Returning to childhood comforts: observing nostalgia as a response to trauma

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Credit: Ted McFarlen

Junior Elizabeth McFarlen enjoys favorite childhood movie “Cars” alongside her dogs Henry, Milo and Cruz (left to right). Many students have been returning to nostalgic pieces of media amidst the pandemic.

Maya Crawford, Graphics Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone around the world, regardless of social standing, class or status. This event is classified as a mass trauma, the same post-traumatic stresses that many feel after a large-scale event like a natural disaster. 

Responses to a mass trauma vary from person to person, but many Loy Norrix students and staff alike have been found to unconsciously return to the comforts of their childhood as a means to escape the drastic changes in their life that have been caused by the pandemic. 

“Surprisingly it really has helped, resorting back to childhood movies and activities help me relax and take my mind off of things,” said Loy Norrix junior Elizabeth McFarlen. “With watching old Disney movies, I don’t have to worry about homework, getting to work on time, social media, etc. It really is a break from the reality of being a teenager and it is very much needed every so often.” 

Taking mental breaks to deal with stress is not uncommon, but the most noteworthy thing about the responses to the pandemic is that the ways people cope with mass trauma were strangely unanimous. In a survey of 62 individuals conducted by Knight Life, nearly 90 percent of the interviewed students and staff revealed that they have been turning to what made them feel safe and happy as a child as a direct response to the trauma of the pandemic. 

However, the other 13 percent of people who answered “no” to returning to childhood comforts brought up interesting points in their explanations. 

“I’ve been focusing on comforting my own children,” said college readiness teacher Jim Bellware. 

“I have too much adult stuff to work on unfortunately, I can’t afford to regress right now,” added senior Nicholas Fries. 

Even for some that do engage in the act of returning to childhood safety, it is not always effective in providing sanctuary from outside stressors. 

“Doing things that once made me happy brings me joy in the moment, but my overall mental state has been declining,” said junior Jessica DeRyke. “I try to ignore the world. I know I shouldn’t, I just want to avoid it.”

Escaping from stress is not always the healthiest method of coping with trauma, as it distracts the mind from the problem at hand rather than allowing people to process the trauma and move on. However, in healthy doses, returning to the nostalgic comfort of plushies or old TV shows can drastically improve one’s overall health by providing that mental break.

“It makes me feel safe,” said sophomore Ann Cook, “because as a child I feel like you don’t know much about the bad things that are happening in the world, so it just kinda reminded me of those better times.”