December 7, 2023

The age of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a slew of problems with it. Constant news coverage, physical isolation and canceled plans all made up for an unfavorable 2020. This public health emergency hit suddenly, and many lives were affected in some way by the pandemic.

Everyone has their individual responses to change. Many people experienced a decline in their mental, spiritual and emotional health, regardless of how they handle the sudden change.

Cassie Carter, junior liberal studies major, said she has experienced the challenges that came with the coronavirus pandemic.

“During this season of coronavirus, it has been a constant struggle for me to stay motivated and well both mentally and academically,” Carter said. “The isolation from society, friends and even family members has had such a huge impact on my mental health. Academically, I find it extremely difficult to find the effort and energy I once had for school and pour it into this semester. This season has been a constant spiral down and it seems impossible trying to climb back up to normalcy when things are still so unresolved.”

One of the many things robbed from so many people because of the pandemic was their sense of normalcy. As time went on and the outbreak unfolded, students started to ask themselves, “what is normal?” Currently, business as usual looks different than it did at the start of 2020, and members of the California Baptist University community have had the opportunity to reflect on their year so far.

Jenna Olson, junior anthropology major and First-Year Experience leader, described what the change in normalcy felt like for her and how that played out for her.

“I think that everybody can notice that there’s a change in normalcy right now,” Olson said. “I think it’s okay to acknowledge this change in normalcy because everybody has experienced some sort of change. I tend to deal with anxiety and worry, and I’m a planner, so this time we are living in has definitely been a struggle. I have experienced ‘Zoom burnout’ from everything being online. It’s okay to normalize the ups and downs that come with this time in a good way so that no one has to feel alone during this time.”

The “quarantine 15,” which speaks to the weight gain that was experienced by many people due to staying in their houses, was a popular topic of discussion when stay-at-home orders were first put in place. Then came the at-home workout videos and much more content that was thrown out onto social media in efforts to help people keep up their physical health. While physical health is important, a person’s mental and spiritual health is just as important.

Gavin Andrew, director of CBU’s First-Year Experience program, elaborated on the importance of one’s spiritual and mental health.

“For many of us, it’s very hard to live via a computer screen,” Andrew said. “A lot of students feel a sense of isolation because they’re not used to the lack of friendship and interaction with people. So, if students aren’t staying balanced physically, spiritually, and mentally, we will continue to see that incline of mental health issues in this generation. We make an effort to communicate with students that they must reach out and connect with communities around them because the community is still here, even if it’s a bit harder to find this year.”

Everyone had their own experience with how they were able to cope with the negative effects of the pandemic in a healthy way and even provide some advice about staying well during a turbulent season such as a pandemic.

“Two things have gotten me through this season of uncertainty, it is staying in God’s word and [being with] my sisters,” Carter said. “Being quarantined with my sisters sounded like a nightmare at first. However, being with my family has strengthened our relationship. Although churches were closed, I was desperate for God and his comfort. I found myself putting in more time to read the Bible and pray then I ever had before.”

“One thing I have noticed in myself and I assume so many people can relate to this is that I just feel weak in this time,” Olson said. “There’s a lot of things I can’t do during this time and it makes me feel like I’m weak and that I don’t know what to do. A verse that has stuck with me and helped me in this is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where Paul says he is not afraid to admit that he feels weak because then Christ can work through him, and the verse closes out by saying ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’. That is something I have been reminding myself during this time: I can be okay with feeling weak and that I don’t know what’s going on because Christ sees that and makes me strong despite my weakness.”

Staying well in all aspects during a pandemic presents many challenges. The current generation of college students has never dealt with an event such as this. It is normal to feel emotional highs and lows during times of heightened stress. Help is out there for all members of the CBU community. Spiritual Life, the CBU Counseling Center and friends, family and peers are there so no one has to endure loneliness during the era of the novel coronavirus.

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