By Samuel Egbe, third year psychology undergraduate at the University of Roehampton.
Our year has been altered a lot due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In these unique times, we’ve seen many changes to our studying and learning delivery that has made the year quite a challenge for most of us, whether we live on campus or are studying from home. It’s no surprise that these changes to our routines add additional pressure, which can have various adverse effects on our health – both physically and mentally.
We might become overwhelmed by lots of different factors – being stuck in the house, feeling like there’s nothing to do, or becoming bored by the same routine (Netflix just isn’t the same after 11+ months of lockdown). What we might not realise is the snowball effect that negatively impacts our work and mental health, and may cause us to ultimately feel we’re unable to cope. As stated by Pfefferbaum et al (2020) in a piece of research looking at the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, the pandemic will inevitably impact our individual and collective health and emotional and social functioning, the full effects of which we won’t fully understand for the next couple of years.
At my current job I wrote a short article for our newsletter discussing mindfulness whilst working from home, and I wanted to share three tips I use with fellow students at Roehampton, just to help ease some of the pressure we’re under, even if it’s by a small amount.
1 – Take a step back
The first way I try to deal with blips or stress in my day is to take a step back and assess my workload. What have I got to do? How much can I do without tiring myself out? This works for me and helps me avoid overworking. Jackson (2009) described “realistic” time management and organisation plans as a means to improve productivity and quality of life. When you plan things out before, you’re less likely to procrastinate and are more likely to carry out the task.
2 – Don’t overwork yourself
It’s all well and good believing you can do everything at once, but in reality, I find this isn’t an efficient way to work. Pace et al (2019) found that for university academics, workloads that were linked with bureaucratic practices (too much focus on procedures at the expense of efficiency or common sense) were more likely to lead to negative perceptions of work and work-related wellbeing. Make sure you take regular breaks in between work, and schedule time to do something you enjoy throughout the day, before getting back to work.
3 – Stay active and healthy
My final tip for coping during the pandemic is to try to stay active and healthy. I’ve personally noticed vast improvements in my mental and physical wellbeing by keeping fit. As some at the university are aware, over the past four years I’ve lost over 50kg in weight. Of course, at the moment the gyms are closed and I’m not suggesting doing 1000 push-ups a day, but keeping active with even a 10-20 minute walk outside goes a long way in terms of the health benefits. Olafsdotir et al (2020) investigated the health benefits of recreational exposure to natural environments on mood and how the mind and body responds to stress, and found that walking in nature improved mood more than viewing nature on a TV. Try to stay active as much as possible, and if you can aim to walk in parks and woodlands to keep your mood up.
I have noted the references to each piece of research I have used at the bottom of this article if you’d like to read into the research further. Do be aware all articles are subject to their respective strengths and limitations.
Jackson, V. (2009). Time Management: A Realistic Approach. Journal Of The American College Of Radiology, 6(6), 434-436. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2008.11.018
Olafsdottir, G., Cloke, P., Schulz, A., van Dyck, Z., Eysteinsson, T., Thorleifsdottir, B., & Vögele, C. (2020). Health Benefits of Walking in Nature: A Randomized Controlled Study Under Conditions of Real-Life Stress. Environment and Behavior, 52(3), 248–274. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916518800798
Pace, F., D’Urso, G., Zappulla, C. et al. The relation between workload and personal well-being among university professors. Curr Psychol (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00294-x
Pfefferbaum, B., & North, C. (2020). Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic. New England Journal Of Medicine, 383(6), 510-512. doi: 10.1056/nejmp2008017