2nd February 2021
This academic year has already been and may continue to be, additionally challenging. We are living in really uncertain times and that in itself can be tricky enough, let alone having to contend with the demands of a degree course on top. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can with what you’ve had thrown your way.
1) Make a schedule and try your best to stick to it. Get dressed each day, even if you don't have to.
2) Go outside where possible, even just for 5 minutes, this will help to break up your day.
3) Step away from the screen when you can and don't forget to factor in drinks, snacks, and rest breaks.
I’m not going to say we’re all in the same boat. Firstly, because that’s a very strange phrase/metaphor, but also because we’re really not. Yes, we are all living in a global pandemic and we are all students, but that might be where the similarity ends. We are all in the same circumstance, but we are not all in the same situation… Some of you may be key workers, others of you parents, some of you at home, others in student accommodation. We all entered the pandemic with varying levels of both mental and physical wellbeing, so will consequently be dealing with this very differently. It’s okay to be struggling when others around you appear to be thriving. Those with gardens and good health will have had a very different lockdown experience to those on the shielding list, who are also living in a city-centre, fourth floor flat. Please don’t feel compelled to compare your experiences to those around you. We have all come from very different places. – Both internally and externally.
In the same respect, some of us will be loving online learning, whereas others will be finding it a huge challenge just to navigate the video platforms, let alone process the content. Virtual learning can provide you with time to think and relative anonymity, but it can also feel overwhelming when you worry you’re being left behind because you’re not quite understanding. Please speak up. I promise you won’t be the only person feeling that way.
Motivation could also be more difficult this year. Why get dressed if you’re not going to be seen and don’t have to leave the house? Why wash your hair when you could leave it another day? Why do the set reading when you won’t necessarily be caught out? Why attend at all? You need to do all of these things for yourself and for the sake of your mental health. We all have pajama days and we all occasionally use dry shampoo for the second day in a row. That’s perfectly ok, however, losing your typical routine and falling into ‘it won’t matter’ can make it really hard to keep yourself motivated. This is turn can also impact your mood and your mental health. Do it because it will make you feel better and because you matter.
Another worry that people tend to have coming to university or when starting a new course is making friends. This can feel quite anxiety-provoking for some people, but might even be exciting for others. A way to potentially reduce the size of the tasks is to re-phrase it. Think about making or building connections, rather than friendships at first. It is easy to connect over a similarity, no matter how small. Maybe you both come from the same area, perhaps you did the same course at undergraduate, or maybe your lives are similar in certain other ways. It’s a conversation starter.
This year it might take a bit more effort to find like-minded people and start conversations, but it will be worth it. The social distancing and general governmental restrictions at present mean that we probably won’t all be in the same space at once. It is also likely that some students have chosen not to move to university and will either be commuting or attending virtually, but this doesn’t mean you won’t meet new people. You have already met new people this term, just through attending virtually. You will have started forming opinions and thinking about the other people on your course without even realising it.
Social media has already been a key factor in modern life, however, it is more important than ever now. If you’re not already on social media, maybe give Facebook or Twitter a try. Instagram and WhatsApp are also very user-friendly.
Despite having just promoted the importance of online platforms, it is still important to remember to step away from your screen at regular intervals. Due to the pandemic, most of us are spending a lot more time on our devices. For some people, this could mean that their sleep, mood, and overall wellbeing are being impacted. Remember to keep connected to the more physical side of life as well; go for a walk, meet up with a friend face to face, read a novel or do some baking. Engage your senses, be creative and stimulate your brain in other ways.
It is a lot to think about and that might all feel a bit overwhelming right now. The things that we previously took for granted and the elements of our lives that just happened before now take some conscious thought and effort. A key thing to remember is, it won’t be this way forever. You will get through this. We will get through this.
Please remember the SU are still here for you. If you are classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and/or will be shielding, I'm here to support you. If your disability is affecting your studies or your wellbeing, please send me an email and I'll do what I can to help.