Vacant dormitories. Shuttered academic buildings. Orange traffic cones rendering the doors to the Rotunda unreachable. Innumerable empty parking spots. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume it was early August at Marist College, in the subtle weeks prior to the return of several thousand students. But it isn’t August; it is May. Once that is realized, it becomes nearly impossible to ignore the nagging sense of eerie emptiness that pervades the campus.
Members of the Marist community have experienced a vast array of emotions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They share some of their stories of shelter-in-place, how they’ve created a new “normal,” and why it’s important we have these discussions about mental wellness.
Yesterday, we published the first round of our series on Marist student’s reflections on the mental health toll during the global pandemic. You can find it here. We share more of our student’s stories below.
Pam Armas, Class of 2020
Shelter in place location: New Jersey
Pam Armas, a Marist 2020 graduate, is safe at home in Northern New Jersey. “There has been a lot of uncertainty in regards to the pandemic, and personally that’s what has caused much of my anxiety. It’s the unpredictability of the situation that has been difficult,” she said. In addition, Armas’ father is an essential worker and makes the trek from New Jersey to parts of Manhattan and Queens to deliver food everyday; his safety has been a point of concern for her. “Each day he comes home feeling healthy feels like a blessing,” Armas said. The seriousness of the pandemic became obvious for Armas when neighbors and family friends tested positive for the virus. In April, her upstairs neighbor lost their battle to complications resulting from COVID-19. “That was a day [that] was monumental, and I will never forget the grief that surrounded our home,” she said. In order to cope, Armas has discovered creating a sense of routine to be helpful. “I know it seems silly, but getting out of PJs and maybe throwing on some makeup feels like I have some of my old habits. My mom is a psychologist and firmly advocated for getting up, keeping a normal routine, and maintaining positive [attitudes].” Armas also reports that her family limits how much news they watch, and she and her mother do “living room workouts to pump up some endorphins.” She added that her attitude towards the quarantine period has fluctuated as the pandemic continued on. “Early on in quarantine, I think there was this pressure to make this time the most productive time possible,” she said. “That we should come out of quarantine fit, learn a new language, take up three new hobbies, and almost have a rebirth. The reality is that the seriousness of the situation can take a toll on our mental health, and we should take each day with kindness to ourselves. This pressure to come out of quarantine a new person will only add to our anxieties. As much as we have to be kind to others, we must be kind to ourselves as well.”