Comps (and Life) in the Time of Corona

We’re living in strange times these days. I’m far from the first person to make that observation, but with my overall anxiety levels higher than usual, it’s important for me (and all of us, really) to acknowledge the extent that Covid-19 is impacting my daily life. Today then, I’m going to talk about how I’ve been feeling about this, and what I’ve been doing to stay focused.

When it comes to my day-to-day activities, my life hasn’t changed all that much, and I’m in a comfortable situation both financially and emotionally. Before the pandemic, my days this semester consisted of reading and working at home, so my schedule has remained the same, albeit with more self-awareness when it comes to social distancing. I finished my coursework last semester, so I haven’t had any seminars to attend. I also haven’t had to be on campus to teach, since teaching assistantships for American Studies students at William and Mary last for one rather than two semesters. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that right now, though I feel deeply sympathetic to the students and faculty who do have to teach right now.

What has changed is the anxiety I feel now. I’m not the first to notice it, but there’s a collective unease in the air these days, one that only gets compounded by the regular updates I get through William and Mary and various news outlets. I’ve had to cut back on social media because everything is about Covid-19 now. I’m also doing my damndest to ignore my IRA and other investment accounts, because believe me, they’re suffering right now (and if you’re wondering how the hell a grad student has an IRA, I rolled over my retirement account from the City of Roswell, because they still do pensions there).

All of this makes it difficult to focus on my work, even though I’m in a good financial and social situation. I’ve been noticing it especially while reading. Scholars have a tendency to use language that frames their argument as critical to the future of humanity, or at least our understanding of it. I get why they do this, after all they’re trying to convince me that their argument is both important and right. And the truth is, their arguments are important, but I’m also living at a time when a lot of the economic and social infrastructures underpinning our society are in flux, not to mention the health of millions of people around the world, so my perspectives have shifted.

All that said, I still have comps to prepare for, and for the sake of my mental and physical health I can’t spend all my time worrying about the future, so here’s what I’ve been doing to look after my well-being:

  1. Recognize that the pandemic is real and act accordingly: I’m relatively young and in good health, but not everyone around me is, so for their sake, I need to practice social distancing and wash my hands.
  2. Acknowledge that my anxiety is valid: ignoring feelings doesn’t do you any favors. This is not normal, and it’s okay to admit your emotional equilibrium is off. I work through these feelings in different ways, such as talking with Brandon about them and writing blog posts like this one, but the important thing is that I’m recognizing them rather than bottling them up. For more resources, click here.
  3. Maintain my routine while recognizing that my work patterns may shift: we may be in a pandemic, but I still have exams in a few months, so I’ve been maintaining my reading schedule. I’ve also continued cleaning the house and getting regular exercise. At the same time, I give myself the emotional and physical space to rest when I need it. These are strange times, and constantly wondering about the future of the world has a way of draining your mental energy.
  4. Make time for enjoyable activities: In addition to making art, I’ve been baking and playing music more regularly. Recently I’ve found some YouTube videos that play the accompaniment for some of my favorite sonatas, so it feels like I’m playing in an ensemble again.
  5. Eat well: When I’m stressed, I lose my appetite. Fortunately, Brandon takes care of the cooking, so he’s been making sure that I continue to eat. And since I know he’s also under stress, I’ve been preparing special meals like homemade biscuits and gravy so that he feels cared for too.
  6. Check-in with friends: This one is tricky for me, because when I’m feeling anxious or down I tend to withdraw. It’s important to stay in touch though, so I’ve been reaching out to friends and family to set up phone dates, or texting for more immediate responses.
  7. Spend time with Brandon and the kitties: If I didn’t have Brandon in my life, I know I’d be in worse shape right now. And of course, we’re both glad to have the kitties.

So that’s how I’ve been coping. Who knows what it will look like next week, or in the near future. These are new conditions, but I’ll keep doing my best while giving myself the space to rest, reflect, and rework.

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