How returning to in-person classes while working has had a mental toll on me


(Emily Bourassa | Special to The Union)

Coming out of the pandemic has been hard.

I had this conception that life, in general, would be better once the COVID-era protocols lifted, but I was wrong.

Although we are still amid a pandemic, many things are becoming “normal” again like going out without a face mask, giving up social distancing protocols, attending school in person and going back to work.

But honestly, life has only become more difficult now that things are getting back to normal.

When the pandemic started, I had just turned 18 and thought that everything would be easy because transitioning from a teenager to an adult was easy during quarantine.

Although disappointing, transitioning from high school to college in a remote learning environment was easy for me.

My professors were understanding and forgiving as students tried to figure out how to navigate the online structure.

Soon, things started getting better and many places were opening up again.

Once COVID cases were going down, I decided to apply for my first job and it made me realize what it was truly like to grow up.

Learning to balance a job while attending online classes made me realize I had more responsibilities to fulfill. At first, it was a bit difficult but I was able to adjust to the new schedule.

As this spring semester started, I didn’t expect life to become even more complex. For some reason, I thought going back to campus for in-person classes would be easy and I was excited to see my peers in person rather than behind their computer screens.

Unfortunately, my expectations were wrong. Although I felt motivated at the start of the semester, I quickly began feeling overwhelmed after the first two weeks.

There were days when I would cry because attending school in person and going to work was a lot. I had meltdowns at night because work felt like it was too much to handle and days where I procrastinated due to burnout.

One time at the beginning of the semester, I had multiple things due in one night and had just gotten home from a closing shift at work.

Looking at Canvas, I couldn’t stop pacing back and forth on what assignment should be done first.

My day wasn’t planned out correctly and by the end of the night, all my assignments piled up on top of me. Luckily, I still managed to pull my thoughts together and complete all of my assignments in time.

Reflecting on one of the many stressful nights, nothing truly prepares you for these types of challenges and changes in life.

School is not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard and is going to be stressful, but having to learn how to juggle my classes and assignments with my work schedule is what made things more difficult.

The pandemic put everyone in a stressful position.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation article on The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health, “COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness.”

The article said that “during the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder.”

Eventually once things started getting better, it felt like the entire world had to “relearn” how to live our old lives and everyday routines.

It’s different working while having online classes versus coming to campus to attend classes while having a job. I did not expect the mix of both work and in-person classes to mess with my mental health the way that it did.

Oftentimes, college professors and even parents do not recognize that students may be battling different emotions while attending school and trying to support themselves.

I was and still am determined to put all of my efforts into this spring semester and work my hardest to get good grades, but it’s now much harder to achieve than it seems.

Planning is what helped me to get through the semester so far. Having my planner beside me and checking it helped me plan my day out to complete assignments.

I’ve changed my availability at work, going from working almost every day to now working three days a week.

Typically, working on weekends is helpful because I can focus on my assignments and attend classes during the week. If I never changed my availability, I would be more behind and stressed in my classes.

There were times when I wanted to quit my job to focus my full attention on my classes, but it’s hard to make that decision when I need the money to support myself.

Looking back and reflecting two years later after going through one of the toughest periods that I and the majority of the world have ever faced, I’m shocked that I was able to overcome it.

Not only have these been the most challenging two years of my life, but they have also been the most reshaping and eye-opening years of my life.

Honestly, I’m still in the process of overcoming a lot of personal struggles, one of them still being time management. I am not the same person I was pre-pandemic.

All of this has been life-changing, both good and bad. Overall, these are life lessons I will never forget.