Coping with COVID 19 as a graduate student, by Zaima Ahmed

“Very thankful to experience these enchanting trees on my everyday walks” – Zaima Ahmed

COVID -19 entered all of our lives without any notice. Our everyday normal lifestyle has been disrupted and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. It can be quite difficult when this is the first time you have experienced being at home all day and trying to get everything done from home. Quarantine has come with a lot of pain of not being able to meet friends and family and doing the things we love doing.

I am a student who recently graduated from a Graduate certification program in Marketing at  York University. COVID-19 entered my life when I reached almost the end of my program where there were many project deadlines. It became really challenging for me when all of my classes switched from in person to online. I no longer had in class activities or detailed lectures that I used to have before, no in person group meetings and everything had to be sorted online which was a big challenge for me. Apart from that, managing my groceries, observing proper safety measures, finding essential items that were out of stock and  the non-stop news and social media coverage on the pandemic were adding to my challenges. 

My mental health kept deteriorating and I realized that my mindset needed some change. 

I reminded myself that it was normal to have challenges in life and I have to accept that and face it with a positive mindset. If I didn’t help myself, I wouldn’t be able to help my loved ones, too. So I decided to find some resources online to help myself cope with this pandemic. 

I really liked the Child Mind Institute’s online blog post, “Anxiety and Coping with the Coronavirus,” by Rachel Ehmke. In this Blog post, Rachel shares some tips on dealing with anxiety in a healthy way.  The first tip that was super helpful to me was about tolerating uncertainty: the treatment for anxiety was not to make fear go away but to manage fear and tolerate uncertainty.  Anxiety and fear are both a part of our lives and there is nothing that exists that will make them fully vanish from our lives. From time to time they will appear and we need to accept them and face them with courage. This tip helped me to take my first step towards a positive mindset. 

“Lovely orange tulips brightens my day whenever I see them”

The second tip was to start regularly practising meditation, which is a tool to help people stay calm and grounded in the present moment by not getting caught up in the future or the past.  This was something that really helped me focus on my daily tasks instead of getting caught up in my thoughts about things I was worried about. I started practising meditation using the “Headspace” app. I did a few free sessions before buying the full premium version. At first it was very difficult for me to stay calm, but slowly I began to master this skill after doing a couple of sessions. 

Along with meditation, exercising for at least 30 minutes at home regularly has really made me feel more active and energetic and has also helped my mood stay more positive throughout the day. Since I was at home all day I was moving less so I realized that exercising more frequently was really important for my health. I did some Cardio workouts using my home elliptical machine and also did many HIIT workouts watching Fitness Blender workout videos on YouTube. 

My mother suggested that I pick some of my hobbies and start planning out some activities in my routine to make my days enjoyable. Now that summer has come, it’s the perfect weather to take beautiful photographs outside, so I started taking photographs of beautiful trees, flowers and birds. I love taking photographs and it made me feel great and calm. I also started baking new cake recipes I never tried before for my family. I am not someone who is great at cooking so when the cakes turned out great, I felt great. 

I am a Muslim who prays 5 times a day. My daily prayers and my faith and hope in God has given me the strength to keep going during this painful time. I believe that storms don’t last forever and soon better days are coming. Every suffering that we all go through in life is designed to help us learn, grow and become better individuals. 

We all need to strive towards a positive and healthy mindset during this pandemic so that we can support each other and survive this together. Human beings have been blessed with a lot of potential and are capable of doing so many things. I believe that we can stay strong and go through this too.

“Chini observing her new toy”

Black Lives Matter.

Like many of you, we’ve been experiencing shock, pain, anger, and grief. We’ve needed to talk, to think, to reach out, and to look inwards. We’ve read and listened to others, and have been inspired by the growing global commitment to change the systems of oppression.

This is what we believe and are committed to:

We understand that acts of racism and violence against the Black community are rampant and perpetuated through systemic oppression, which we have witnessed within our schools and communities. We also understand that systemic oppression is perpetuated through silence. Story Planet unequivocally advocates for justice and equity in all moments and situations in life. 

We are a team from diverse cultural backgrounds which knows that racism is not just rampant in the United States but here in Canada to a degree that is equally systemic and devastating. We stand in solidarity with the freedom fighters who demand for the conviction of all four officers who murdered George Floyd. We demand justice for Regis Korchinksi-Paquet. We demand justice, dignity, and respect for all Black and Indigenous lives—both those that have been lost, and those that are still here, fighting to overturn these systems of white supremacy. We support the calls to dismantle and defund the criminal justice system, specifically police and prison institutions, as they currently stand. We also support the redistribution of police funds to community organizations who are working in health, education, and legal services, to eliminate deep societal inequities.

If you are able to donate to support this urgent cause, here is a list of organizations that would benefit greatly from your financial support:


Organizations to donate to


Story Planet believes in action, and we are committing to doing the following individually, and as an organization:

  • To stand up to and confront acts of racism both conscious and unconscious by preparing ourselves with words and concrete actions and committing to speaking out.
  • To better respond to acts of racism and inequity we see in schools and in the stories we see and tell.
  • To continue helping children tell and share their stories.
  • To continue prioritizing our work in neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to these inequities.
  • To help children see the value of themselves and their lived experiences.
  • To continue conversations, build, and share resources internally that allow us to: support those in pain, confront our own privilege and biases, educate ourselves on racism and white supremacy,  and use these reflections to inform all of our work with young people. 
  • To work with other organizations and groups to dismantle systems of oppression and serve those in need. 
  • To investigate how to combat systemic inequality in the education system and advocate for deep changes.
  • To reflect on the story structures children are taught that implicitly and explicitly maintain systems of power, how Story Planet is a part of that, and how we can shift that paradigm.
  • To stand up to and confront acts of transphobia, ableism, misogyny, and to understand their intersections with all of the above.

In solidarity, as always,
Story Planet

Online StoryMakers!

Previously, we shared with you the characters our online StoryMaker students have developed, but every character needs a setting for the story!

Breaking the usual 3 hour workshop into more bite-size one hour online workshops, the second sessions of these have seen some fantastical settings developed and come to life by our Story Planet artists.

Drago’s Enchanted Forest
Squidson Washington III’s Cloud World

The success of these workshops has even spurred us to develop a new workshop, which we are excited to be unveiling publicly soon!

A few more words on our StoryMaker from teachers and students:

“Story Maker gave my grade 5 students the opportunity to further utilize their own creativeness and broaden their understanding towards nonfiction and fiction stories.” –  Ms. Darote

“My opinion about Story Planet is terrific…..that’s because it’s like acting but you aren’t acting in a sense this makes me feel like I can just feel free and say whatever comes to mind because I know that they’ll accept it.” – Treshauna (student)

What has Story Planet been up to recently?

We have been working with four different classes to bring the magic of the StoryMaker workshop live to Zoom! Breaking up each workshop into three weekly one-hour meetings, these workshops allow the kids involved to momentarily leave behind the confines of their houses – some of whom have not left since the lock-down began – and indulge in their imaginations. For others, it’s a rare chance to log online and see their friends face to face. Although still far removed from the normality of a classroom and face-to-face meetings, being able to connect and bridge our worlds through Zoom has sparked dozens of embers we are excited to watch grow into bigger stories.

What the teachers are saying

I have had the immense pleasure of working with Story Planet several times over the last few years but I have never appreciated them as much as I do now during these challenging times.” Heidi Seibert (teacher)

This is the first time since the lock-down started that it feels like school!” – Mr Ahmad

The writing has been great, the kids are loving it! I’m so excited and proud of my kids for what they’ve done” – Ms Kent

And here are the characters over 40 students have collectively imagined:

Four-eyed Willy, Thunderhorn and Snowy

Blake III and Hakuna

Sicky The Germ Monster

Zord – a half human, half T-Rex!

Squidson Washington III and Drago

To ensure we can keep supporting more students during the lock-down and beyond, donate to Story Planet here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/13205 or via the link at the top of this page.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter (link below) to ensure you stay up to date with more virtual events in the making!

The Cupcakery of Imagination and Love

Welcome to the Cupcakery of Imagination and Love!  A building where people can eat, dance, tell jokes, read, do yoga, play, and have a great time.  The Cupcakery has a rollercoaster that takes visitors from room to room.  

One day, Bella Nora, who was half dragon-half bunny rabbit, visited the Cupcakery of Imagination and Love.  They were meeting their best friend, Narutoo. He was upstairs practicing yoga, waiting for Bella Nora to arrive.  Narutoo had recently dyed his hair to look like fire and ice, and was sporting a cape.

Bella Nora and Narutoo were meeting to discuss what to do with the Dark Lord, who was trying to destroy the world for the fifth time that year.  This time he went too far and had plotted to take over the Cupcakery of Imagination and Love!

Thankfully, Bella Nora had the ability to shapeshift, and planned to shapeshift into one of the Dark Lord’s guards.  That way, they could spy on him and figure out his plot. Narutoo planned to use his plant powers in order to keep Bella Nora safe.

While Bella Nora was disguised as a guard. Things were going well and they were blending in with the guards, but then they sneezed and briefly revealed their bunny-dragon self!  The guards realized that Bella Nora was not one of them. They captured Bella Nora and then…