Socially Distancing to a New Level

Students adapting to post-pandemic reality and the social anxiety that comes along with it.

Socially+Distancing+to+a+New+Level

Although the Covid-19 virus has had many physical implications, nobody truly accounted for the toll that it would take on mental health. From the start of the pandemic, the physical symptoms were clear but the mental health symptoms quickly took a front seat as well. What started as a longer-than-expected spring break, quickly turned into bouts of confusion and uncertainty as to what the future held for both school and normal life. Then jump forward a year-and-a-half later to something that seemed out of reach – in-person school and vaccines. 

Although there are protocols in place, such as masks and social distancing, there is still a lot of stress that comes with in-person schooling. Even with these procedures in place, students find discomfort with getting adjusted to the new normal – being constantly surrounded by students bumping into each other, eating next to each other, touching the same desks, and having the greatest number of students ever even during pre-pandemic at The Jungle. With that being said, social distancing is completely off the table in school environments as it is near impossible to maintain. 

Even though students are only supposed to be six feet apart, many feel further than ever. Due to life post-pandemic, people are discovering new or worsening social anxiety. Most people probably understand social anxieties with getting adjusted back to school and re-learning how to participate in a class, but people may not understand the power of interaction with casual acquaintances. It is these interactions, such as saying “hi” to someone passing in the hallway or engaging in small talk with someone in the lunch line that we lose sight of working remotely and find the most difficult to come back to. This is because during the pandemic people were more focused on maintaining their strong ties (i.e., family, close friends, and significant others) as opposed to their weak ties. Now coming back to school, students realize how big their social network really is and have to re-learn how to deal with all those different relationships and interactions.

Some brave Jaguars have shared their experiences and feelings about the effects returning to school has had on them. Some students have felt like adapting to the post-pandemic life has not been too much of a challenge and have already adapted quite easily. Some people have found that being back to in-person school, seeing friends, and having to sit through class has benefited their mental health and education. While other students feel more stress and social anxiety. Students have stated that the feeling of being in a crowd has made them anxious due to Covid-19 and that they haven’t fully adapted to seeing this many people in one place. While others found that they have a much harder time socializing with friends and have caused them to be more reserved. Others feel like school itself was just so much easier online and that jumping back to the grind of real school has created anxiety. Some students started losing friendships due to the pandemic and not being able to hang out with their friends. Many also feel like the pandemic made them lonely, while others succumbed to the isolation which has now caused them to feel uncomfortable when they aren’t isolating.

Students have stated that they find themselves focusing more on their appearance and focusing on their words and even movements. Seniors especially have found that coming back has benefited their mental health since they get to have a semi-normal senior year while the majority of underclassmen are going through so many changes all together and are stressed due to such. As well as students’ teachers can sense a change in behaviors as well. “I strongly believes it is important to work on one’s mental well-being and I am concerned for our students because a lot of Jags have gotten used to being isolated. I encourage all students and faculty to get out if they are feeling low and focus on what you need to,” Media and Television production teacher, Mr. Alonso said.

As you can tell, many students have had unique experiences regarding stresses and anxieties stemming from returning to in-person school, but it is also evident that we all are feeling a lot of the same worries and discomforts. Especially during this time, it is important to note that many Jaguars are going through the same hardships and to find comfort in the fact that we will all get through this first year back in-person together. With World Mental Health Day around the corner, on October 10th, it is important to cherish those casual interactions with your acquaintances, make an effort to find comfort in the discomfort, and focus on your well-being. 

If you or someone you know is struggling in any way contact is available 24/7 at National Suicide Prevention Lifeline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org