Holding On and Letting Go

By Haley Woods

     If you would have gone back in time and told the high-school junior Haley that the majority of her college experience would be moved almost entirely online due to a nation-wide pandemic, she would have thought you were absolutely insane. Obviously, junior Haley has changed a great deal into the current, Junior Year of College, Haley. As many of us have been greatly affected by the pandemic over the past few years, I’ve grown into a person who understands that while life may not always be perfect, it’s the things that I can appreciate and learn from that make all the difference. So, I would like to share of my own personal experiences when handling relationships with family & friends, how to learn about ongoing societal topics, and dealing with mental and physical health all throughout college.

Grief and Relationships

     While my direct family and I have remained healthy from the pandemic’s harmful toll, I recently lost a close family member to cancer. It’s never easy to lose a family member or close friend, whether it be from poor communication, unhealthy relationship dynamics, or illness/death. According to VeryWellMind, a study illustrated that, “students across the country—including those who did not experience the death of a loved one due to COVID-19—are reporting considerable experiences of loss and grief.” It’s important to recognize those close to you, as well as appreciate them and give back when you can. A great way to combat grief is connection with family and friends. Due to the pandemic’s virtual nature, a major influence for me for making friends in college was social media, like Instagram and TikTok. Through these mediums, I’ve been able to meet, communicate with, and keep up to date with those I care about; I’ve also followed UCF’s profiles attributed to different sectors of college life, such as their pages for:

  • College for the Arts & Humanities- @ucf.cah
  • The graduating class of 2024- @ucf2024_
  • Student Union & it’s services- @ucfsu 
  • Student Government (currently)- @ucf.sg 

     Whenever I spend time in person with friends or family, I always like to snap a photo to share the moment or time spent with to look back fondly on. However, if you cannot meet any friends or family in person, try your best to keep in touch with those you care about by texting, calling or video chatting at least once a day.

Connection and Social Matters

     I’m very interested in learning more from my classmates and friends, as well as talking to others about my personal life. Since UCF is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses in the country, it is an excellent place to learn from multiple perspectives and experiences. According to Maryville University’s article, “Higher education institutions can open students’ minds and ask them to step outside their comfort zones.” From all of these different perspectives, either in person or online, there will always be distinct interpretations of issues that have happened, what is occurring or what may happen in the near future.

Now, especially during a global pandemic, the current social unrest in America, ongoing warfare in Ukraine from Russian troops, severe climate change across the world, and so on, it’s excruciatingly important to listen to all of the different voices in our communities.

     While social media can be a good outlet for receiving information on what is currently happening, it’s important to spend time away to focus on your personal matters, as to not create more stress for your mind and body.

Mental Wellbeing and the College Experience

     As someone who suffers from temporary periods of depression and anxiety, I have noticed an increase during the height of the COVID epidemic, mostly during my freshman year of college. Based off of my personal experience with the Counseling Department at the University of Central Florida, I have received helpful advice from professional therapists regarding what I have encountered throughout the last few years; the easiest way that I found out about their resources was from their phone number, (407)-823-2811, or from their Instagram profile, @ucfcaps. Some general advice I received for working on stabilizing my mental health & wellbeing include maintaining a healthy diet, a consistent sleep schedule, and a balanced exercise routine, and so on.

     Another thing I discovered that directly benefits my mental health is to always make time in your day for a pastime you enjoy doing on your own. When I have free time from my schedule—whether it be due to my employment or homework from my classes—I like to read, write, and draw. According to Acacia: Counseling & Wellness, “Scientific studies show that enjoyable leisure activities have a positive impact on mental health […] no matter how busy your college life is, you should find time for your hobbies.” Journaling about your day, what has happened, or how you are feeling right now is another useful tip I’ve discovered; it helps you keep track of your mood and overall mental and physical health throughout the day. For example, I like to journal what assignments I’ve completed that day/week, some photos of nature or sunrises/ sunsets I captured that day, memories spent with those I care about, and so on.

Physical Health

     One aspect of physical exercise that has personally impacted me the most was enlisting in a Pilates Lecture, in-person, on UCF’s main campus, as well as the free Yoga and Upper Body classes, open to students at the Recreation and Wellness Center. All of these courses taught me the importance of your breath intake, controlling and toning different muscles, and acknowledging your body’s limits when it comes to physical exercise. I also find that taking a walk around my apartment building or on UCF’s main campus allows me to absorb fresh air, facilitates good circulation throughout my body, and helps clear my mind from any stress that I may have at the time.

     These past few years, albeit very hard on myself and those close to me, have opened my eyes to all the things that I can be grateful about in my life. I’ve learned about the importance of appreciating those close to me in my life, how to listen to and understand my body, as well as how to improve my understanding of the world around me; all of this occurring during my first few years of college. I hope that my individual experiences and techniques can help those who might be encountering similar issues in their own lives, and I thank all of those who read this article.