Navigating Difficult Family Dynamics
I cannot believe I am saying this... but I miss the library. I miss having a place designated for studying, surrounded by like-minded college students living off of Yerba Mate and the desperate Subway sandwich meal that they’ve probably had 4 times that week. One of the challenges brought forth by COVID-19 is the displacement of several students into uncomfortable living situations, where it may be difficult to find a place to study or even relax.
If you are experiencing difficult family dynamics while living at home during this time, you are not alone. Some students may now experience an increase in responsibilities that they didn’t typically have during the school year, such as caretaking. This can be incredibly hard, especially while being a full-time college student and trying to complete other remote work from home. College also acts as a safe haven for many students, giving them physical distance between them and their family members. Now that they share the same physical space, many people feel like they have less independence and less control over their familial relationships. A few examples of some difficult situations that one might face while home are having a family member with a mental illness, difficult financial situations, lack of space, or just not feeling understood by your loved ones.
Also, underlying tensions can be magnified because of the stressful, unusual, frightening circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Family therapist Helen Park of Manhattan’s Ackerman Institute for the Family, a mental health clinic, says that “the climate for everybody is such an acute, pervasive level of anxiety. That kicks up the sympathetic nervous system; the fight-or-flight fear responses are very much always on. That's where you get problematic cycles of interactions, which are so difficult to interrupt if you're in a heightened state." Many people (myself included) have noticed that squabbles occur more frequently and often tend to escalate. This emotional distress coupled with a persistent feeling of anxiety can be overwhelming at times, so it’s important to pay close attention to your well-being.
Some things that may help us when we are in these situations is:
Self-care has always been hard to practice and maintain. I have a tendency to start the quarter by practicing and balancing self-care but once Week 3 (really Week 2) comes along, I drop most self-care routines. It begins to feel like I have no time or it is just another task I must complete. However, this time around, things have changed drastically. Self-care has become a part of my survival and necessary for my ability to cope through collective trauma, remote instruction, physical distance, and so much uncertainty. Just like I need food, water, and sleep; I need to make sure I am nourishing myself and intentionally taking care of my mental health.
For me, self-care looks like extending kindness and compassion to myself. It means that I am learning to accept there will be days where I am not productive and that I make sure I am connecting with my community and loved ones. It is Week 5 and everyday I practice self-care. This looks like:
I am learning to be more attuned to my body, mind, and soul. Self-care does not need to be extensive, it is about the intention to nourish and listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you. This can be a few hours of your day, an hour, or a few minutes. The time does not matter as much as the act of it. These difficult times have shown me how essential it is for me to pause and take care of me. Self-care is not another task, it does not mean I am selfish or lazy, it means I am attuned to my own needs and I am respecting and honoring my entire being. Today’s self-care for me looked like sharing with you all my journey and practice of self-care. What does self-care look like for you?
-Veronica, Mental Health Peer
Welcome to Week 5 at Zoom University - UCSB edition, of course. It’s another day of waking up later than usual, rolling out of bed ten minutes before that 11 AM lecture, scrambling to find your lecture notes from last week, all while trying to figure out what your *Zoom fit* of the day will be.
As we prepare to head into Week 5, infamously known for being one of the weeks that most students have midterms (You got this!) we begin to feel the increasing weight of our responsibilities fall onto our shoulders. For some of us, we returned to our hometowns, to the places we knew as home before coming to UCSB/IV, whereas some of us stayed in Isla Vista, a home away from home. Whether you’re back home or in Isla Vista, one thing is for sure - we aren’t just students, our roles are much greater than that. For some of us, we’re the third parent, the caretakers, the educator, the provider, the example.
*DING* my bad, just got called into another Zoom meeting at Zoom University. As I was saying… during quarantine, you may begin to feel your motivation decrease, but don’t be too alarmed! We here at the MHP Program, along with the help of other wellbeing services available, are here to help bring you ease during these hectic times.
Here are some tips that could help you stay positive and gain motivation while adapting to Zoom University and the COVID-19 Pandemic in general:
In conclusion, here are a few additional tips to help keep you positive during these hectic times:
1. You got this!
2. Believe in yourself and speak your goals into existence
3. Stay home for the safety and wellbeing of yourself, your loved ones, and for the health of others in general.
4. Take advantage of any extra time you may have on your hands - call your family, read that favorite YA book for the sixth time, watch a new television show, discover a new interest, research topics that interest you -- the list goes on, and so shall we :-)
-Vic, Mental Health Peer
Mental Health Peers
We are the mental Health Peers from UCSB Counseling and Psychological services.