This has been a lonely year.
In less than a month, it will have been almost a full year since Iowa State sent everyone home, and for many of us, that marked the start of a lonely “new normal.”
Most classes are still either fully online or in a hybrid format. Few clubs are meeting in person, and events on campus look completely different this year.
Many of us are experiencing an increased sense of loneliness, defined as “feeling lonely more than once a week,” or even a more general sadness, and it can really take its toll on our mental and physical health.
The gloomy winter days and intense cold certainly don’t help matters. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression that is caused by changes in the seasons, hence the name. Most people with SAD experience symptoms from the fall until the spring, although in rarer cases the opposite is true.
Even those of us who do not experience seasonal affective disorder can find winter a sad, lonely time of year (and to be clear, there is a huge difference between an isolated feeling of sadness and persistent, long-term symptoms of depression).
Add to that a global pandemic that requires us to stay apart to stay safe, and these feelings of loneliness have intensified and spread as the pandemic continues.
There are very real health consequences to loneliness. These can range anywhere from getting less exercise to antisocial behavior to stress and depression.
While things may be looking up with the increases in vaccine distribution and the growing potential of getting back to some type of normal, the feelings of loneliness persist. Even if you’re willing to risk your health to see your loved ones, many places have restrictions on gatherings, regardless (and with good reason).
During this time, remaining connected not only to friends and family but to other students and professors is vital. It can be hard to form connections in online classes, admittedly, but the importance of remaining connected to others at Iowa State cannot be understated.
We learn and grow best together, after all.
Connecting with others in a meaningful way, even if for a little while, can help ease the lonely, isolated feelings that many of us experience now and then.
For those of you who miss the type of classroom interaction we used to have, consider reaching out more online. Professors try to have discussions and participation in class, and while it’s nowhere near the same as in-person instruction, it’s important to make the best of it. The more effort you put into connecting with your fellow students, the more you’ll gain.
Finally, there are many of you who are, and have been for a while, meeting your friends and family in person. This type of interaction with our loved ones is vital to our happiness, but make sure to stay safe. Follow the Cyclones Care campaign and get tested if you’re exposed.
Wear your mask, wash your hands and social distance when you can. Keep yourself and your friends, family and fellow students safe.