Ambassador voices: Being a university student during lockdown

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Hey! I’m Alisha and I am 21 years old. I’m currently a law student going into my final year. Some of my favourite hobbies are eating Nandos, watching Netflix and volunteering at The Mix because it is an amazing platform which I feel helps with a lot of issues I have faced growing up and so would love to help others! 

Coping strategies for leaving university due to lockdown

The transition from living out at university to suddenly moving back home due to lockdown is stressful; the concept of change can become extremely overwhelming. Whether you visit home often or not so often, moving from one place to another can leave us feeling tense and put a strain on our mental well-being, especially amid a pandemic. The important thing to remember is, we are not going through this alone and a significant number of young people, including myself are in the same position. When we are feeling vulnerable and alone, it is important to remember that we have overcome other difficult situations in our lives and although it may not always seem it; we will overcome this, just like we have done with previous strenuous circumstances – you are strong, even if you don’t feel it all the time. We are in this together!

Struggling to concentrate

Struggling to concentrate nowadays? Procrastination levels rising? Feeling guilty for not doing work? Me too. At the beginning of lockdown I had set myself a list of goals I wanted to complete to stay busy and productive; one of those goals being staying focused and dedicated to my studies, however, now being well into lockdown with some more time to go, I’ve come to the realisation that this was a lot easier said than done. Even though I now have so much free time on my hands, I can work from the comfort of my own home, and my university have made all exams and work remote; I’m finding revision now harder than ever before.

Although times are tough right now; my exams are still approaching, and I have had to find different strategies and resources to make it feel like less of a burden. Here are some of the ways that have helped me cope with managing work during the lockdown:

Breaking down big tasks into smaller ones

  • When given a long list of exams, lecture recordings, online seminar work, it can leave you feeling completely suffocated; finishing work on time, submitting assignments when they are due and being prepared for online exams may seem almost impossible. However, sometimes a change of approach and perspective can really help completing work on time seem as less challenging.
  • This is where you can try to break the work down into smaller parts. Rather than looking at modules as a whole (which can seem like a lot) try to break them down into smaller topics, set yourself smaller goals that you feel more comfortable with, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Whilst in the process of doing this you may already feel like completing your work is a more pragmatic goal.
  • Give yourself a realistic schedule to work with, this is a pandemic not a productivity test! Set aside some time to work during the day, you do not have to use all your time studying; this can get overbearing and get on top of you! See what works best for you, only you know what your comfortable with, even if it is slow progress it’s nonetheless progress!

Reach out to mentors/tutors

  • If you are struggling to cope with work, let your university know! They are aware this is a stressful time; you do not have to suffer in silence. Try sending an email to explain to them how you are feeling and how it is impacting your work ethic, universities can offer advice, extra help with work, extensions for deadlines etc.
  • Mentors and tutors are there for your academic and mental wellbeing, especially at a time like this. If you do not feel comfortable reaching out to a mentor (or if you do not have one), check online what support your university can offer and who to contact (contact emails for staff can usually be found on your university website). It is okay to ask for help when you need it.
  • If you are finding difficulty in understanding content, try emailing lecturers directly, they can explain topics to you through email or even video chat and explain in more depth. As a student myself I know it can be nerve-wrecking emailing lecturers but during this pandemic I’ve had so many questions regarding work and changes in exams, from my own experience I’ve found that asking them directly has been so helpful and put my mind at ease!

Try different techniques

  • At university I had a routine when it came to studying, going to lectures weekly (most of them at least!), completing seminar work that had been set and then going to the library weekly with course-mates to go over content. Since coming back home, my entire routine has changed, and I have found that my usual study techniques have not been working.
  • I find myself being most productive when working in a library (especially the 24-hour one at university), due to lockdown they have been temporarily shut which meant I have had to adapt. Try to have a fixed study space in your house if possible, try to make it somewhere you will not get disturbed or distracted by family/household members as much. Try to avoid working on your bed (again only if this is possible as every household is different) as this can make you tired and make it harder to concentrate, personally I find it easiest working on my desk, but find what works best for you!
  • When it comes to study techniques, everyone learns differently. Find what suits you, whether it’s watching online lectures (which I would highly recommend), YouTube videos can help, reading aloud rather than in your head can make things clearer, speak to course-mates (you can help each-other out, for all you know they could be struggling too!), and most importantly, do not forget to take breaks! Sometimes just walking away and coming back to work can give you a complete change in perspective and make things easier to understand.
  • For more study tips, read The Mix’s article on what’s next for university students.

Feeling more irritable

It is natural to feel more irritable through a change of environment, especially after coming from a place where you feel free and responsible for yourself to going back home where there are rules and boundaries. This is a tough time for everyone, being inside a lot of the time can give us cabin fever, leave us with anxiety and even trigger intrusive thoughts. It is easy to get dragged down with worrying thoughts getting on top of us, at the beginning of lockdown I enjoyed being home, but after a while I began to find even just getting out of bed harder than usual. Coming back home can be a trigger, especially if your home environment has not always been the best, however there are ways to overcome these triggers and thoughts and help us to stay positive.

I have found that meditation has helped me stay calm, less stressed and improved my mental well-being. Breathing exercises can calm you down instantly. Try to meditate once a week (or more), there are a variety of guided and non-guided videos online which can help you, they can even target specific issues you feel you are struggling with such as anxiety or insomnia. If you feel like meditation is not something you would enjoy, that is okay too; find what suits you!

Regardless of whether mediation is for you or not, it is so important to take deep breaths daily, where you breath in slowly (I usually breath in slowly for around 7 seconds), hold it in (5 seconds works for me) and then slowly breath out (I prefer breathing out for 8 seconds). Repeat this around 4 or 5 times and you will feel relaxed. Deep breathing is important, naturally our bodies tend to tense up and we do not even realise; self-love and self-care is crucial! Listen to your body.

Exercise can also help significantly, as someone who has never really been athletic (I have literally been to the gym twice in my life). I never really thought about my physical fitness until the pandemic. I was struggling to sleep at night due to the lack of energy I was using up during the day, one day I decided to go jogging and I have not looked back!

Not only has it made me feel physically fitter, but I feel mentally empowered after coming back from a run. It releases endorphins and can make you feel good, honestly sometimes the thought of things can put you off, give yourself a chance and you may enjoy it! If running is not your thing, there are a variety of home work outs/fitness exercises online which you can use. Make use of your daily walks; it will reduce cabin fever, clear your mind and make you feel refreshed overall.

Read The Mix’s article on looking after your mental health during lockdown.

Missing friends

After living out with my university friends, suddenly splitting up and moving back home left me feeling isolated and down. I miss them! I miss pub quizzes, union nights, even just staying in talking to each other! Luckily, we live in a society where we are able to stay in contact with one another through social media, phone calls, video chats etc. It is important to remember we are going to see each other again and life will go back to normal eventually, in the meantime try to make the best out of this situation.

Reach out to your friends when you miss them, call them, Facetime them, message them. Even though we cannot go out and see each other, I have stayed close to my friends through keeping contact, why not set up an online quiz and do it over a joint Zoom call? There are also apps such as Houseparty and Snapchat which have games you can play against each-other. Try to stay positive, just think how much more we will all appreciate each-others company when this is all over!

Adapting to home life

As I said before, the concept of change can be overwhelming and moving back home can be difficult when it comes to settling in. Be aware that feeling a little unsettled and uncomfortable is normal, it may take some time to adapt, everyone settles differently and that is okay! Make sure you make time for yourself to relax and feel comfortable; it is important to come to terms with how you feel about things as this is a stressful time.

Try not to compare university life to home life, try to accept they are different, and that is not necessarily a bad thing! If you feel like you are struggling at home by clashing with family members or feeling triggered by certain things, reach out to those who can help, please do not hold things in (you can do this through The Mix by calling 0808 808 4994, or having a one to one chat online). As young adults, we feel sometimes that we have to be strong and are hesitant to getting the support we need, asking for help when you need it is brave and important; there are people here for you.

Although this is a time of uncertainty and anxieties may be high, try to stay optimistic and patient; focus on what you feel is important to you. Remember this is not a productivity test, even small steps are steps and they matter, praise yourself for trying and reach out for help if you feel you are struggling. You are strong and you are not alone!

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. Search their website for information, research, and to see how you could get involved.
  • Visit bemindful for more information on mindfulness and to search for a course near you.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 17-Jun-2020