Three ways the pandemic is changing us internally

By Megan Fee
April 8, 2020

“I never thought something like this would happen in my lifetime.”

Michelle Piccone, a sophomore psychology major at Cabrini University, is just one of the billions of students affected by the ongoing pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over 91 percent of the global student population has been disrupted as a result of the virus with a total of 1,576,021,818 students and counting, being affected.

“I’ve been fine but a lot has changed for me,” Piccone said.

There has never been an event quite like this before and it is leaving many unanswered questions and stirring up many feelings as the world heads into uncharted territory. This has resulted in changes both within the world and within people as they adapt to this new normal.

Everyone has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another, with some more affected than others. The pandemic is something new and never seen before. The pandemic has created changes that have broken through and altered the barrier of the everyday norms and structure of society which, as a result, has caused an internal change in the way people think, how they feel and what they value. 

A change in thinking

Michelle is currently quarantining at home. Photo by Michelle Piccone.

A change from a daily routine, especially during a time like this, can cause distress and discomfort and can throw people off balance.

Piccone, like many others, has found her world flipped upside down by these recent events and finds it harder to work at home.

“My whole routine changed and my school routine has been off balance since I got home,” Piccone said. “It’s harder to get work done at home. I’ve been feeling so unmotivated.”

“I’ll be working on my homework maybe for an hour and 45 minutes and then I will be on my Netflix account watching a movie…” Piccone added. “It’s horrible.”

Piccone further explained that it is much easier for her to get work done at school where she has a routine and schedule in place and is in a working environment without as many distractions.

“Everything happened so fast and I’m still adjusting but I have been fine otherwise,” she said.

Instead of worrying about daily topics such as what outfit to wear next or the next place she should visit with her friends, her thoughts now consist of questions like “when will this all be over, will I have a job this summer or be able to go on vacation [and] will my family be okay,” along with managing online classes, which is a new environment of learning for many.

A change in feelings

Not only has this change in routine caused a shift in scheduling but it has also caused more feelings of stress and anxiety. 

In Piccone’s case, this includes a changed sense of security as she worries about her family more, especially her parents who work away from home, with the virus going around. 

It is the uncertainty of it all and the fear of the unknown that is causing most of her anxiety.

While the virus tends to be the focus of many conversations with her friends and family, Piccone is not letting the news or negativity preoccupy her completely and is instead focusing on the positives and the idea that things will eventually be better. 

She explained that there have been times where she was focused on keeping up with the virus but that it would cause her some stress. She also added that while it can be tempting to only concentrate on the pandemic at times since it is always being reported on, it is better to give attention to some positive things as well as a way to decrease some concerns.

According to Vox, the pandemic could have some harmful impacts in terms of motivation and mental health. The site explains that while in some cases people may be more productive at home but that is not true for everyone. It is even more difficult since it is not a choice and people are being forced to stay home.

People are also more inclined to follow the news and obsess on the topic. While it is important to be aware, STAT explained that constantly looking for more information may not be best if it will cause stress or uneasiness. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) provided guidelines and advice explaining that the best thing a person can do is reduce their news intake concerning COVID-19 and to only seek information from verified and trusted sources.

According to the WHO guidelines, the most important information you should know is how to, “take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones” and that it is recommended that you should only look for updates about one or two times a day in order to not become too overwhelmed with information.

The problem is that people are becoming increasingly more panicked by learning any new information and are becoming so worked up about it to an extreme measure. Obsessing on the pandemic and news will not change anything, yet many people are fixating on the notion and impulse to repeatedly check for more updates. As a result, this urge of continuously looking for answers is having the opposite impact than intended and is hyping people up and fueling their energy rather than providing satisfaction and clarity.

WHO explains that “The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.”

Luckily for Piccone, this has not been her personal experience so far.

While she is worried about the pandemic and the effects it will have, she is not letting it consume all of her energy, as she has been busy with schoolwork and keeping up with friends as best she can. 

Piccone believes that during a time like this it is important to look at the positives while keeping a calm and collected head to keep things in check in order to not become overwhelmed. She believes that school is already stressful enough with all the changes going on, so focusing on the issue more than necessary will not do any good, even if it can be challenging at times.

She believes one reason that it has been easier to focus on the bright side of things is due to the fact that she has been able to stay in touch with friends.

“Talking with my friends through all this has been my sanctuary that has stopped me from going crazy through all this,” she said. “I love my family but it can be hard talking to the same people everyday.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) explains that social distancing is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus but that there can be unexpected consequences

The AAAS further explained that there are pros and cons that are being researched and studied in relation to the effects of social distancing. Their findings so far are that social isolation may be worse for certain people who are already feeling socially and emotionally distant and that some people may be more susceptible to those feelings and types of negative reactions. 

Social isolation can be hard for many people but there are ways to stay in contact through technology. Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

On a more positive note, it is also believed that this change will drive people to take action in order to stay in contact with others and that during the pandemic it is likely that everyone will rely on their friends and relationships more as a result of changing needs.

According to the AAAS, it is no easy task for people to isolate themselves as it is in human nature that they are wired to be social beings.

In Piccone’s case, this has been a challenge as she misses her friends and boredom has slowly been taking over her life with each passing day.

“I miss Cabrini, I miss seeing my friends and I miss doing things,” Piccone said. “I can’t see my friends in person or hang out with them as often as I would like.” 

“I’m trapped in my house, I can’t do anything,” she added.

While this has been difficult, Piccone knows that it is necessary and that the sooner everyone distances themselves, the sooner she will be able to see her friends again.

A change in values

Although there have been some ups and downs in adjusting to these changes, as Piccone has had more time to adapt to the current situation she has also noticed many changes in herself and her values.

Families around the world are being affected by the pandemic. Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Many normal things seem more trivial to her now since there is a pandemic and her thoughts have changed into instincts and have reminded her just how fragile life can be.

“I value my relationships with my friends and family a lot more,” she said. “We aren’t indestructible, so I value safety more now than ever before.”

“Sometimes I took my friends for granted to always be there and now that I can’t see them every day I am so happy to have them…,” she added.

This pandemic has the potential to bring out the best or worst in people. All areas of society have been impacted from the economy and business owners to health care workers, school students, farmers, families and friends, social lives and just about everything and anything. Social structures have been uprooted  which is leaving people feeling insecure and anxious but how one changes in the face of adversity is up to them. 

Overall, this pandemic has the ability to make or break everyone as the future is still unknown. In the end it is up to you to decide to either make the best or worst of a tough situation and change for better or for worse. 

According to Elite Daily, how someone responds during a time of crisis can show their true colors. 

This pandemic will test the world and be a true testament to everyone’s morals. In the external world change is unavoidable. The outside environment will have a major impact on individuals internally during this time and everyone is likely to experience some type of change while adapting. In the end how you change will be up to you.

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Megan Fee

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