her life: dressing up and not wearing pyjamas all day, having coffee and eating lunch at the same time every day, and working out here and there.
Since Ryerson classes have all moved online, Ngo says that has been less stressful for her, but that it’s also decreased her motivation to do work. She also misses her friends, but what softens the blow of not being able to see them in person are their “virtual wine nights,” which happen over Google Hangouts.
Thinking about COVID-19, Ngo says she’s not anxious about the virus itself; she’s more nervous that her generation of young adults and younger youth aren’t listening to government policies regarding the virus. She’s also worried about the world, especially with death rates climbing every day. “I was in a Zoom lecture yesterday, and one of the girls broke down in the middle of it because her grandma had just passed from COVID-19 and I was like, ‘Oh gosh,’” says Ngo.
Ngo says that she’s looking forward to how people will react following the virus. She cites recent news, like China shutting down their factories and reducing smog in the air; the water in the Venice canals being clearer because of the decrease in boat activity and she notices the changes that have happened since the world has slowed down. “Can you imagine if everyone genuinely tried – if we took a month to work from home?” says Ngo. “You can see the world healing itself a little bit, you know? So maybe it’ll get people thinking.”
At the start of her social distancing period, journalism student Eunice Lee thought, “This should pass.” As city officials started telling citizens to stay home, and restaurants and schools started closing their doors, Lee realized that it was more serious than what she had initially thought. She felt scared, but as an introvert, she thought she’d be fine.
However, she quickly realized how much she had gone out before COVID-19 – “I’m out six out of seven days in a week” – and the lack of movement started to negatively impact her mental health. After two weeks, Lee says she had two mental breakdowns because she felt like she was under house arrest.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not getting enough sunlight, or seeing people because [social interaction] is very integral to your mental health,” says Lee. “And also the pressure of exams and final assignments looming on top of everything honestly leads you to cry a bit.”
Lee says she gets her social interaction through social media like Instagram or calling her friends on the video game chat app Discord.
Lee also says keeping a routine gives her peace in this time. She enjoys walking in nature alone with headphones on, and exercising every day has helped.
“Every morning when I wake up, I try to use my elliptical,” says Lee. “I make myself a cup of matcha and a bowl of yogurt, and I do [Bible reading and devotionals]. Then if I have a lecture or an assignment to do, I’ll do that.”
On her hardest days, Lee says she worries and wonders, “When will this end? Do I have coronavirus? Am I one of those people who doesn’t really show symptoms or shows minimal symptoms?” She also gets worried that she’ll pass on the virus if she does have it, but that’s why she strictly adheres to social distancing and self-isolation rules if she’s possibly sick.
Isolation and social distancing has made psychology student Aristasia Tuczynski’s life more challenging. She’s currently living with her boyfriend’s family, while doing school online and trying to balance her work with self-care so she can maintain her mental health. Although it would seem that having more time at home rather than at school would be freeing, Tuczynski says online school is more stressful and troublesome and she is drained from being stuck in one place. She says she feels like she constantly has to be productive, and she’s anxious about her future because of COVID-19.
To make matters worse, her birthday fell on March 30, and she was still separated from her family and friends. She says cancelling her plans with loved ones is upsetting to her, but she still sees the positive side to this in a time of social distancing.
“It’s made me reach out to more friends to check in with them and connect with some on a deeper level,” says Tuczynski. “I realize more people feel the way I do or relate to me than I thought.”
Tucynski says that when school is over she’ll feel more free to do things she desires: “I’ll read the books I want to read, watch what I want to watch, learn other things or explore parts of myself that I’ve been wanting to.”