Conversations about mental health are always important, and this year, they are even more so. Several years ago, I had depression and I developed many healthy ways to work towards healing. In addition to taking medication and talking with a therapist, I discovered things that helped me heal. Going to thrift stores gave me a chance to find some lost treasures. Working out gave my body and mind the power to heal. Being honest with my friends and family about my challenges and spending time with people who loved me helped bring calm. Slowly and gradually and with great intent, I healed. I was changed, but I healed. On the other side of depression, I had the tools to help maintain a healthy mind and body.

Fast-forward to the onset of Covid-19. With the constantly changing world, I felt myself slipping again. I called my doctor for medication and my therapist for a chat. I was scared though. The things that helped me heal and stay healthy were not considered Covid-safe activities.

I panicked. What would I do? How would I survive this? I live alone. How would I keep myself healthy without being able to see my boyfriend, my parents, or my brother and sister?

I realized that my mental health wasn’t always about the specific activities I was doing. I considered the slow, gradual healing I had experienced in the past, the healing with great intent. I had time to slow down. Everything I was doing in my new daily Covid routine I could do slowly and with great intent. I ordered seeds and started growing vegetables indoors to plant outside when the warmer weather came. On my walks outside, I walked slowly and tried to notice different changes in nature as the seasons progressed. I live very close to Lake Huron, and I spent slow trips enjoying the calming effects of the lake. In a slightly less poetic move, I also played Animal Crossing, one of my favourite video games, a very slow-paced game with cute animals.

Slowly and gradually and with great intent is how I’ve worked to support my mental health during this pandemic. This has been alongside virtual chats with loved ones, the medication I started again and have stayed on, and virtual meetings with my therapist.

I hope this has resonated with you somehow. When we are stripped of so many things we love and can’t see the people we love, new ways of being will emerge. I hope slowing down can be one of them, both now and once this pandemic has passed us. Slowing down has sustained me through this chaotic time, and I know it will give life to me in the future. Be slow, and give yourself a break.

VHS teaches many things, and I hope slowing down and taking care of yourself is one of them. There are many things in life, especially for a student, that pull you this way and that way, demanding attention. There are deadlines from post-secondary schools for admittance applications, admittance acceptances, and scholarship applications. It can be a lot of exhausting work. When you slow down and take your time, coupled with self-care practices, you can make sure you are prepared for the big things when they come up—the final exam, the last course for your OSSD, the first day of post-secondary school. Students, please be kind to yourselves and take care of yourselves.

Are you a VHS student with a mental health question? Feel free to email me at amanda.zehr@vhs.ucourses.com. I’d love to chat with you.