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How To Turn Stress Into Hope: A Student’s Perspective

Stress is inevitable. Suffering is not.

As we approach the second anniversary of this century’s global pandemic, I find myself reflecting on the growing uncertainties and controversies of our modern world. The Covid-19 virus and its many variants have been one with us for a long time, and we still don’t fully know where it came from. On top of that, we are unaware of how to put a stop to this. Do lockdowns work? Do masks work? Do vaccines even work? Even with all these protocols, it seems as though we have been living in an endless cycle of case numbers going up and down.

I am a 21-year-old undergraduate student, and I had high hopes for my 20s. I imagined myself in university, gaining new knowledge, joining exciting clubs, meeting new people, maybe even finding my soulmate. I never imagined facing a lack of social life, trying to keep up with bills, or the constant feeling of being behind. As a child, I did not think for a second about the uncertainties of the future. I am not yet finished my degree and I already have thoughts about the unstable job market.

What I think about more often are the changes we have faced as a society as a result

This pandemic and everything it made us endure has been challenging. However, what I think about more often are the changes we have faced as a society as a result. When the pandemic first hit, many people started – to put it bluntly – going nuts. I was working in a grocery store at the time and I have never seen people act in such a manner as I did back then. Fights over food and cleaning supplies would break out in the middle of our aisles. Toilet paper was wiped from the shelves in seconds. Customers accused tired staff of hiding merchandise in the backroom. People yelled at each other for getting too close.

Outside the grocery stores, I started to see increased polarization: Vaccines vs. No Vaccines, Masks vs. No Masks, Lockdowns vs. No Lockdowns. As a society, we began to split and everyone was on edge as a result. Fast forward two years to today and it is safe to say we are tired of what this virus has done to us. Whether we like it or not, this pandemic changed us as a society on several levels. How we interact, how we work, how and who we socialize with, what we believe, and what we are willing to say have all been impacted. Through these two years we’ve been stressed…but still endured. However, many of us are now also at the point of burn out. And with ever-present global tension and growing environmental concerns, who is to say what else lays ahead?

As a young member of the global community who wishes to better the world, I have learned to adjust and adapt. I have been through the transformation from learning in-person to learning online in university, and feeling unable to make friendships with my peers in real life. I witnessed chaos on a local level at my place of employment where I put my own health at risk to work full-time hours, while struggling to keep on top of my studies. I saw society’s stress and anger on the news and social media outlets. So, what can we do in the face of all this stress? How do we cope with the most uncertain times in recent history?

Persevering through tough times is not a walk in the park but it is something we can work towards. In my experience, the biggest thing we can do is to maintain hope. It may sound cliché, but hope is a very effective mental tool to help better ourselves and the people around us. There are several things you can do to stay hopeful. The following strategies have been very helpful to me and I hope they will serve you as well:

Changing my mindset has helped me become more hopeful. For example, I always thought that my 20’s would be the only time I’d have the opportunity to “have fun and enjoy life” to its fullest. I believed that the pandemic was eating away at my prime years, having me locked down on house arrest. Now I realize that fun has no age limit and I can enjoy getting out of my comfort zone at any point in life. Every year can be a prime year, it is what I make of it.

Making time to enjoy life has also been a big part of my journey of hope. Enjoying life looks different for different people but for me, it involves going for walks, trying new foods, chilling with my boys, and writing stories. I found myself neglecting these fun activities while consumed with stress. These days I make sure to include them in my schedule and make them a main priority. These things give me something to look forward to and help to boost my mental health and morale. Simple forms of enjoyment do wonders in keeping me hopeful as they remind me that there is light within all the darkness.

I hope that we, as a global community, come out of these difficult times stronger. I hope that we can use the stress we feel to inspire us to spring into action, helping us to find solutions to the issues of the world. I hope that we can nurture better lives for all of humankind.

And I hope we can stay hopeful.

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