If you are feeling heightened levels of anxiety at the moment, know you aren’t alone. The COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event that we are all experiencing as a collective. It is not business as usual, so please do not beat yourself up if you feel as though you are not performing at your normal level.
As a student, I usually procrastinate a little but eventually get work done when I need to. I’ve been struggling lately with fatigue and a newfound, mysterious inability to be able to put pen to paper at all, my focus completely disappearing. It took me a week or two of this discord before I realised the link to my general mood and the world’s events.
We have all been affected by the pandemic in some way, whether directly or indirectly. The fact that it is now illegal to do so many things we once took for granted, like going out for a meal, seeing friends, or even visiting family, is really sad. It is okay to grieve that loss of freedom, and it is perfectly reasonable to feel less productive than usual.
If you’re finding it hard to focus on your studies, remember that it’s okay to take breaks. Just because you are now at home a lot more, does not mean you are obligated to spend every waking hour on your studies; everybody needs some R&R!
Sometimes, stepping back from an assignment when feeling unproductive, doing something else and then returning to the assignment is great for productivity. If you are feeling anxious or you are having an off day, don’t make yourself feel worse by forcing study. Instead, try doing something more leisurely and relaxing, then return to the assignment the next day with a renewed enthusiasm.
Some activities to try include:
You can buy cheap paints and paintbrushes online. I find sitting down and focusing on something creative very soothing, plus you’re enhancing your artistic abilities!
Sitting down – without your phone – and reading something is very relaxing. Plus, depending on what you choose to read, you might learn something new. Either way, reading something is much better for your brain than scrolling mindlessly through your phone for the twentieth time in a day.
Exercise has been proven to improve mental health and reduce anxiety. Getting into the habit of doing some light exercise each day or going for a solo walk will provide you with some fresh air, a slight sense of schedule and control, and some extra endorphins!
Cooking or baking
This is my go-to. I find cooking dinner each night the most relaxing part of the day. I have included my recipe for pita bread, if you’d like to try it. It is cheap, easy (you can probably find flour now) and so relaxing to make. Having to knead and roll the dough is a great distraction from everything going on, because you really have to focus on it.
Some chill time is great, but it is not a cure-all. For me at least, I’ve found each day to be laced with an underlying feeling of anxiety which I can’t quite shake. The ambiguity of the situation makes it all the more difficult. We do not know when this will end, and we do not know what our brave new world is going to look like once we do emerge. But, it seems, the show must go on.
As much as I would like to pause uni while I come to terms with my new way of life, that is not going to happen. For me, break week came at the perfect time, allowing me to catch up on missed readings and quizzes while also having a bit of a mental break from looming weekly tasks. If you feel as though you have fallen behind, don’t despair. Here are a few tips I have found helpful for catching up on work:
- Put your phone away! Seriously, put it in another room. It is so hard for me to get anything done while the temptation of my phone is staring at me.
- Assign yourself a certain number of readings, weekly activities or time working on an assessment piece each day.
- Create a weekly and daily ‘to-do’ list. This will help you assert a little more control over the situation, plus you know that once you’ve completed all your jobs for the day, you can relax.
Finally, if you feel you are really struggling, reach out. Your lecturers understand that this is an insane time, and they are here to help you. If you keep them in the loop, you will be far more likely to be granted an extension than if you don’t make any contact with them and just do not complete assessment tasks. Your lecturers do not want to see you fail!
It is also worth remembering that your university is here to help you. Counselling is a great way to develop some coping strategies for issues like anxiety. CQUni has free counselling available to assist students with both academic and personal issues. You can self-refer and arrange an appointment by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling (07) 4930 9456. Visit here for more information.
With empathy and kindness, we will all get through these strange times, and one day it will all be a distant, weird memory. Until then, take care, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing great!
Caitlin Murphy is a current Professional Communications student and member of the Social Squad – a group of content creators helping to promote student and campus life at CQUniversity.