Dr. Jennifer Hartstein was featured in the article below as Yahoo Life Mental Health contributor and practicing psychologist.
It’s been nearly six months since the coronavirus pandemic began to shift the lives of people across the United States — taking work and childcare from corporate offices and professional caretakers to the home, deeming some jobs essential and effectively canceling all summer plans. But with the back-to-school season upon us, the time that people have spent at home while putting their lives as they knew them on pause is becoming evident and leaving many feeling uneasy about both the recent past and future.
“Work blurs into home, days blur into weeks, days blur into nights. We don’t have any demarkations, it’s all blending. So this demarkation of school feels very odd,” adolescent and family psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Life. “Things like the beginning of the school year in August or September have been a marker for all of us for many, many years. Even though you maybe haven’t been in school for a long time, it’s a marker.”
While many people have already been experiencing a certain level of anxiety, stress and even depression during the past few months, Greenberg says that heading into these landmark months is likely to heighten those feelings. She goes on to say that our minds are conditioned to think of September as a sort of renewal, which can bring up those feelings. Jen Hartstein, Yahoo Life’s Mental Health Contributor and practicing psychologist in New York City, adds that the calendar year is how so many of us track the passing of time and even the beginning of a new year and new endeavors.
“Much of our lives is connected not to the calendar year, but to the school year. It marks the ‘end’ of summer, which implies free time and flexibility and a sense of being carefree,” Hartstein says. “When we think about back-to-school, we often associate it with change: new opportunities, fall, work, et cetera. So, even if you aren’t involved in returning to school, it can trigger that age-old anxiety when you were a student and that many students and parents currently feel.”