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Protecting mental health during a global crisis

Illustration by Aimi Dickel


When reflecting on the events of the pandemic within the past year, I feel as if my mental health has been on the wildest roller coaster ride. There are times where I’m just coasting through, taking in as much scenery as I can, and then other days where I’m suddenly plummeting or upside down on a loop-the-loop. It’s during rough days that I try to do something creative and fun to help bolster my mental health.

An April 11 Washington Post article described how the pandemic has given many people a time to reflect on themselves as well as bring about a new perspective on life. Suddenly, material objects and fake relationships aren’t as important as family, true friendships and small activities that give us moments of happiness. I truly believe that being in quarantine during the pandemic has allowed people to become more creative in what they do.

We ask ourselves, “what kind of activities can we do to distract ourselves for a few minutes, to give us a piece of the reality we once knew?” Most days, it is hard to engage with our current life, so little things that give us hope and peace are important to have. Whether it’s diving into the world of your favorite Korean drama, or meeting all the puppies on campus, there are a variety of activities you can do! Personally, things that have helped me during the pandemic are painting and sending watercolor cards to my friends when I couldn’t see them in person, as well as FaceTiming my family and discovering new music artists and genres to listen to.

To get an idea of some of the enlivening activities St. Olaf students could be doing, I asked some of my friends what they have gotten up to. My friend Madeline Schaeppi ’21 binge-watched the Netflix shows “Outer Banks” and “Tiger King,” while Grace Erispaha ’21 enjoyed getting outdoors as well as exercising. Kara Anderson ’21 talked about baking during quarantine at home. Grace Callaghan ’21 loved hiking while Natalia Granquist ’21 enjoyed doing an art project which was painting a jean jacket with acrylic. Rafa Al Helal ’22 loved FaceTiming with friends — similar to me — as well as planning movie nights. Many people highlighted common themes of enjoying the outdoors and exercising, which have helped them get outside during the pandemic.

Since the weather is getting warmer, I highly suggest people on campus to get outdoors and have socially distanced gatherings outside with friends or people in your “bubble.” Take a walk in the Natty Lands and take advantage of the opportunity that we are on-campus and in-person, a truly special circumstance these days. Most importantly, take care of yourself, and do activities that make you feel happy. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a break and a few deep breaths. For me writing this article for the Mess helps to distract me from my nursing workload. And I’m grateful for the stress relief that it provides me!

Laras Kettner ’21 is from

Madison, WI.

Her major is nursing.

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