What is 2020 Doing To Our Minds?


D. Pasupu

2020 has been a tough year. We discuss the difficulties with Dean of Students, Mrs. Roberts

One of my favorite Winnie the Pooh quotes is, “People say that nothing is impossible…But I do nothing every day.” And honestly, I feel like we can all relate to this especially now. This global pandemic has filled our days and nights with empty time, procrastination, and impending uncertainty. Student minds are filled with anxiety over losing their loved ones. Even society’s sense of reality is slowly diminishing as our minds become numb from a lack of human understanding and experience. COVID-19 has truly changed and affected us as a school, nation, and population. Each and every one of us is going through unique adversities that need to be addressed. But how do we cope? How do we as students handle this year? What is happening to us mentally? These are all questions that our community has pondered over for the last several months. Let’s clear the air and discuss. 

“What we are dealing with right now is not normal for the brain.

“What we are dealing with right now is not normal for the brain. We’re in a situation where your brain right now is assessing risk at all times.” Green Level’s Dean of Students, Mrs. Roberts shares in an interview. “I’m really equating it a lot like a trauma brain and that’s kinda where everyone is coming from.” Humans are naturally one of the most adaptive mammals and are able to adjust to varying situations quickly. But the thing is, rapid change can really affect us in negative ways like causing us trauma. COVID-19 is a strong example of rapid anxiety-filled change. We have suddenly flipped our lifestyles upside down to adapt to this unique situation. The effect it has on us is so strong that it can even alter our brain chemistry. There are 14 markers or types of experiences a human can go through that can change your brain’s ability to make connections. One of those is being faced with health risks and threats to well being, which is essentially what this pandemic is. Mrs. Roberts says, “So I feel like all of us right now are not thinking clearly, the trauma brain does not always think clearly and so I feel like we’re asking people to be normal when your brain isn’t normal right now. Going to school and kind of using your brain in the normal way you think you should use it is not real right now.” The first step to understanding ourselves is addressing our situation and accepting how our mind works. It’s normal to be feeling uneasy and unmotivated during these times and we should be focusing on how we can work on ourselves and work on our mental health together. 

In order to maintain a stable and healthy mental mindset, we as humans need enrichment. Normally, we would get this enrichment through basic daily activities such as attending school, hanging out with friends, and being faced with new challenges throughout the day. But given the current circumstances, those are not really attainable options for most people anymore. This is why it is really important to get that enrichment at home or on a virtual platform. Whether it is setting up weekly FaceTime calls with your friends or spending extra bonding time with family, chatting with teachers/counselors , a human connection is helpful. We have to learn to make time for our families and friends which is something that we as students are not used to since it is normally something that doesn’t cross our minds. Sometimes, being at home all the time can feel isolating so connecting with others and coping together can help build a sense of community and enrich you. Mrs. Roberts adds, “And it (free time) might be a time where you get together with your friends and just chat… We want you to have that time to take care of yourself whatever that means.” Community is so important right now. It may feel a little artificial and fake to “schedule time” for each other’s company, but these types of skills can help you when you are older. Mrs. Roberts shares, “There’s a big jump between high school and college because you are really leaving kinda that structure where you automatically have your family there, you automatically have your friends there. And so college requires you to make new connections. So I am looking at this as a positive thing. You guys get to start this before you go to college.” This pandemic is teaching us to learn new life skills for the near future. 

A big part of growth that people tend to neglect sometimes is self-acceptance. We live very busy lives and our area is filled with buzzing workaholic energy. This is awesome in the regular work world but right now, we all need to take a breather. Learning to give myself time to relax was very hard for me when the coronavirus broke out. There were also phases during the past year when I didn’t feel like doing any work at all which I feel like everyone can relate to. “I think what’s gonna be really hard for all of us right now is procrastination and that’s what all of us do…*my giggles*, You are laughing because I know that’s what you do and I do it too,” Mrs. Roberts says. These feelings are all normal and we need to give ourselves grace which is something I learned from Mrs. Roberts when interviewing her on the subject. She says, “The best thing to do is forgive yourself and I know that sounds silly but like right now you need to give yourself some grace.” The effects of 2020 are really strong and the best thing to do right now is not to push ourselves. It’s been hard for students, teachers, and everyone else around the world. And that’s okay. Just take care of yourself. “So for some, taking care of yourself is maybe coming to learn about test-taking skills, but for others, it means, I’m gonna take the afternoon off to take a nap,” Mrs. Roberts adds. It’s important to schedule that time for yourself to relax and to have fun for mental stability.  

Your schedule should be balanced enough so that you have time to finish your work and stay happy/relaxed. Statistics show that 66% of Americans track their time and make schedules to stay organized and happy. This is something that has helped so many people during quarantine. So take the time to make a good schedule for yourself. One that consists of time to do work, sleep, talk to counselors and teachers/do connectivity activities, and most importantly relax/have fun. Statistics show that taking breaks can double even your productivity levels for the day. It’s amazing how little sparks of joy can improve mental health so much. Let’s hear the motivational scheduling tips Mrs. Roberts would like to share. “The biggest thing for me is staying organized. Like if I don’t plan kinda for the week but also day by day, I lose track of the day very easily… The next thing I did was getting myself organized in my google calendar. I color-coded everything. I mean it sounds silly but it helps me. So you just gotta find what system works best for you.” She recommends taking Sunday afternoons or the end of each day to organize what you need to do in your own preferred way. The counselors have much more information on this subject so you can definitely check out their weekly connectivity classes for more. They also have created a resource library for students who need a little extra help getting themselves organized for a better 2020 mindset. Our counselors are here for us, so reach out to your counselor just to chat about anything if you need to. They have so much more to share with us about mental health that can be really beneficial. 

We are all going through hard times and that’s okay. Just know that your feelings are valid and there is a community around you that is there to support you. Knowing about our 2020 wired brains will should act as a reminder to put your mental health first.