1. Physical WellbeingDuring this period the basics will really matter. How and when you eat, the quality of your sleep and getting exercise, sunlight and fresh air will make a difference to how you feel physically and emotionally.
While it can be tempting to get through challenging situations by snacking on sugary and fatty food or by drinking caffeine, over time this will leave you feeling sluggish, low in mood and more vulnerable to anxiety. Try to eat regularly, at similar times each day, and to maintain as balanced a diet as possible, depending on what food you have. This doesn’t mean you have to eat a perfect healthy diet. Focus on eating as healthily as possible today. Small steps in the right direction can add up to a large effect.
If you are able to, going for a run, walk or cycle will boost your mood and how you feel physically. Just being outside is good for us and, if possible, take some time in nature.
It will also help if you maintain a routine. This doesn’t have to be exactly the same each day and you can be flexible in how you apply it. If something disrupts your plans, it’s ok. Having a structure to your day can increase your sense of control and purpose and help to energise you. It is particularly important to maintain good quality sleep.
2. Psychological wellbeingHow and what we think has a significant role in shaping how we experience the world. During this period it may be important to work with your thoughts to help maintain your wellbeing. There are a number of strategies that may help.
- Accept reality and any negative facts of feelings that come with that. The outbreak of coronavirus and the adaptations we’re all having to make, aren’t a great thing. It’s ok to acknowledge that and to be disappointed about plans that you’ve had to cancel or worried about what may happen. Accepting reality doesn’t mean wallowing in the negativity, but by accepting where we are, we can then make realistic plans to make the situation as good as it can be.
- Look for any steps you can take to make the situation better, even if just by a little bit. Focus on what you can control or influence. Small changes really can make a difference. Are there things you usually want to do but never have time for? Will having to be at home reduce the number of demands on you? Can you use this time to do something enjoyable or productive?
- Be careful of boredom – we thrive when we have meaning and purpose in our lives. See if you can set yourself some challenges or create projects. If you have children this may simply be about focusing on their experience. Give each day something to focus upon but be realistic about what is possible.
3. Social wellbeing
It is important to remember that at the moment we are being asked to distance ourselves physically, not to socially isolate. Keeping in touch with others remains important. It can help if you plan this with your friends and family, so it is not left to chance. You may want to agree regular times for speaking online or over the phone. You may even want to take up the old practice of writing letters, which can have a different quality of communication.
We also know that volunteering and helping others is good for us and them. Perhaps you could arrange a WhatsApp group between your neighbours, in case anyone has to self-isolate. Or you could offer to do food shopping for anyone who is being asked to completely self-isolate due to their health or age.
4. Academic Wellbeing
Many students will have had to make a rather abrupt shift to online learning in the last few weeks. You may already have noticed that online learning is very different to in classroom learning. It is ok if at first this seems alien and you don’t feel you are learning as effectively. It will get better the more you do it. You can find guidance online to help you become more proficient at this.
Please also be aware that your lecturers have had to do a lot of work to transfer their teaching to online delivery. This is a task that should take months, so be kind if it isn’t smooth and polished yet. It doesn’t mean they don’t care.
You can help by using this opportunity to take more control of your learning. We know that students who learn deeply (reading widely, thinking broadly, making connections and controlling the direction of their learning) have better wellbeing and academic performance. If you can use this time to deepen your learning, it will increase your sense of meaning and purpose, control and competence. You could potentially leave this period with more skills and a deeper understanding that will benefit you in future.
Although most universities have moved to online teaching, they have not gone away. Tutors, library staff and student services teams are still available to help you. Find out how your university is providing these services now and make use of them if you need to. You are still a student and we still want to work with you and help you through this time.
(This is just a small number of ideas – but different things work for different people, if these don’t work for you there are many other authors offering alternatives online. Experiment and find what works for you.)Gareth Hughes is author of the forthcoming Be Well, Learn Well.