Thanks to Lorna Savage, Internships Adviser, and Shelley Morgan, Careers Consultant – Projects, who are also members of our Wellbeing at Work Group for this insightful blog post:
You’re likely having all kinds of thoughts and feelings about the prospect of hybrid teaching, including digital learning and socialising this semester. While there are perks and drawbacks to every situation, it’s also unlikely to be what you had in mind when you thought about starting university… and if you’re a continuing student, the end of the last academic year has given you a taster of what’s to come.
For some, this new situation may really suit you. If you enjoy spending time online, are used to talking to your friends digitally, or already have well-developed digital skills, you may be feeling confident about the transition, but even the most introverted of individuals have been impacted by the lack of in-person social contact during the 2020 lockdown.
So, here are our top five tips to be realistic about the situation but also find the silver linings:
1. Recognise and manage your cycle of thoughts and feelings
You likely have experience of this by now, perhaps a few hours, days, (or weeks!), where you feel like you are not at your best. Be assured there is no ‘normal’ way to feel. Remind yourself that you are dealing daily with a changing situation, personally, nationally, and globally and it’s natural to have good and bad days.
2. Build strategies for dealing with uncertainty that work for you
If living for the moment is your style, you may not be noticing much of a change day-to-day. Regardless of whether you normally have a plan, you may find strategies such as if/then planning could be helpful to manage uncertainty, i.e. “if there is a local lockdown and my classes switch to digital delivery, then I will schedule regular catch ups with my friends, family, and those on my course to socialise and protect my wellbeing”. Plans like this can help you to feel in control. The University’s Counselling Service has also created a resource specifically around managing fears and anxiety around coronavirus.
3. Develop a positive mindset and behaviours
It’s easy to slip into negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophising and negative filters where we see every situation through a negative lens. The news and social media can be a factor when it highlights distressing stories. Try a gratitude journal, thinking of three things each day you enjoyed, made you smile, or that you’re thankful for. Recognise and address setbacks, but this activity will help you to avoid letting one interaction or issue influence your memory of the entire day.
Staying physically active is also really important during this time, as you can spend a lot more time sitting down and staring at screens when you’re learning online. Make sure you take regular breaks from your screens to rest your eyes, and moving around and stretching regularly can help you to not get stiff and sore, including these stretches you can do from your chair.
The University provides a lot of resources and services to support your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Sport and Exercise has a handy collection of home work out videos and how-to guides such as pilates.
4. Focus on what you’re gaining
Concentrate on how resilient you have been whilst dealing with the ever-changing situation you find yourself in. You have succeeded in tackling 100% of the challenges you have faced so far, whether you remember them in this way or not. You will now improve your digital skills, access opportunities to build new skills, friendships, and networks. There is much to gain!
5. Figure out what is within and outwith your control or influence
Writer Stephen R. Covey in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”, asks us to imagine three circles with yourself at the centre. The inner circle contains everything you can control, the next circle contains what is within your influence, and the outer circle contains everything else going on in the world… that which you cannot control. Whichever you invest time into will grow. Even if your overall aim is to influence that outside circle, you have to grow the inner circle first. While aspects of your life feel uncertain, focus on what you can control.
Hopefully these tips will help you to stay safe, positive and well during semester one and beyond. Let us know in the comments below any other strategies you have found useful!
Whether you’re a new or returning student, the Careers Service is here to support you; whatever stage you are at.
(Image credit: Lisa Fotios from Pexels)