The pandemic may just be the hardest challenge everyone has gone through for the last two years. However, humans have natural instinctive behaviors that allow them to survive, no matter how tough life challenges may be.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information describes this as the Survival Optimization System (SOS) or the coping mechanisms humans have to protect them against threats. When everybody was locked inside homes and are forced to function without much movement and interaction, this coping mechanism seemed to be at work.
To flatten the curve, schools decided to stop face-to-face classes and go virtual. College students and young professionals got a study degree online course when campuses and universities were closed.
Some students found staying at home enjoyable, but eventually, some felt the impact of leaving their friends and the community they have built within the campus. Routines were suddenly changed, and some found difficulty in adjusting to this change. No more campus events to attend and even commencement ceremonies have been discontinued.
These sudden changes have an undeniable impact on mental health. Some have experienced stress and anxiety, and some felt loneliness after being separated from their campus support system. Students found difficulty in isolation, and the transition was hard.
However, these negative feelings have been survived by the students through several coping mechanisms.
Stress responses are the way people respond to threatening situations. People have different stress responses and there is neither a good nor a bad stress response. The key here is awareness; when one knows how his or her stress response is, the better one can develop the most suitable coping strategy.
The three of the most common stress responses are fight, flight, or freeze. Based on one’s recognized stress response, a mental health plan can be developed. For example, if you are the type of person who tends to have flight as a stress response, you can prepare better in the future if you are aware that this is how you respond to difficult and stressful situations.
Plans are not perfect though, and situations may catch you off guard. The key is to recognize that every stress response is normal, and acceptance of this is one way to eliminate the stress and manage your reaction to a situation.
Giving the day a structure
One of the most difficult challenges of studying at home instead of going to regular face-to-face classes is structuring one’s daily schedule. During the pandemic, scheduling has been highly flexible and some find it hard to establish a certain structure.
But this challenge has presented an opportunity. It is a way to take control of one’s own life. In a way, it has been a lesson for students on how they can handle and manage their own life.
Different students employed different strategies in structuring daily schedules. Some have used apps and programs available online to set reminders. Others reevaluated their priorities and have set realistic expectations regarding accomplishing school work.
The physical space has a great effect on productivity, too. As simple as giving your pillows a different arrangement in bed when studying and when sleeping gives a separation of what you need to do at a certain time.
Even with restrictions lifted and workers going back to offices, stress is still present due to the virus that has not been eliminated. Some are afraid of being exposed to the virus because of returning to regular office work. Others are readjusting to the sudden transition of working from home to working back at the office.
Hence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses coping mechanisms that help reduce stress and burnout at work.
One way is to talk to peers about how everyone is doing and feeling. Doing so is important to know that you are not alone in what you are feeling; just knowing that somebody else may be feeling the same way that you are going through somehow gives a sense of comfort.
Going back to the time of the lockdown, working parents faced a different challenge: working at home while taking care of the kids. The only way working parents would have been able to get through this situation is by asking colleagues, especially supervisors to acknowledge the situation and give some room for a flexible schedule.
The Greatest Challenge of the Pandemic
The pandemic has not only challenged individuals’ physical health but their mental strength as well. Disconnection and isolation have certainly contributed to everyone’s stress, students and workers alike. But this is a battle that humans have and will continue to win.
The key is trusting your human instincts. We have natural mechanisms that will keep us going when times are tough.