Coping with the pandemic

by Ashley Lim Ai Li
School of Business

The unexpected and unfortunate arrival of the novel coronavirus pandemic, more commonly known as COVID-19, has brought communities, towns and civilisations to a grinding halt. Quarantine, lockdowns and the closing up of most businesses and firms have forced us to empty the streets and retreat into our homes, akin to a scene from movies like 12 Monkeys and 28 Weeks Later.

One of the main consequences of this pandemic is its impact on the economies of the world. The lack of money circulating within communities, combined with businesses being forced to reduce their employees’ salary or to cut them off entirely, has led governments worldwide to offer economic stimulus packages to their citizens to keep SMEs afloat, people employed, and families fed. However, a hidden and more difficult problem to tackle during these troubled times is mentally and emotionally coping with the situation itself.

During the last few days of February, I remember the anticipation and excitement, waiting to take the next step into adulthood: attending Monash University as a first-year double degree student. However, the hopes and dreams of making new friends, getting lost on campus for the first time, and attending university events were quickly dashed away by the first Movement Control Order announcement (MCO).

Initially unfazed, my friends and I believed that the MCO would soon be lifted and things would go back to normal. However, as we waited and waited, only to be faced with disappointment every fortnight, the sense of hope that we were harbouring slowly faded as Monash made the decision to conduct the first semester of 2020 fully online.

Unfortunately, lectures, tutorials and assignments were not enough to keep our minds occupied 24/7. We had been thrust into an unprecedented situation, and we were clueless as to how to move forward. Human beings are naturally social beings. The day-to-day interactions, an underrated aspect of our lives, were suddenly taken away. The lack of freedom, physical activity and freedom compelled us to adapt and develop other ways to stop ourselves from staring at the same four walls from dusk till dawn.

One of the many endeavours students such as myself have taken up to keep ourselves occupied as well as strengthen our financial position is online tutoring or online data entry jobs. In a world where conventional part-time jobs such as Starbucks barista, cashier or retail salesperson have suddenly disappeared, college and university students have taken to the Internet and applications such as Zoom to earn a tiny bit of pocket money.

The greatest ally and tool that we have in our possession to conquer our boredom is technology. Although it has been unable to replace the warmth of a hug, applications such as Google Meet and Skype have allowed us to talk to friends and family, providing a sense of relatability and comfort, reminding us that we were all going through similar circumstances.

Ironically, in a time where we have been unable to be with each other physically, many of us have reconnected with old high school friends and distant relatives, growing closer to each other in weeks.

A final practice that has enabled us to keep our minds off of the pandemic is improving our self-care. In a world where things seem to happen at the speed of light, the pandemic has provided us with a symbolic STOP sign. Being forced to slow down has allowed us to re-evaluate our daily habits, how we spend our free time and essentially how we treat ourselves.

Many of my friends and I have taken this time to not just reconnect with loved ones but also to cultivate more self-love for ourselves. Whether it was from doing the Dalgona coffee trend on TikTok, working out to Chloe Ting’s videos or binging our favourite Netflix series, we have all grabbed this opportunity to give ourselves a break and grow individually from the activities that would typically be impossible to fit into the hectic lives that we lead.

Often, it is the littlest of things or habits that we miss the most in our lives. To sum it up, as the adage goes: when life gives you lemons, it is up to us to adapt, keep our minds sharp, our bodies physically fit, and our emotions calm as we weather out this pandemic which is slowly but surely nearing its end.