Courtesy of Iyanna Harris
After the end of March, the idea of a “normal life” flew right out of the window. Instead, N-95 masks, social distancing, and finding a quarantine bae became the new norm.
While many states have started their reopening plans, cases of COVID-19 are increasing nationwide, which leaves Gen-Z kids like myself confused and wondering “what’s next”.
The week before the news dropped on COVID-19, I was prepared to visit my family in New Jersey. With no word yet from Morgan State President David Wilson, I packed a small bag and headed home. But what was suppose to be a three-day visit, turned into a permanent stay.
Through this pandemic, I’ve learned so much about myself. I thrive off of human interactions. I hate being confined to one place for a long period of time. I should’ve went to cosmetology school. And lastly—I have anxiety.
Being heavily influenced by social media, I had this idea of what depression and anxiety looked like. It was naive of me to believe that a girl like me—educated, spoiled, and stress-free (at the time)—wouldn’t be affected mentally.
Boy was I wrong.
I was hit hard. I was suddenly face-to-face with the challenges of online learning, salvaging a broken relationship, and the cancellation of my summer internship.
To combat this, I reached out to my therapist. I hadn’t seen her since October and, at first, I dreaded the decision. It felt like I had taken five steps forward and 10 steps back. But after reconnecting, I realized it was the best decision for me.
With her help, I was able to control the stress from the outside world—but only momentarily.
On May 27 I watched a video of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, cry out for help as he took his last breath. Unarmed and showing no signs of resistance, Floyd was pinned beneath three police officers for eight minutes before losing his life. As a black woman, I’ve seen this story way too many times. As the nation took a stand against racism, police brutality, and injustices, I questioned my identity. Should I be this activist that everyone on Twitter seems to be? Or do I avoid the protests and rallies?
Finding my place in the middle of not one but two pandemics—the coronavirus and racial injustice—my mental health began to deteriorate. I was overwhelmed. I was anxious. I was scared. I knew then something had to change.
On impulse, I decided to take a break from everything. From friends, family, and most importantly—social media. I set out to seek spiritual guidance, align my chakras, and cleanse my soul. Over the past four weeks, I’ve started to find myself. Feel like myself.
But getting to this place took some serious soul searching.
I’ve been in therapy for about a year and it’s challenging to say the least. As someone who is personable and friendly, vulnerability scares me. Opening up to a stranger? Now that scares the hell out of me. But it’s part of the process. Everyone has their own opinion about therapy and whether it works or not, but for me, it’s my safe haven. It is the place where I feel most secure and protected. The place where I know I will not be judged and always listened to. As a black woman, most times that’s all we really want.
2. Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique dependent on the ability to be focused and aware in the present moment. It isn’t easy. Sometimes when I’m meditating, I can get distracted by the smallest sound. But once perfected, it creates a space for the body and mind to relax, helping reduce stress and anxiety. Here are a few mindful exercises I live by:
3. Taking on New Hobbies
After four months of being cooped up in the house, being intentional with my “me” time was important. In order to get rid of old habits, I had to create new useful ones. Blogging (of course), working out, and teaching myself Spanish were a few things that occupied my time. Finding the right hobby can be difficult, but if you hone in on the things you already love, you can transform them into full-fledged hobbies.
4. A Strong Support System
The thing that will get you through any hiccup in life is support. Through every anxious moment, there was someone I could rely on. Whether it was my mom, my cousin Amber, or one of my best friends—the comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone made all the difference.
5. Faith Over Fear
Trusting God in difficult circumstances is challenging. On one hand you want to believe that everything will work out and He has a plan, but on the other hand you’re afraid. The fear of uncertainty and the unknown can be stronger than the reality. Over the past few weeks, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not let fear consume me. I find strength in the knowledge that, no matter what I’m facing, faith will guide me.
Iyanna Harris is a senior strategic communications major at the School of Global Journalism & Communications. This article was originally published on July 22 on her website.