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