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What a "Quarantined" Summer Did for My Mental Health

By Melissa Lipari

As summer draws to a close, I find myself reflecting back on what I thought was going to be one of the best summers of my life. Every winter, I find myself dreaming about the summertime and all of the memories I’m going to make with my friends and family. This summer felt like one of those really good summers. One of those summers that everyone has good memories from, like summer of 2016. I swear, everyone that I’ve ever spoken to that is around my age, has said that summer ‘16 was one of the best times of their lives. I thought summer of 2020 was going to have the same potential but then this year progressed, and I saw how  wrong I was for thinking that I was going to have a fun-filled and carefree summer.

Yeah, I was wrong about having a summer that would be spent with concerts, plenty of beach trips, vacations to other cities and states, even a summer that consisted of more than just the immediate people I have been quarantined with. But, something that I wasn’t wrong about, was how this summer was going to be good for my mental health. Granted, I didn’t have much to do this summer except to work on myself because of the restrictions and social distancing orders, but I always use summer as this time for great reflection and rejuvenation. Going to school out of state and not living there, which correlates to commuting long hours from my home in New Jersey to New York City is tiring enough. Add an internship, a full roster of classes, trying to maintain a social life, and all of the other pressures that are so minuscule but seem so large as a 20-something - and you have a mind that is looking for some rest. That’s where the summertime comes in. It’s a chance to give your body a bit of relaxation that you typically wouldn’t get unless it was the holidays. Let me tell you what a “quarantined” summer really did for mental health this year.

Not having many places to go to this summer allowed me to let my inner homebody grow and it actually felt really good. Now, don’t get me wrong, it didn’t feel that great in the beginning. Especially because the weather was pretty tolerable and I longed for the dog-days of summer, where the sun stays in the sky until 8:30 at night and midday naps on the beach are more than just encouraged, they’re expected. Yet, I think about how great it is to be able to stay home and do all of my work from the luxury of my bed. If NB didn’t exist (thank god that is not a reality that we have to live in) and I had been doing a traditional internship program this summer, I would be commuting all week. I would have probably been exhausted and broke from spending all of my money in the city on lunch, transportation, etc. Now, I’m able to work from home because of this virus, which has allowed me to save up a little and cut back on my expenses. This has made me stress about money a lot less than I typically would during this time. I can also enjoy just being at home and not feeling the FOMO that I normally would have if I wasn’t doing something on a Friday night - because everyone is home doing the same thing. I can feel rested every day and make peace with the space in my mind (and bank account).

Additionally, I have had more time to work on projects that are just for myself. I started a Depop, where I have been slowly building a virtual closet to sell to patrons of the app. I have been trying for years to muster up the energy to make selling my unworn clothing a side hustle and now I think I can actually do it. I have been able to post weekly on my personal blog, something that I could barely post monthly on for a long time. I’ve been able to read books, yes books, as in plural. I don’t think I’ve had this much time in my entire life to read as much as I have been able to. It is feeding my mind and my soul so wonderfully, which is something that probably wouldn’t have happened if I had a million distractions. I’m not working out as much as I probably should be, but I am meditating and writing in my journal everyday. Again, something I probably wouldn’t be doing if I was running off every hour to go do something social. I have been slowly growing the metaphorical fruits of my labor, which has done my personal goals a great service.

This summer has also been huge on reflection. As I mentioned, I’ve been writing and journaling frequently, which has made me take a closer look at how I’m feeling. I used to suffer from this weird thing that I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced, but I like to call it “the summer scaries.” Essentially, the summer scaries are when summer is drawing to a close and you start to get anxious about the impending responsibilities that are going to come in the fall. It’s basically like the “sunday scaries” but ten times more terrifying. As the months have been flying by though, I have found myself unafraid of what is to come when summer is over. Maybe it’s because this summer didn’t really feel like “summer” or maybe I’m just becoming more of an adult, but I’m not afraid of the months to come. I’ll miss the warm weather of course, but I am excited for my next job opportunity to begin this fall. I’m excited to be finishing up my last semester of college. I’m excited to finally reach the end of the marathon that has been my college career in December. I don’t feel the looming presence of a mental breakdown as summer winds down, because I’ve been taking care of myself this whole time.

This pandemic and this summer, haven’t really done much good for us. Lives have been lost, experiences have been taken away, new fears have been replaced with old ones, and life itself has just taken this large shift of uncertainty that no one can really find an end to. With that said, I think this forced quarantine has made me realize that my mental health needs to be at the forefront of everything that I do. It is something that I can also accomplish at home, I don’t need to go out to see a therapist or find a distraction with friends to keep my mental health at bay. I can speak to my doctors from home, I can see my close friends safely in outdoor settings, and more importantly, I can be healthy on my own. Sometimes it doesn’t take all the bells and whistles of the mental health journey to be strong, you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps with just a few methods of self-care. 

I can’t say that I’m grateful that this pandemic happened, but I am grateful for the time that I was given to work on my mental health. I rarely put a pause on my life, especially during the summer months, so this was a much needed vacation from the vacation that I thought I needed. Summer 2020 wasn’t what I expected, but it was something that was necessary.

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