Lockdown is hard on all of us. Instead of studying on campus, making new friends – we are stuck inside on our laptops every day. It can be hard to find the motivation to knuckle down and study. Some days it takes me nearly all day to actually feel like getting anything done! I started my Master’s degree a few months ago, back in September. It is only one-year long and so I am literally doing my entire degree from my bedroom. The last year has really tested my resilience and encouraged me to come up with some new coping strategies when things feel really tough. I decided to share some of the things that I’ve found particularly useful, and hopefully you do, too!
Do Something with Your Hands
Whenever I feel stressed I end up with a million worries running through my head. Am I going to fail this assignment? What if I never think of a topic for my dissertation? Will I ever leave my bedroom again? It can be easy to get overwhelmed. The best thing to do when this happens is find something that forces you to stop thinking and focus on something else.
Doing something that keeps your hands busy stimulates your brain into producing good chemicals that balance your emotions and lower anxiety.
Cooking and Baking. I have become quite a proficient baker over the last few months. I like baking because it gives me a tangible goal to work towards. Weighing out ingredients, stirring, kneading, chopping; these are all very therapeutic actions that your mind needs to fully focus on. It is rewarding to work towards something fun for a change, instead of yet another essay.
You can easily find very simple fairy cake recipes, such as this one, to help you get started if you haven’t had much baking experience before.
Jigsaws. Doing a jigsaw is the best mind-numbing activity I can think of. My mind gets so pre-occupied with finding all the pieces and figuring out how they fit together that before I know it an hour has passed and I haven’t thought about my worries once. Yes, you will get frustrated at times and yes, it isn’t the coolest hobby – but it works.
Do Something that Occupies your Mind
Sometimes I don’t feel like moving from my chair all day, and that’s okay! Here are some things that help me to distract my mind when I don’t feel like doing anything else.
Read for fun. You probably already do a lot of reading for your course, however, there is a difference between study reading and reading for fun. Reading an enjoyable book can help to lower feelings of psychological distress as you temporarily escape from escape into a new world (source: Healthline). I have sometimes found myself going back and reading books from my childhood, such as ‘The Princess Diaries’, because I know it’s something that doesn’t require too much brain power to read. Any book or comic that you find fun to read is great!
Play Games. Similar to the guidance on why it is good to read a book – it helps take you out of your current world and into a new one. Any game is good!
I find games like The Sims to be particularly good for this; ones that are very stress-free and I can dip in and out of. However, I know that sometimes I can get sucked into playing games like that for hours on end, so if I just want a brief stress-reliever I play games like ‘Geoguessr’. This is a free online game you can play. Using Google Maps, you are dropped somewhere completely random anywhere in the world. By moving around, you have to find out where in the world you are and drop an arrow of your location on a map. The closer you are, the more points you get. This game is very relaxing; it takes about thirty minutes to complete, and you can put some music on and enjoy clicking your way around the world.
Do Something for your Body
Have a daily walk. Even if it is only for twenty minutes. Walking is proven to reduce feelings of anxiety and other negative moods. It can also help to boost your self-esteem and reduce the symptoms of social withdrawal. Having a walk can also help to clear your head and open up a free flow of activity in your mind to think of new ideas. (source: Healthline). Having a walk whilst listening to music is the most relaxing part of my day.
Keep hydrated. If it feels like you can’t focus properly and it is taking a long time for you to do any work, it could be because you are dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can impair your energy levels, lower your mood and lead to lower brain performance. Try to drink between six and eight glasses of liquid per day of either water, tea, coffee or sugar-free drinks. It could give your motivation the extra boost it needs!
Stay in Touch
I am in a strange position where I have never met anyone on my course and I maybe never will. However, we have managed to form close online relationships despite this – both with other classmates and lecturers. My biggest piece of advice to take away from this blog is: stay in touch.
Your lecturers want you to do well. They are passionate about what they teach and want students to get the most out of their degree. If you are struggling with studying at home, email them and let them know. They can set up online video tutorials to discuss the work with you or talk to you about other worries you have about the course. If you are having personal difficulties and will be unable to submit an assignment on time they can let you know where to access mitigating circumstances in order to get a deadline extension. I will say this again: they want you to do well and so will be there to help.
If you can, try and organise a whole class group chat. It is really useful for everyone to talk about the course and share advice on assignments. Having an active group chat is also fun! You can virtually bond with your classmates and there will nearly always be someone around at any time of the night if you feel like having a chat. We are still in lockdown, after all. Who sleeps at regular hours anymore?
These are some things that I have personally found to help me through my lockdown studies. Not everything will work for everyone, but I hope that at least some of it will be useful!
Good luck with the rest of your studies!
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