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Sierra’s Story: Change and Uncertainty During COVID-19

Sierra Badgley, a Youth Network Ambassador, shares her experience adjusting to all the shifts and uncertainty in her life due to the ongoing pandemic.

This post is part of a blog series dedicated to sharing personal stories, journeys, and insights about mental health and anxiety from members of our community.

When I first learned about the pandemic, I thought I would be safe from it. But as cases started to pop up closer and closer to my home, I became filled with fear. Change is something I’ve always struggled with, and I knew that our lives would be changed drastically over the coming months. Especially without having my loved ones with me, I was very lost. I wanted to go home and be with my family.

Finally, at the end of March, I moved out of residence and returned home from college. With no job to come home to and nothing to do, I became increasingly isolated and lonely. After being at home for several months with no goals, nothing to do, and declining mental health, I knew I needed to look for work, especially because I knew that I thrived off of routine and a schedule.

Getting a New Job During the Pandemic

Recently, I landed a job working at a lodge doing housekeeping and front desk work, and I have really had to learn how to adjust. After being home for so long and not being used to being around people, I remember being extremely anxious and overwhelmed on my first day of work. I had to learn the regular duties of a housekeeper, but also had to navigate the additional COVID precautions put in place. 

A new job is already a lot to take in, but during a pandemic, I found it much more chaotic. As a result, I’ve been feeling much more anxious. We had to constantly sanitize all surfaces throughout our shift. There were new checkout and booking procedures and so many rules and guidelines to remember, and we had to follow them within a strict time limit. And to add to that, we had a shortage of staff, which made it even harder!

There were so many additional things to worry about. When I cleaned guests’ rooms, I kept worrying whether the guests were asymptomatic as I came into contact with their used towels and sheets. We never knew if the sheets were covered in bodily fluids. I was constantly wondering if I was sanitizing enough and if I was safe and if I was going to pick up on the new routines fast enough. Sometimes, guests came to the front desk telling us that they had been sick, and I constantly worried about the possibility of an outbreak hitting our resort. Even if they weren’t necessarily sick, it was still a possibility, and that bothered me. We never knew what we were walking into, and that was the scariest part. I was already having a hard time, but my anxieties and worries made it even harder. 

I’m slowly starting to become adjusted now, but it has been very stressful. Because of the increased uncertainty and anxiety, I’ve really had to prioritize self-care and self-compassion when I get very overwhelmed. On my days off, I make sure I do things that relax me. I allow myself to catch up on sleep. On other days, I might take a bath and do a face mask. I also try to get some form of exercise in, whether that’s going for a walk or a run, because physical activity relieves my stress the most. Organizing the rest of my week in my planner is also a huge help. Knowing when I work and what plans I have helps to keep me motivated. And in the end, even if it has been difficult, it has also been really nice to stay busy and bring in some money.

A College Experience Filled With Uncertainty

My school life has also changed dramatically because of the pandemic. As a healthcare student (occupational/physiotherapy), my program is already 200 hours behind in terms of placement. We are supposed to graduate next April, but because of everything that’s changed, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. The unknown is very stressful. I’m worried that I will struggle to get a job as I don’t have as much hands-on learning as I was supposed to, which is crucial for healthcare. If things continue to change, I’m worried about how I will receive the requirements I need for graduation. Online learning may work for actual classes, but not for placements. We need hands on experience and I’m not sure how we will obtain that.

My daily life at school these days is also a lot more complicated. For one of my in-person classes, I’m forced to drive a total of three hours to my school every time I attend. When I’m working at home, I don’t have my friends beside me while I work and it’s so much harder to be social. Learning online is much more difficult and emailing back and forth can be time-consuming, especially if I’m having internet issues. It’s also really hard to find motivation when I’m just at home all the time. 

I miss being at college a lot and being in a school environment. I miss seeing my friends and being motivated by the people around me. I miss being in class where I can get my questions answered and topics explained to me in an easier way.

To cope, I’ve developed my own methods for adjusting to a new lifestyle and to reduce my anxiety. I keep organized by using planners. I don’t do my school work in my bedroom, to keep my life compartmentalized. By doing my work at the kitchen table, I can have everything set up like a classroom with limited distractions. And sometimes, I reach out to my teachers and email them all of my questions and ask for advice when I can!

Looking Ahead

School starts back up in less than a month and not knowing what is going to happen with our fall semester is very stressful. It’s going to be a hard transition back into college, but I’m trying to keep the end goal in mind: to get that diploma, work as an OTA/PTA, and help others as much as possible through my work. And even though this whole experience has been difficult, at the very least, I know that I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. 

To all the students out there, I want you to know that you have every right to feel how you feel. Your feelings are valid. Everything is constantly changing during these times, but we as students need to stick together and advocate for ourselves to get the education we deserve and overcome the anxiety of the unknown together. Stay focused and remember your end goal. What do you want your future to look like?

For related information, check out our dedicated COVID-19 resource page.