First-year arts student Michelle Benitez-Muller is celebrating Thanksgiving a little different this year.
Unlike previous years, her family is unable to host Thanksgiving dinner for other family members or go to their houses. With COVID-19 restrictions and the transition of classes online taking a toll on her academics, it has also affected her mental health.
“My family and I are gonna have Thanksgiving dinner (turkey and everything stereotypical of a Thanksgiving dinner) with only family that live in my house, no visitors,” she said in a message to The Ubyssey.
With Thanksgiving on Monday, many students are unable to be with their family to celebrate together.
Dr. Eric Cadesky, a clinical assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine, said many students have feelings similar to Benitez-Muller.
“It’s really very difficult for students, because there was an expectation of what university life would be like. And because of the pandemic, there have been tremendous changes,” he said. “It’s normal for students to feel a sense of loss and to even be grieving the loss of what they expected would happen.”
Acknowledging that some travel is necessary, he encouraged students to reconsider any non-essential travel. Regardless, he said students should protect themselves and others around them by wearing face coverings and maintaining proper hand hygiene by washing their hands and using sanitizers, especially before and after touching their face and removing face coverings.
Instead of in-person contact, students can interact socially with video conferencing and other communication platforms to put their safety first.
Cadesky added that students can maintain their health by eating healthy and participating in activities that students find meaningful, “whether that's writing or playing music, meditating, volunteering, calling a friend or family member.”
“There are different ways that we can express in our relationships with other people and strengthen those relationships that don’t involve the traditional physical methods of travelling and being physically in the same place as someone,” said Cadesky.
He also raised concerns about eating food together indoors. “People are touching their mouths. They’re talking. They’re going to be spreading droplets and aerosols. And so as much as possible … avoid being inside while eating with people, unless there’s some way that you can ensure distance, which for most people is going to be impossible.”
Although this Thanksgiving can be challenging for some, Cadesky encouraged students to get help from university mental health resources.
“It’s going to be one unlike any other that we’ve experienced. And celebrating it with distance physically, but by connecting socially, is going to be the safest thing for us all,” he said.