Coping Skills, Life

Working through my coronavirus worries about going back to college

Note, this post contains lots of talk about coronavirus and hygiene, and some talk about the nasal swab test and death, among other things.

(I wrote this about a month ago in the middle of June! I recently found out that, since I’m a rising senior, I am NOT going back to school in person this fall. (I don’t know about the spring yet.) I will do college online this fall. I am relieved that I won’t be putting myself at more risk of coronavirus, but doing everything online will be hard in its own ways, too… Anyway, even though I know I’m not actually going to be living at school this fall, I decided I can still post this. There are other people (including my brother!) who are going back to school in person and who might have similar worries. (scroll down past the worries for ways to cope… advice and positive things))

I’ve managed to not worry too much about the coronavirus in the past couple months. The Black Lives Matter protests have kept my mind occupied for the past two weeks, and before that, I had final exams. I have been mildly worried about it, and worried about the general state of the world, and worried about many other things (as I normally am haha), but the initial stress of the first couple months (March, April) had died down. Plus, I’ve been at home, not interacting with people outside my family. I generally feel fairly safe here.

But now I have to consider going back to college in the fall. My school has not announced yet what its plans will be. They are supposed to be telling us soon, and now all my friends are talking about this all over again. I am stressed. I had avoided thinking about school for a long time. That was partially a good decision because it wasn’t worth it to worry when there was so much uncertainty, but I also just haven’t thought about going back to school in a while. Part of me thought that I would be stuck at home until January for the spring semester. But it looks like my school and others are trying to reopen in some form in the fall.

Should I go back to school if classes are in-person? Is it safe? It feels like a death sentence honestly. But I tend to worry a lot about health issues and think that death is more likely than it is (due to trauma).

I wrote out some of the things that worry me and the questions I have:

Things that worry me about the fall:

  • not being able to go home — in the past, I have gone home about once a month. This has helped my mental health a lot in the past (especially in contrast with my first year, when I barely went home at all and got very depressed)
  • the nasal swab test — I have heard that this is very uncomfortable. I am not okay with things being inserted into my body. I have had a lot of trouble with it in the past at doctor appointments and on my own. We might have to have this test done every week or so in order to make sure we’re not getting sick. That sounds very scary to me. But maybe I would get used to it? Maybe I could learn to cope?
  • intense rules and regulations over my personal habits — this just makes me feel powerless and unsafe and reminds me of bad stuff which I don’t want to go into
  • constant threat of death of me and my friends — obviously I am scared of this! I think I would be devastated if one of my friends died.
  • not being able to live with friends — currently I’m planning on living in a dorm with several close friends. I have been looking forward to living with my friends for months (maybe almost a year). The housing arrangement could change if we have to live in individual rooms with individual bathrooms. I’m not sure how I could manage living alone, especially if I wasn’t allowed to see my friends either because of social distancing. I’ve really appreciated being able to hug my family the past few months. I want to still be able to get hugs somehow at college.
  • not being able to partake in all the things I enjoyed — I loved dancing at school. I wonder if that will be cancelled now because there are too many people. Is rolling around on the dance studio floor safe? What about all the other events I liked attending: performances, lectures, events? Friendly get-togethers with friends? Will all my favorite parts of college be taken away? If they’re not there anymore, is it worth it to go? Would the in-person experience be any better than the online experience if those things don’t exist?
  • therapy? virtual still? privacy? — I don’t know how safe I would be traveling to my therapist’s office. It requires public transportation, and I would likely be with many people (probably not 6 feet apart) in a confined space for a long-ish time (half an hour?). What if I took a taxi? Would the surfaces be clean? What if the taxi driver was sick? Could I still have therapy virtually? If I did, would I be able to find a private space? If I was living with friends, would they overhear me? I have done therapy virtually at school before, but I didn’t like knowing that my people could probably hear me. But I could probably make it work.
  • bathroom cleaning? — my school website says that custodial staff will clean the bathrooms in my dorm once a week. On second thought, I think this is probably okay. If they’re cleaning the bathroom, they’re unlikely to make it dirty. Just having someone not in my less-than-six-feet-apart bubble (assuming I’m living with my friends) regularly entering my living space is a bit scary. But if they’re wearing a mask, hopefully it will be fine.
  • how would I do laundry? — my dorm has communal laundry facilities.
  • how would I get food? — I used to eat in the dining halls/cafeterias for most of my meals. Those don’t sound safe anymore, especially since you can’t wear a mask while eating. Will I cook and eat all on my own? I think I could manage that, but again if I’m doing that anyway, why not just stay home and do school online if that’s an option? (To be clear, I don’t know if it’s an option yet)
  • elevators? — I would likely have to use the elevator often to get to my dorm room and to class. Elevators are supposedly places where you can catch the coronavirus easily.

Okay, so, those are my worries. Naming them helps. Then I started looking up more information (which I had kind of been avoiding for a couple months). There’s a lot more that we know about the coronavirus now than we did a couple months ago!

I learned some things that I can do:

Things I can do:

  • stay 6 feet away
  • wash hands often (and use lotion afterwards)
  • avoid touching face — practice not doing this in the months before
  • wear a mask — make some masks
  • wear gloves on public transportation and in elevators
  • don’t get in elevator unless everyone is wearing a mask
  • wash clothes in warm water and dry thoroughly
  • clean the laundry basket
  • line laundry basket with bag? have separate bags for clean and dirty clothes?
  • don’t shake clothes
  • do one large load of laundry less frequently
  • change clothes when I get home
  • buy gloves
  • buy hand sanitizer
  • buy a thermometer
  • buy ziploc bags

These are tangible steps I can take. Many of these tips came from these pages: NYTimes Coronavirus Q&A and How should I do laundry now?. I can do these things and protect myself as best I can. This is shaping up to be a plan.

I also learned (from the Q&A list linked above):

Factors that affect whether you get coronavirus:

  • how close you get to an infected person
  • how long you are near that person
  • whether they expel virus droplets on or near you
  • how much you touch your face afterwards

So, I can minimize these factors, even if I am around other people. There are things I can do to prevent coronavirus. It’s not all out of my control. It’s not impossible to control either. If I do those things, I can mostly prevent getting coronavirus.

And finally, some positive things. (I actually wrote these first, but I’m putting them last here because it’s a nice note to end on.)

  • Lots of people are working hard to fight coronavirus.
  • We may have a vaccine one day. — This is something to look forward to!
  • Sleep, stress reduction, and exercise are good for my immune system.
  • People are making changes to improve the world. (Here is a nice list of changes that have happened as a result of Black Lives Matter.)

2 thoughts on “Working through my coronavirus worries about going back to college”

  1. Is it nice that the school made the decision for you? Older Child probably is going back in fall. Had to decide this week. Spouse and Older Child are stressed about it. It’s too far away for us to stress about it

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is nice that the school decided for me. I feel safer at home, and I think going back to campus would be really stressful, so I think it was the decision I wanted anyway. But I’m also really sad about all the stuff I’m going to miss out on, and sad that I won’t see my friends in person for a long time… 😦

      Having to make a decision sounds stressful!! I hope it works out okay. And I understand it being too far away to worry about, too. One day at a time

      Liked by 2 people

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