Compassion among the chaos: Approach COVID-19 with care and kindness


Natalie Hilden, Guest Columnist

Amongst a flurry of COVID-19 related shutdowns, panicked minds and the looming idea of social isolation, I know that I cannot be the only college student sitting idly by waiting to once again stop themselves from scooting closer to what is commonly known as the “anxiety spiral.” 

According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students report suffering from anxiety. So, in my mind, there is no surprise that with the current state of our great nation and the overall dread associated with the COVID-19 crisis that pandemic related anxiety is something that should be known and watched out for by all of us. 

During this trying time, many speak about how we should do good by our neighbor, but something that is falling through the cracks is how this state of chaos is torturing those of us with anxiety disorders, or frankly, any of us who have struggles slowing our minds down. 

Now, being fully aware of myself and how I handle my anxiety, I know that I routinely do a good job at managing, changing my thought process and relying on my resources to find a balance between living a healthy life and dealing with my anxiety. But, in times like this where the world has accepted the worst, my thoughts may still roam freely. 

“Will I ever get back to my routine away from my parents? When will I get to see my partner again who sits back in Brookings watching this whole thing unfold as well? Will graduation be canceled? Will I still get to move? Can I still do my job? Are people I love at risk? What about my belongings?” 

Now, I know for many these thoughts are simply common things that at a flip of a switch can be turned off to better a person’s attitude. But I encourage you to step into the mind of someone with an anxiety disorder where these common college problems are amplified to a nearly uncontrollable level.

These problems plague me as a college student and as a journalist. Half of my brain wants to widely read and know everything I can to protect myself and those around me. But, the anxious college student who is falling on times of uncertainty is worried. I have had to keep myself in check to limit the toll this pandemic has had on my mental health.

Ultimately that can affect our physical health as well.

Now, I love my SDSU community and everything it has given me. As a senior who is sitting by and waiting to see where the next few months will go, I encourage everyone to think a little deeper about the consequences of how our world has turned. 

We are humans. 

Those panicked buyers at Walmart may be scared of how they are going to feed their children in times of crisis, your anxious daughter feels uprooted from her day-to-day routine because her college got shut down, significant others have been plunged into long-distance relationships, your friend who wears a mask isn’t crazy, their immune system just can’t handle the possibility of a virus like COVID-19 and your elderly grandparents are scared of losing touch with their family members because they don’t know how to work the technology from hundreds of miles away

We have been conditioned to believe that Americans are selfish and that the consequences of COVID-19 stem from our inability to cope under chaos, but somewhere in me I still have hope that that idea is corrupt; that us as a community have the capability to think deeper, accept people’s fears and anxieties, to be a blessing to someone in times of chaos, to take care of our own mental health while being aware of others and to strive to comprehend our new realities even when they are complicated. Some simple compassion and care can go a long way in situations like this.

I know that falling within that anxiety spiral can be isolating, or it can even put you in denial. You won’t know how fragile your mental health has become until you cry on the phone to a loved one and wonder where it all came from. 

The future is uncertain, but how we react can help change that. Take time in the next week to think deep and bring kindness and understanding to the chaos by following whatever self-care tricks create joy for you:

  • Limit social media use
  • Reach out to a friend who might be silently struggling
  • Show gratitude to a professor who is doing a really great job even though their routine has been uprooted too
  • Grocery shop for an at-risk friend
  • Read all those books you never have time to read, make a blanket fort with a sibling and dig through old DVDs
  • Remind a significant other how recklessly they make your heart beat
  • Go for a walk with someone who has stuck in their residence hall during break

There isn’t a lot I can do two states away from my normal, but I can say that COVID-19 is more than a facade of what we think we know or have been told through Facebook, news or other media forms. That if we slow down, breathe, be there for each other, accept what is reality, let it hurt and then find its greater purpose that we can conquer all.

Stay conscious, Jackrabbits. Be compassionate, show kindness to yourself and others but most of all be the kind of person you want to see in the world. That is one small step towards conquering what is ahead.