This past January and February, before the pandemic even hit the United States, researchers were already sending out questionnaires, which got over 10,000 responses. Through these questionnaires they found that more than 50% of respondents had increased signs of depression, while 35% showed signs of serious anxiety. 

Fast forward a few months to late June, the heart of the America’s quarantine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention those previous numbers seemed to ease off, with only 31% with symptoms of anxiety or depression and 11% having “seriously considered suicide” within 30 days of completing the survey. If that percentage is applied to the population of the United States as a whole, 11% would be about 36 million people.

Loneliness has also been a big part side affect of the pandemic, starting with social distancing. Loneliness is more than just being lonely, so much so that it was described as a “behavioral epidemic,” even before COVID-19. It turns virtual learning into a nightmare. 

Although college students are already infamous for not sleeping, waking up early is key in a “work-from-home” environment. Being able to roll out of bed and start being productive is extremely important for students’ mental health. 

I began developing better coping mechanisms last semester after a long, dark period of my life. I realized I need to wake up early, exercise and grow in some way.  I trained for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio. I began waking up early and eating breakfast before classes. My biggest experiment though, was growth, not of me or anything crazy like that, but of plants.

I saw it as an opportunity to grow through giving and caring for another life, kind of like a pet. Since I began doing these for myself, I felt more like myself than I had in almost five years. I became happier and more confident with who I am. Through the summer I continued my growth, give or take a few hiccups along the way, and eventually, fall semester arrived. 

That growth began came to a halt shortly after fall classes really got moving. I felt like I was watching life through a camera lens. Seeing everyone else hanging out with their friends, having parties, moving forward and enjoying their best lives. I was not living how I would have liked, and it made me immensely sad. I stopped exercising as much. I stopped caring for my now immense collection of plants. I stopped growing. I had no thoughts, no feelings, I was a turtle of emotion, living snug in my safe but dark shell. I was just going through the motions of life alone, in the same place I had always been. 

I began tearing at my fingertips, a painful form of stress relief I have engaged in since I was young.  I’ve continue this pattern of anxiety and loneliness to today, but I feel growth on the horizon. The pit in my stomach has lifted and as I begin to tend to my plants again. 

Jesse Jarrold-Grapes is a sophomore studying photojournalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Jesse by emailing him at