Strengthening your optimism muscle

Layla Halterman

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way we live, including many college students’ experiences. Many things that students love participating in — favorite sports, clubs, or student social events — are postponed. The simple task of sitting in a classroom without a mask has suddenly turned complicated. Coping with mental health during trying times like these can be undeniably challenging. According to The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in the middle of July, 53 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use due to the pandemic. This rate is a dramatic increase from when the pandemic first started at 32 percent.

Sarah Haughton, a second-year student at Ursinus College, notices that “life on campus is quieter than last school year. I feel more isolated and my social life feels nonexistent.” A history major and education minor, Haughton carries the workload and responsibilities expected of a student. With classes mostly virtual, the amount of stress can become quite overbearing.

However, finding gratitude for what you already have can help. Haughton explains how grateful she is to have some interaction rather than none with her friends on campus, and her willingness to wear a mask for hours to keep everyone healthy. “I am grateful to be able to live on campus and more than capable of cut[ting] my interactions with my fellow [peers] short,” she says.

Focusing on what you are thankful for helps you cope with stress and negativity. The daily practice of gratitude can change your life dramatically. Additionally, being isolated can be debilitating, so the acts of trying something new and de-stressing yourself from constant work can be extremely useful. Haughton’s approach to de-stressing herself “consists of junky foods and a trip along the Disney+ express. Relaxing my physically tired body helps to calm my mind and ready myself to get back to my tasks.”

Although those hobbies are on top of Haughton’s de-stressing list, she has found a new enjoyable activity during quarantine that helps improve her energy levels. “I’ve started to run and that has helped boost my energy as well as clear out foggy thoughts,” she said. She added that she is likely to continue this hobby after the pandemic ends.

Repeatedly stating a daily mantra each morning is such a great way to get the positive energy flowing. It can instantly lift one’s mood and build the optimism muscle. Examples of doing so include: (1) writing down three good things that occurred during the day, or that you are grateful for, (2) getting involved in something new, i.e. (virtual) clubs, organizations, services, etc.,(3) committing oneself to beginning each morning with positive affirmations.

Check out The Grizzly’s monthly mantra down below:

“I can do hard things, but I still choose to focus on the positive”

by Layla M. Halterman ‘23.