Family therapist Virginia Satir says “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” As a freshman on campus this year in the midst of a global pandemic, I have been struggling to navigate the new obstacles to physical and emotional human connection. I find that getting even one hug in on a normal day is difficult, especially because of the added barriers due to the pandemic. I mean, I can’t be the only one seeing all the signs that recommend elbow taps and the hook’em horns hand sign over hugs and handshakes.
After less than two months on the UT campus, I haven’t even known anyone long enough to consider them one of my close friends, let alone long enough to get 12 hugs a day out of them. Besides, in light of our current situation it’s a real struggle to figure out everyone’s physical boundaries.
Even if we’re not all able to meet Virginia Satir’s recommended average of eight hugs a day, I believe there are other ways to fulfill our need for human connection. It is not measured by how many friends you have, how often you go out or the amount of organizations you’re in.
You can find human connection by sharing a laugh with the person who made your morning coffee or smiling at a stranger on your daily walk to class. Human connection is all about finding meaningful moments with other people that make you feel good on the inside.
Whether it’s giving yourself a hug every morning, buying your roommate a coffee to put a smile on their face or calling your family every once and a while, the benefits that come from real human connection will never diminish.
As the COVD-19 vaccine rolls out, an end to the madness of the pandemic seems to be on the horizon. Unfortunately, the madness of conspiracies never ceases. With all kinds of different theories rolling out about the vaccines, it seems fitting to pile up all the crazy things people are saying in one neat place.
So here’s the conspiracy tea on the COVID vaccine.
Interested in mind control? So is Bill Gates (according to conspiracy theorists, anyways). The theory goes that the business magnate has concocted some evil plan to put microchips in the population to track their whereabouts at all times and control them.
A lot of the evidence for this theory comes from MIT researchers that developed a vaccination record that is stored beneath the skin and is invisible to the naked eye. This development is primarily meant to help with medical records in developing countries that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to keep those records digitized or readily available.
By injecting dye patterns beneath the skin, doctors can easily access medical records right on the body. Known as ‘quantum dots’, this record-keeping method doesn’t include any advanced technology.
So how is Gates involved? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation puts a lot of money into medical developments concerning vaccines, including this quantum dot project. Coupled with a TedTalk by Gates in 2015 speaking of the next pandemic, and his views on controlling population growth, it’s no surprise conspiracy theorists threw all these pieces together.
Due to his large involvement with vaccine research, theorists have suggested that the vaccines will include microchips that will be used to control population growth, track our whereabouts, and perhaps even control our funds so we are at the government’s mercy.
The next part of the theory involves 5G towers, because when in doubt about how to depopulate or control the population, just use bluetooth and high speed networks.
The theory gained so much popularity that in Britain, over 30 cell towers were vandalized around March and April of 2020. This was due to the belief that 5G technology spread radiation across the population to make it easier for them to get COVID-19.
To add fuel to the fire, well-known celebrities began tweeting about the conspiracy as fact, such as actor Woody Harrelson (Haymitch in Hunger Games and Tallahassee in Zombieland), and rapper M.I.A.
Anti-5G theories have been around ever since its creation, but the link to COVID gained a lot of momentum as the virus reached the western world. Because theorists already have tied 5G to mind control and depopulation through other theories in the past, it wasn’t too hard for them to make the jump that connects it to COVID-19 as well.
The Real Tea
Perhaps some of this sounds plausible, especially if you’re already against technology, but let’s be logical here. There’s no need to worry about a microchip. If the government was really that invested in your location, they’d use your phone,or laptop, or tablet, or smart watch, or — well, you get the point.
There’s no need to bust out new technology for mind control when they already have it in almost everyone’s back pocket.
So, if you’re thinking about not getting the vaccine because of Bill Gates’s microchip theory or M.I.A’s twitter account, do some real research. Three different companies have FDA approved vaccines meant to stop the growing death rate from this virus, which is already over 2.5 million worldwide.
Heart beating, palms sweating, stomach churning, intensifying fear: These are all symptoms of social anxiety. Socially anxious students may be avoiding these symptoms this semester with the aid of the current era of remote learning.
“It feels like my body is frozen…(like) a bucket of water drops on you. I want to speak but I can’t.”
Claudia Juárez, UT Austin Sophomore
In the age of COVID-19, pre-recorded classes are used to keep students safe from the pandemic, but these classes could also benefit students with social anxiety. Pre-recorded classes can reduce or eliminate the triggers of social anxiety present in in-person classes. There is currently an online petition created by members of the UT student government to continue the offering of distanced learning for students with disabilities such as social anxiety even after COVID-19 has eased.
“I was having anxiety attacks my first day (of class) every time I went somewhere new,” said Mackenzie Ulam, president of the UT chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Approximately 12% of Americans will experience debilitating social anxiety defined by significant impairment in regular functioning during the course of their lives, the National Social Anxiety Center reports.
The emergence of an anxiety disorder can occur at any age but often will surface during a person’s teens or 20s, the UT Student Affairs Division wrote on its website. This age range means students often experience the emergence of social anxiety during college, potentially impacting their learning experience.
“(In class) I don’t… want to ask certain questions,” Juárez said. “‘Cause it’s like I go to UT, am I really going to ask this? Everyone’s going to think I’m dumb. Even the professor might think I’m dumb and call me out on it.”
The fear of being perceived as dumb is a common trait in those with social anxiety. This fear can be triggered by numerous scenarios. Triggers of social anxiety include: introducing yourself, “small talk” with classmates, asserting your needs with those in authority such as professors and answering or asking questions in a formal setting, reports the UT Student Affairs Division.
“You’re having to deal with having to do two things at once: trying to learn the content and trying to work through…anxiety,” said Althea Woodruff, UT’s project coordinator forwell-being in learning environments. “You’re basically having to do double or more of the work emotionally and academically.”
Last semester, UT student government officials introduced a petition in coordination with disability justice advocates to ensure access to online material such as recorded lectures to aid students with social anxiety and other disabilities even after the pandemic eases.
Vinit Shah, UT’s student government chief of staff, said recorded lectures aid students because they cannot just ignore their anxiety.
“There is no way to challenge yourself out of anxiety,” Shah said. “It’s like learning to swim. When professors say… ‘just get over it,’ it’s really insulting…it’s like expecting a baby to be an Olympic swimmer right off the bat.”
Students with social anxiety may already be eligible for certain accommodations through UT’s services for students with disabilities department. However, accommodations are decided on a case-by-case basis rather than having pre-created accommodation plans available.
Students must go through a five-part plan to qualify for accommodations. This plan includes providing documentation of their disabilities in an approved format by the department, scheduling and attending an intake appointment with the department, completing multiple forms and signing multiple documents, reports the department on their website
Woodruff said that having recorded lectures available is the type of accessible accommodation that gives students much-needed flexibility.
“It lets the students know that you actually care about them and you’re being empathetic to their situation,” Woodruff said. “You want to try to be as accommodating as you can to as many students as you can.”
Being stuck inside a dorm or apartment all day not only is the perfect excuse to stay away from the gym, but also keeps the sun’s serotonin-inducing rays out of reach.
We are now coming up on the one year anniversary of the lockdown that shook up our social lives, mental health, and physical wellbeing, and while some people have taken the opportunity to glow up, others have certainly let the somber mood get them down.
It’s not always easy to cook a healthy meal or get up and start moving when the world seems to be spiralling out of control, but with vaccines on the horizon and the winter months taking the seasonal depression away, it’s time to let the sunshine back in and get that serotonin pumping.
There are two important sides to health — the mental and the physical. So if you’re struggling to make it through this pandemic in one stable piece, here’s some tips to stay healthy during quarantine.
Humans are not creatures of isolation. We don’t enjoy staying put for too long, or being locked away in the fairytale-esque tower until our knight in shining armor (the vaccine) comes to save us. It wears on our mental health and creates the perfect environment for depression, anxiety, and other mental problems to seep in.
One of the best ways to combat this is to actively fight against the isolation tendencies COVID-19 has created. And no, Karen, this doesn’t mean breaking CDC guidelines. Zoom, while problematic for professors who can’t figure out what a ‘breakout room’ is, is actually a great way to interact with your friends no matter where you are. Think Discord or Facetime, but magnified into one program that has monopolized the videochat market during this pandemic.
With the power of Zoom people can play video games, like Among Us, follow Bob Ross painting tutorials, or have a group meet-up all from the convenience of a comfy couch. Plus, when you get tired of human interaction just pretend your internet is bad— no more waiting for your friend to get done talking so she can give you a ride home, or waiting till that boring movie finishes before you bolt.
On top of the lack of human interaction, the lack of sunshine can also get to us. Sunshine is one of those natural endorphin-releasers that allows for another source of serotonin besides turning an assignment in due at midnight at 11:59 p.m. Going out, whether it be to the store, to classes, or to visit a friend, allows for some outdoor time in the sunlight. Without it, we are less inclined to get those endorphins released. Reduced sunlight already is linked to the cause of Fall and Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (better known as seasonal depression) so by combining that with the deprivation of human interaction, it may exponentially harm people’s mental health.
One of the best ways to combat this is to go outside and take a walk. It gives you time away from Netflix or schoolwork (and let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to avoid that), and allows your body to absorb that outside energy we’ve all been losing since the pandemic started.
If it seems a little daunting to do that, another option is to sit by an open window and sip on some coffee or tea, look outside and let the sun’s rays travel through the window. Maybe even sit at a table outside for a bit while you procrastinate whatever work you actually have to do.
Because the great outdoors, no matter how much millennials and Gen Z deny it, are really not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty relaxing around this time of year when the bugs have all receded back to wherever they go. It’s peaceful — which is just what we all need in a time that has tested the amount of stress we can handle before reaching a breaking point.
Over the course of the pandemic, social media has run rampant with “COVID-19 glow-ups.” People have used the extra time to their advantage to get that summer body snatched. But when mental health dwindles, so does physical. And while we don’t see quite as much energy around the “glow-down” of being too depressed to get out of bed, let alone go for a run, it is still something our society is struggling with right now.
Mental health is one of the most important aspects to physical health, so if you’re struggling, I’d suggest getting your mind right and then coming back to this. But if you’re ready to put in the work, I promise it’s more fun and rewarding in the end.
Physical activity is known to be a mood booster. Exercise releases endorphins just like the sun’s rays, and can be a healthy way to destress. Instead of trying to think of exercise as some daunting chore to check off each day, find something you enjoy doing and make it a part of your daily routine. Your muscles don’t have to be immovable from soreness, and you don’t have to be drowning in your own sweat, for it to be an effective workout.
Something I picked up during the Pandemic is TheFitnessMarshall’s dance videos. To me, they are super fun and allow me to get out a lot of pent up energy. Beyond that, I definitely learned some new moves for when it’s safe to go to the clubs again.
Everyone needs to find that workout that doesn’t feel like a workout. Not only could finding it during quarantine be an entertaining journey, but once you find it you’ll have something to add to your daily activities besides your phone and school. Physical activity will offer another outlet and escape for the insanity of what we’re living in right now.
And nobody’s glow-up needs to be some intense weight loss or muscle gain. Nobody needs to be the most positive person in the world. A real mental and physical glow up can just be feeling better about the activities your body can do, maybe lifting a box that was too heavy before, or running a minute longer than you used to be able to. It can be smiling a little more every day, laughing with friends a little longer. It’s the little victories that encourage us, and make for moments of happiness in the wake of this pandemic, that will truly get us through it.