Student perspective: Making lockdown happy, healthy and productive

Photo of Alby, author of the blogby Alby Stevens, Bristol Futures Advocate

The biggest threat to our studies during the next few weeks is that posed by feeling isolated and unmotivated, so I wanted this blog post to focus on staying healthy through the rest of TB1 in spite of the national lockdown that has just begun. When the pandemic hit back in March I found that despite all the time I had available to study it was so much harder to be productive. I know I wasn’t alone in feeling like this. As lockdown begins again I believe it’s worth taking some time to reflect about how you can cultivate a positive working environment over the next month or so in spite of the unnatural circumstances.

The 5 tips below are proven ways to look after both mental wellbeing and your studies, particularly over lockdown, and would be a great place for you to start from in reflecting upon what works best for you. It would be fantastic if you posted what works for you in the comments below so that we can all get ideas from each other:

  • Get ahead – Whilst it may feel a little cliché to get into a routine right from the start it is a really healthy way for you to stay in control. With so much time in isolation ahead of us, the temptation is to push everything back: work, physical health, mental wellbeing. By staying on top of things while you feel fresh you should be able take some stress off of yourself when the novelty of lockdown wears off.

It’s worth taking a look at the Study Skills time management resources to help you with this one or you could procrastinate by watching this video about how to not procrastinate!

  • Don’t wear yourself out – Do things sustainably and tend to all the little parts of your life that are important to your happiness from cooking healthy meals to getting enough exercise. Trying new things is a great way to stimulate the mind but equally the next 28 days doesn’t have to be some sort of language learning, baking or early morning yoga boot camp! I’m always tempted to start off too fast and wear myself out within a week so this time around I’m focusing on doing what I can and doing the amount that makes me feel good.
  • Get outside – Humans are not designed to spend their lives indoors and so if you are able, make sure to get outside daily. It doesn’t have to be a 12 mile hike – I prefer wrapping up warm and taking a coffee to a new street in Bristol – but the benefits of fresh air, sunlight and new surroundings are so important. Take the time to notice the trees changing colour, the days getting shorter or the people wandering around doing the same as you!
  • Engage with online society events – Even if it’s not really your thing, keeping communities together whilst we’re apart could be so valuable to someone else. There is never a bad time to join a new society and you can always try something out in the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be forever if it turns out to not be for you.

Here is the link to the SU societies page.

  • Connect with people – This one is the most important but the easiest to forget. More than ever we must make the effort to make sure that the people around us are okay and to ask for help if we are struggling. In my opinion, no piece of university work is more important than a 10 minute chat in the kitchen with a housemate that might need it. Looking out for others is scientifically proven to make us feel good too.

I’ve taken some ideas for this from a website called Action for Happiness which is well worth taking a look at. Their ‘10 Keys to Happier Living’ are really easy to understand and are always a great reminder to me that often the things that make us happy are different to what we imagine them to be.

Here is the link to Bristol University’s wellbeing services for anyone that is struggling and would like to look through some resources or talk to someone. The right kind of help is there for everyone.


Student perspective: Disconnecting and reconnecting

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

When brainstorming solutions to feeling isolated, a friend mentioned the word ‘disconnected’ to describe their current state whilst in isolation. It resonated, both in that it’s a powerful word, but also one which also has many interpretations. So, here’s some ways you can reconnect whilst in isolation, to help you study more effectively:

1)    Reconnect with yourself. (because it turns out you don’t need a gap year for that, just government mandated quarantine). Something I’ve heard a lot is ‘my degree feels less valuable now.’ So, take the time to work out the value you find in it. The fact it will provide you with future opportunities? The enjoyment you’ve found from learning about the subject? Or even the friends you’ve made along the way. Take some time to reflect, and work out what is most important for you to focus on right now. And give meditation a go while you’re at it! If you find yourself in need of some support, rest assured the wellbeing service is still running, as is the Students’ Health Service (phone appointments).

2)    Reconnect with the online world. A struggle for many in isolation has been adjusting to a new way of living. I’ve been struggling with the idea of being online a lot, especially since I enjoy being in a library whilst working. But the University have set up a bunch of resources beyond online teaching for specific courses. My personal favourites have been the Global Lounge’s online language cafes, virtual dissertation writing retreats and events put on by societies (check out their Facebook pages or websites for all the info!) I find the combination of learning something new, getting motivated to write my diss., and having some down time an effective way to get online whilst not scrolling mindlessly through Instagram all day.

3)    Reconnect with friends. Talk to your course mates about what you’re all doing to stay focused, and have open conversations about how everyone’s getting on. Start an online revision club; come up with a new project; go along to an online society event together. That one person on your course you got on with in first year but gradually drifted from? I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it.

And as for disconnecting? Disconnect from any news sources which are making you feel anxious whilst trying to write or study and disconnect from using social media too much (cliché but true). Finally, disconnect with the idea that this part of your degree is any less valuable than any other parts. Because despite the chaos, this is a powerful opportunity to reconnect with a new way of learning.

What are some of the ways you intend to reconnect with the world throughout isolation? Leave some inspiration in the comments to connect with the next person who comes along.