The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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How I’m Managing the Stress
A message to my fellow students
Gabrielle Pascal
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The spread of COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives. Whether you are a student in high school or college, your school has likely closed for the foreseeable future. It’s a strange and difficult world we have to adjust to.

When this all began, I spent hours glued to my phone and laptop. As the number of deaths and cases soared, so did my fear for the future. I was worried about relatives who were vulnerable to COVID-19 and the effects of the shutdown of New York City, where I live.

I consumed stories of emergency rooms being overwhelmed and shortages of ventilators and medical supplies across the country. I read everything from misinformation to guidelines posted by the Centers for Disease Control. My mind whirled into a state of anxiety.

This is my first year of college at Hofstra, and I had just begun acclimating myself to campus and had finally created a structured routine. When my campus suddenly closed, all of that changed. I was thrust from structure into uncertainty. I miss interacting with my professors. I miss walking around the campus and seeing my friends. What I realized over the past few weeks is how special those things are to me.

I had no idea how the semester would continue, how online classes work, or when I’d ever be able to return to school.

Turn the News Off Sometimes

Sirens blare outside my house seemingly every minute and the future is cloaked in so much uncertainty that it’s hard for me to focus on my classwork. It is hard to be productive when I’m worried about the people I love and the state of the world.

I worry that whenever I go out, I might bring home the virus to my parents or other family members. One of my aunts, who has underlying health issues, lives in our house, and I want to keep her as safe as possible.

image by Gabrielle Pascal

I also worry about people I don’t even know. There are students whose parents have lost their jobs or don’t have access to WiFi or a laptop. I worry for healthcare workers on the front lines exposing themselves to the virus every day just to protect us.

Yet, although my mind is filled with anxiety about the future, I want to remind you that things will be alright again someday. What helps ease my anxieties about the virus is turning the news off sometimes so I’m not surrounded by the growing death toll each day. It’s not good for anyone’s mental health in this difficult time.

Now, in the mornings before I start with schoolwork, I check what is posted on the Centers for Disease Control’s website and the free coronavirus coverage offered by The New York Times. I don’t check either again until the next day. Sometimes, I watch Governor Cuomo’s daily press briefings. I want to stay informed, but limiting my exposure like this helps me feel less absorbed by everything.

Finding the Light

Developing a routine at home also helps me. I found that getting up at the time I used to for school and making a daily schedule helps keep me calm, and most importantly, focused.

In the afternoon, I take a break in between studying and other schoolwork to relax and talk with friends or family. I have also made a study group with some friends. It has helped me feel connected to other people and has made me feel supported.

I leave one day a week for myself so I’m not overwhelmed with homework and online lectures. On those days I catch up on books and movies.

Furthermore, I try to find a light in this situation. These next few years are probably the last time I’m going to be living at home and spending a lot of time with my family. So now I cherish the moments I have with them rather than feeling so cooped up. I stop by my mom’s desk while she’s working to check in, and I watch movies with my brother. Sometimes we just make a point of all sitting down and talking with each other.

School will open again. You’ll be able to hug and laugh with your friends again face to face. Someday soon, things are going to be OK.

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