March is always a difficult month for me. With COVID-19 present in our lives for a year now, March has become a difficult month for many others too. I always feel like March is this time of year when there is an emotional, physical, and environmental shift in the climate. This month is the transition from Winter to Spring but does not yet embody the hope and light of Spring for me. The gray, gloomy weather is a cloud above my head, and the pandemic does not make that any easier.
As someone who has dreaded March for years now, there is some comfort in having others resonate with my feelings about the month. I used to feel alone in my anger and resentment towards March; now, many others can understand this. With the pandemic still so present, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we are now at the one-year mark. At this point, we have all experienced COVID-19 in some way, shape, or form, and still, many of us are seeking relief from the gloominess that exists in March. It feels selfish but comforting to not feel as alone in my feelings this time of year. I know that no one can truly understand my feelings this month because it is my experience, but as a community, many more of us now share in this March melancholy.
The sadness many of us are experiencing varies from person to person. The pandemic has limited our human contact, which often negatively impacts our mental health. It is important for me to validate others’ experiences while acknowledging that there is sadness underneath the anger I often experience. In therapy, I have learned that anger is a secondary emotion for me, and it comes up more leading up to March. In recognizing that, I have learned to examine the underlying emotion. In almost all instances, the answers are sadness and hopelessness. I believe our society has created a culture in which there is a time and place for sadness. As I see it, there is no “right” time to express sadness now because it is all-consuming during the pandemic. When I exist in a space with limited human interaction, I am alone with my own thoughts and feelings. When I am alone with my thoughts, I have a tendency to ruminate; my mind focuses on negative thoughts about myself that I cannot let go of. It is hard not to when we are isolated from each other, and not everyone wants to engage in tech-based activities.
Although March is a difficult month for me and others, I am choosing to find hope this month. As a casual Catholic, March is also the month of Lent where we are asked to give up something or promise to do something that brings us closer to God. My interpretation of Lent is to use it as a time to focus on New Year’s Resolutions I may have made but have not figured out how to approach. One of my resolutions is to be kinder to myself, which has historically been difficult for me. With March already being a challenging month for me, some might say that I may be biting off more than I can chew with my Lenten promise. I see it as an opportunity to push myself to be kinder to myself and recognize the instances where I am not as kind to myself.
March feels like an opportune time to loosen my control over my emotions. In therapy, I have learned that letting go of control can be helpful, especially for someone like me who craves control. Although it can be intimidating, it is also cathartic for me to let go of control over my emotions and recognize that I cannot control every aspect of my life. In this release of control, I can find balance because I am not restricting myself from feeling how I feel. By expressing my feelings, I am also considering the feelings of others because of our intertwined emotional experiences. This month may be dreary for some, but it is also a time when our environments are forcing us inside where we can reconnect with ourselves. I encourage others to reflect on their emotions this month and let people know how you feel. Talking about how we each feel can be one of the best ways to overcome this sadness. Shared sadness may not seem like an ideal space to be in, but it does have the ability to connect us with each other. With so many of us feeling lonely and isolated, it can help to express that loneliness and understand why that feeling is there. Holding it in can drive feelings of loneliness, while expressing it freely can help liberate someone from the weight of that loneliness.
I have found a lot of comfort in journaling before bed every night, reflecting on the day and the emotions I felt throughout the day. I also type three things I am grateful for each day in a Google Sheets to remind myself of the positives in my life right now, even though it may not always feel that way. March can be exhausting, and in connecting and reflecting, we can gain a closer connection to each other and ourselves.
Caroline Mayer is from Boston, Massachusetts and is currently a Junior at Barnard College. She is studying Urban Studies with a concentration in Public health and possibly a minor in Women Gender and Sexuality Studies. Caroline currently serves as the Reporter for Columbia Reflect. She is passionate about youth mental health and hopes to work in a space post-graduation that focuses on empowering people to address and cope with their mental health.