COVID-19 has thrown many people’s lives into disarray. Not only are colleges closed due to social distancing, but concerts, festivals, sporting events, weddings, birthday parties, and graduation ceremonies have been cancelled. Many people have been forced to cancel their internships, semesters abroad, and vacations – things they’ve been looking forward to for months. For people with poor mental health who rely on these fun, social outings, this can be extremely upsetting. My final year of my undergraduate degree was cut short, and it’s hard not to feel upset, even though I know there are people who are much worse off due to the coronavirus that I am. But if COVID-19 has cancelled any of your plans, there are several things you can do to ease your disappointment.
1. Remember that it’s ok to feel disappointed
Many people might be afraid to express their disappointment at long awaited events being cancelled because their situation isn’t as bad as it could be. For example, you might not want to tell your friends that you’re upset due to your vacation being cancelled because it may feel insensitive, considering that thousands of vulnerable people are actually sick. But repressing your emotions isn’t healthy – it can be harmful to your mental wellbeing and can make handling any anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic more difficult.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to allow yourself to feel disappointed. It’s possible to care about both yourself and people who are less fortunate than you at the same time. The two aren’t mutually exclusive!
2. Remind yourself of the benefits of social distancing
If you’re frustrated because you aren’t able to leave your home, remind yourself of how important it is to practice self isolation and social distancing. You’re quite literally saving lives by not going to that music festival, or going out to that nightclub with your friends, by not hanging out with others. Communities are coming together in unique and powerful ways to connect with each other despite not being able to spend time together face to face, so take a moment to appreciate that and remember that positive things are still happening despite COVID-19.
3. Find alternatives for hanging out with friends
There are lots of ways to connect with your friends while at home, thanks to modern technology. For example, you and your friend can eat dinner together or play an online multiplayer game while on Skype. Apps such as HouseParty allow you to video call multiple friends at once, so you can still hang out together as a group. For people with anxiety, it can be easy to catastrophise in situations like this – but just because you can’t see your friends now, doesn’t mean that you’ll never see them again. This is all temporary.
4. Create a COVID-19 bucket list
Create a list of activities you’d like to do once the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Collaborate on this list with your friends so you can all have something to look forward to. Reschedule your cancelled parties or vacations and remember that just because you can’t have fun now, doesn’t mean that you’ll never have fun again. If your semester abroad in Italy was cancelled, remember that this doesn’t mean you can never see Italy. Pass the time by planning your post-coronavirus dream vacation, and think about how much more you’ll appreciate the social outings that you previously took for granted once we no longer need to stay at home. Situations like this can really help to put things into perspective.
5. Channel your disappointment into something constructive
Every person has the power to control their pandemic experience. If you’d prefer to use social-distancing as an opportunity to relax and do nothing, that’s perfectly valid. You don’t need to be productive. Using your newfound free time to take a break and mentally recharge is honestly productive in and of itself. But for some people, grappling with the fact that they can’t control the impact COVID-19 has on their life can be really difficult and upsetting. In this case, consider working on a personal project you’ve been wanting to start for ages, but never had the time to do.
If you can, put your head down and focus on your studies now that you can’t be distracted by anything else. Or start a blog, or a YouTube channel, or pick up a brand new hobby you never had the time for. Do something that you wouldn’t be able to do if all of your other plans hadn’t been cancelled. This will help you regain a sense of control, and put a positive spin on the need to practice social distancing.