2020 has been such a wild ride. The year of the BLM protests, the year of the virus which I refuse to name, the year of social unrest and the year of lockdowns and isolations. It has been quite a lot to deal with and it was all so unexpected. Who would have thought our lives would be so different? Who would have thought my first year of university would be through a computer screen, who would have thought I would be downing vitamin C tablets to improve my immunity? Certainly not me. First things first, I would like to start with a disclaimer; I am in no way a mental health expert. I am just a girl whose experiences I believe can be relatable to you. A student who found a way to cope with the stress and unfamiliarity of online learning. Hopefully, if you are reading this, you can take away at least one thing that will help you.
One thing I noticed before and most especially during the pandemic is, as people, we take so many steps to protect our physical health, we visit the doctor, we take our vitamins and we go the gym. We social distance and wear our masks but most people do not take the same amount of precaution and give the same importance to mental health and wellbeing.
For students in higher education, it is even more crucial to keep our wellbeing a priority. University already comes with its own stressors; deadlines, assignments, etc and now with the threat of a pandemic looming over our heads, it is mental chaos 2.0. I personally struggled with the shift to online learning and reduction in human interaction. Distance learning took a toll on me, having to learn and adapt to a whole new style of learning different to what I had done my whole life was no easy task. The increased workload and asynchronous learning certainly did not help. Worst of all, online learning took away the sense of community on-campus learning provided and replaced it with an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
Fortunately, I found ways to ease that toll and adapt much better to our new reality. Here are a few things I would recommend to anyone struggling or finding things difficult:
1) Do not be too hard on yourself: With university, comes the pressure to succeed, the pressure to pass and all the deadlines! Always remember to that you are doing your best. Do not put too much pressure on yourself. Your wellbeing comes first.
2) Less screen time: Too much screen time can have dire effects. Take some time away from the computer and your phone. Live in the moment, go outside, take a walk, you could even read a book. Just stay away from those rays.
3) Self-Care is the best care: Take time out of your schedule to have some well-deserved “me time”. Burn some candles, pig out on some junk food, lay in bed all day. Whatever you love to do, do it!!! Spoil yourself a little, you deserve it.
4) Reach out for support: If you ever find yourself drowning. Do not be afraid to talk someone, asking for help is not a sign of weakness and talking always helps. There is a wealth of support at the university. Take advantage x
5) Human interaction: Talking to people through a computer is just not the same as in-person. It feels less wholesome, and overall, is less enjoyable. It could get lonely sometimes. So please do try and meet up with your friends or even family. All the while wearing a mask and standing 2 metres apart, of course.
Most importantly, give yourself some credit. Your life has literally been turned upside down and you are still working to get a degree, in the words of Kris Jenner “You’re doing amazing sweetie!”
Written by Hawwa Zubair, BSc Psychology