Note: This is an opinion piece written by CU Denver student Amanda Grondin-Smith, a junior majoring in Political Science and double minoring in Law Studies and Anthropology. The views expressed are solely those of the individual author and do not represent that of CU Denver or the University Communications Department.
Much has been said about staying productive during the coronavirus. I have read article after article filled with tips ranging from creating daily to-do charts to getting dressed and putting on makeup to regain a semblance of workplace normalcy in my own home. However, I would argue not enough focus has been given to our mental health during these trying times and the effect of the virus on our capacity to be “productive.” I personally have struggled with anxiety and stress, feelings of exhaustion, anger, feeling frozen in place, being overwhelmed, and feeling as if I am drowning. It feels like the smallest assignment requires a Mt. Everest amount of energy to accomplish.
After much googling, I came across two recent articles from the Harvard Business Review and CNN where two experts on grief and trauma were interviewed to discuss mental health during a global pandemic. Both experts touched on how we are collectively facing tremendous uncertainty and loss. At this point we have all lost the lives we were leading just a few weeks ago, and while we realize things will be different, we have no clear indication of how changed our lives will be in the future. Also, too many of us have lost someone we cared about due to the virus or fallen ill ourselves. All of these losses and uncertainties come with grief and deserve our attention. During this time, it’s important we don’t compare our hardship. Each difficulty is valid and brings pain. Thinking “someone else has it worse, I shouldn’t be upset” doesn’t help us move forward. What does help is acknowledging what we are experiencing.
After reading these articles I wanted to expand my knowledge of emotional intelligence and its application during this period. This term encompasses our ability to identify our emotions and recognize their powerful effects on our choices, reactions, subconscious motivations. In its simplest form, emotional intelligence encourages us to delve deeper than “I’m frustrated” and really evaluate what “I’m frustrated” means to us in a given situation. Upon further reflection we might find we are hurt, and this hurt might stem from a pain we have previously experienced and not yet fully healed from. For a myriad of reasons, Americans tend to have a low emotional intelligence and this prevents us from being able to truly identify what we are feeling, why we are feeling that way, and hinders our ability to move through our emotions in a healthy way.
All of this is to say, if you haven’t written the next great American novel, learned a new language, submitted your most impressive work on every assignment, and developed six-pack abs—that is ok. You aren’t crazy, lazy, or alone in feeling like you’re struggling. To the 2020 spring graduates, I offer my heartfelt condolences. You have worked so hard to reach this milestone in your life. You each deserved to have your moment taking the stage, receiving your diploma, and celebrating with your family. For the first-generation students, we see you. As a first-generation student myself, I understand what earning a degree means and the sacrifice it requires.
I have included the two articles on grief mentioned above. I hope they provide some clarity and comfort.