The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way that billions of people around the world are accustomed to living. With the introduction of various measures designed to keep us safe, we were all left wondering what impacts the lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing would have on our mental health. As a university student who had my second year cut short in March 2020, I was especially worried about maintaining my friendships through a completely virtual school year. My favourite part about attending McMaster was always the comfortable feel of a small and intimate campus where you never felt alone. It was the place where I spent all of my time learning from my professors from the front rows of the lecture hall, where I spent late nights studying in the library the night before an exam with my friends, and the place where I made some of my most cherished memories through interactions with others.
However, this was all over once COVID hit. This presented a unique challenge for me, as I was so used to living in the same city as my friends, where we were easily able to meet and spend time together. With school closures and everyone returning to their hometowns, we were left wondering when the next time we would see each other would be. Fast forward over a year later, we are still wondering the same thing! It has been extremely difficult to adapt to the circumstances and adjust our friendships to existing only through screens, especially when we are so used to being able to turn to our friends next to us in class and whisper something about the lesson.
So, how do we make sure to maintain these friendships in the safest way we can? I have found that dwelling on the circumstances and how unfair things are is extremely damaging to my mental health and induces feelings of anxiety. I have decided to focus on the things I can control and make the best of these difficult times. For instance, I make sure to schedule time in my calendar to have study sessions over Zoom with my friends, where we can discuss difficult concepts in our classes, and catch up how things have been going. I have found these virtual study rooms have been a great way for me to cope with the circumstances and help me feel more connected. We also make sure to celebrate each other’s birthdays with surprise video calls right at midnight, singing “Happy Birthday” to each other, despite the lagging Internet that results in this being quite disorganized! I have found that the best thing to do during these uncertain times is to hold on to your loved ones and to make sure to have meaningful, safe connections until one day, it will be safe to see them up close and in person once again!