How the AHS community is adjusting to social distancing while making mental health a priority
Stuck at home, away from friends, and attending classes via Zoom. With quarantine and shelter-in-place orders being in effect, this time period can definitely be a challenge for many students to adjust to. As social distancing becomes the new normal, it is impacting students in different aspects.
For senior Prisha Davda, this period is definitely a trying time. “I feel stressed and overwhelmed because I have so much time to overthink things and because of the uncertainty in the world,” she describes. “I definitely feel trapped…[and] I don’t feel that connected because I’m not out and about [as I normally would be].”
She’s not alone. As students face the challenges that quarantine has brought to their emotional health, the AHS counseling department has recognized the importance of providing support and is working extensively to be a resource in order to help students maintain their mental well-being.
“Counselors are available to meet with students virtually. We have been sending weekly updates to students (as well as parents/guardians) with information and resources,” explains Ms. Nahigian, an AHS counselor. “[We] also sent out a survey to students in order to assess student needs and determine the best areas for support.”
Much of the distress that social distancing can cause is the feeling of being disconnected with others. Ms. Nahigian explains, “For students who are struggling right now, I would encourage them to reach out to their counselor or another trusted individual in their life. This time period can feel very isolating, but it is important for students to know that they are not alone and that people are here to listen to them.”
For Leadership, which plans school activities throughout the year, maintaining that sense of community and unity during this time is a top priority. Within the past two months, Leadership has put together several virtual events, including Springfest, the Art Show, and Alumni Project.
“News about COVID19 is flooding social media, so we thought it would be great to do something fun to keep our school’s spirits up! We hoped that it would reconnect people because we’re all cooped up at home,” explains ASB President Phoebe Urbano (12). “The events we’ve held virtually were more directed for our staff and students to have an ‘escape’ from reality, and allowing them to focus on school spirit and past memories is a great way to bring about the lightheartedness that our communities need during these hard times.”
These virtual events have been aimed to help students feel heard and recognized during this time, giving them a way to continue to interact and connect with their peers.
“Our Art Show still allowed our artists to express their artwork as well as our students to admire them,” describes Urbano. “We created the Alumni Project to help ease the stress from college decisions—not just in the present, but we also hope that it will be used for many years in the future.” Regarding future plans, she mentions, “[Leadership is] in the midst of planning more events to bring excitement to home and recognition to our students who’ve lost the opportunity to showcase their skills.”
Academics-wise, online learning has been an unprecedented change for many students. The Fremont Unified School District introduced pass/fail grading as well as a “hold-harmless” clause for second semester grades, meaning that students’ grades cannot fall below what they were on March 13, 2020. Even with these measures in place, distance learning can be overwhelming, and balancing schoolwork with everything else brought about by the pandemic can be a struggle.
According to Ms. Nahigian, balancing commitments and emotional well being is incredibly important. Between the two, she explains, “Emotional well being should always be prioritized, as this allows us to do our best in school and work.”
A big part of emotional well-being is taking care of oneself, which has become an even more pressing priority than usual. Ms. Nahigian emphasizes that some of the best ways to prioritize self care is by “doing things that you enjoy, exercising, and keeping in touch with friends and family.”
For Davda, this is advice that she has taken to heart. She explains that she has been trying to keep herself healthy by exploring various interests during this newfound free time.
“I do some type of physical exercise each day to stay sane. For example, I joined an online Zumba class, and I do classical dance and morning yoga. I found these classes on a college’s website for free. I also paint, watch TV and movies, clean, and cook,” she explains. At the end of the day, she describes, “the two things that have made me feel the best during quarantine are exercise and talking to people. These two things improved my mental health.”
As students adjust to the implications of social distancing on their emotional health, the AHS community has worked hard to provide students with as many resources and as much support as possible. Ultimately, many students are trying to maintain an optimistic mindset despite the current situation. In Davda’s case, quarantine has become an unexpected bridge in the transition between graduating high school and starting the next chapter of her life, and she expresses how she’s finding the silver lining: “[Despite how difficult this time is], I’m happy to be able to spend time with my family before I leave for college.”
Counselors are available for virtual appointments (via Zoom) Monday – Friday, 8am – 3:30pm. We regularly check School Loop, emails, and voicemails during these hours. If you are experiencing an emergency or are in crisis, please dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours/day)
Alameda County Crisis Support Services Crisis Line: 1-800-309-2131 (24 hours/day)
Alameda County Crisis Support Services Local Text Line: TEXT SAFE TO 20121 (4:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 7 days/week). Available for Alameda County residents only.