Lifting Mask Mandates and Returning to...

Lifting Mask Mandates and Returning to in-Person Learning: Managing Stress (French version available)

by Elora Pharai
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

It’s back to school season, one of the busiest times of the year for students all around the world. During the start of anything new, I find that there’s always that added layer of anticipation as you pack your school bag and lay out your clothing. This year, however, anticipation is even higher as we delve into a completely new era in the COVID-19 world. We’re in something of a gray area; mask mandates have lifted, and most in-person courses and activities are back in full swing. From a bird’s eye view, things almost appear to be reaching this newfound yet nostalgic sense of normalcy. That said, for many of us, there’s still a heavy feeling of anxiety or stress lingering in the backs of our minds as we go about our day. Our brains start picking at us with all of the ‘what if’s’, like “what if I get the virus?” and “what if most people aren’t wearing masks, what do I do?” As such, for most students heading back to school, they are not just wrestling with the stress of school, but the lingering effects of the virus.

Firstly, if you’re feeling extra stress or anxious about going back to school, know that you are definitely not alone. Personally, I had some in-person classes when the mask mandates were still in place, and even then it still felt scary to get back out there. In fact, I always find that I have this moment when leaving the house where I think about how I am risking my own health and my family’s health.

That said, masks have become the largest source of reassurance and safety for many of us. Every time you remember the risks of leaving the house, you should also keep in mind that staying inside of your house all the time may keep you safe, but it doesn’t allow for the greatest quality of life. Eventually, there will come a day when you’re going to have to start leaving the house and living again; the virus is not going to disappear overnight, and life may never feel the same again, but we have to make the most of what we have. At the end of the day, everything will be ok. You will be ok.

Do what makes You Comfortable: Keep in mind that it’s completely normal to feel on edge when you’re surrounded by people who are no longer wearing masks. If you do not feel comfortable around them, social distance as much as possible. Remember to always remain respectful and mindful of those around you. Everyone has their own level of comfort, and theirs may differ from yours. Carry some hand sanitizer with you, or if you want, some gloves. Do whatever it takes to make your day have this sense of normalcy to it. The more you get out of the house, the more used to the world you will be. So remember, do what makes yourself comfortable, but it is always good to push yourself from time to time.

Get To Know Your Environment: Going back to in person-learning after two years doing primarily online school makes the physical environment outside seem quite intimidating altogether. One tip that I have is to visit your school or campus before classes begin. Even if it’s just to catch a glimpse of the surrounding area and familiarize yourself with it. That way, you’ll gain a sense of what you should be expecting and the environment that you are heading into as you return to in-person learning. Plus, if you’re returning to an environment that you’ve been in before, this may be nostalgic and a nice refresher for you!

Talk About It: Like I said, you’re not alone in your struggles. Bottling up how you feel does not have any benefits to it. Therefore, I’d fully recommend talking to someone close to you about your feelings and anxieties. We’re all navigating this new world and adjusting to everything together; no one is entirely sure of what they’re doing. Not even if they seem like it.

Take Care of Yourself: Any kind of stress and anxiety will get worse if left untreated or ignored, regardless of what it may be centered around. As a student, it is crucial that you set aside some down time for yourself every day. Make self-care or down-time part of your schedule; integrate it into your everyday life. This can look different for all of us – maybe your version of self-care is reading a chapter of your book every day, or journaling. Maybe it’s going for a walk and getting some exercise in. Personally, I have found that walking has especially helped me in my pandemic anxiety as it helped me slowly begin to familiarize myself with the outside world and my neighbours again.

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