When the first lockdown happened in March, I was still on my professional placement and thankfully working part-time two days a week. But what did I do with the other five days? Like many other people, I baked banana bread and started to follow daily workout routines, but I admittedly only kept this up for two weeks. I then turned to my placement assignments and read more literature surrounding race for my dissertation, which was productive, yes. But I also spent time binge watching Netflix series and that was okay too.
Despite this, time just went too slowly, and I couldn’t separate my weekdays from my weekends. I found myself wanting to use my brain in a more engaging way and was keen and ready to start my final year of university.
So, now I have, it’s November and already two months in. I’m absolutely loving my modules and the opportunity to learn again, despite the larger workload. At the time of writing this, we are a week into our second lockdown. As disappointing as it may be, I’m determined to view it positively and just wanted to share some things that have helped me in the hope that it may help you too.
1. Get up and get dressed
To maintain a sense of normality, try starting your day at 9am. I know not everyone may be a morning person, but with winter months resulting in shorter and darker days, try to utilise those brighter hours. This way, you won’t be working into the evenings and you can ensure you have downtime and maintain a level of self-care. Remember, getting up also means getting dressed, so swap those pyjama’s and sweats for actual clothes (or just do half). You’ll be surprised as to how good it makes you feel and look.
2. Leave the house
As a high-risk individual, I became quite stir crazy in the first lockdown and was worried about leaving the house. It can be suffocating staring at the same four walls, day in and day out, especially when working remotely. Now I try to go for a walk in my local park at least three times a week (sticking to a 2m social distance and wearing a facemask of course). I even just sit in my garden and listen to an audiobook from my reading list or just bring a notepad to jot down any thoughts, with the aim of decluttering my mind. ‘A breath of fresh air’ really does help and shouldn’t be underestimated. Just maybe add a few extra layers of clothing now it’s cold outside.
3. Spend time with your loved ones
Whether you are at home this lockdown or in university accommodation, spend quality time with your friends and family. Lockdown actually makes this easier for us and gives us that extra bit of time together, especially with the festive season approaching. Even if you don’t live with them, the odd FaceTime with a friend will boost not only yours, but their mood too. It will also reassure you that we are all in the same boat, so it’s important to be there for one another. As they say, physical distance is different from social distance.
4. Practise some deep breathing exercises
As I was scrolling through Instagram, I found a breathing technique called ‘box breathing’ on @goodhumansonly. It’s essentially breathing in for four counts, holding for four counts and then breathing out for four counts. You can repeat this as many times as you like, but they recommend doing this for five minutes. I found this so helpful, especially when feeling stressed or anxious about looming deadlines. It removed the tension I didn’t even know I was holding in my body.
Considering all of this, it’s okay if you don’t do any of these things, or if you have your own list. Completing university (especially the final year), in a pandemic and another lockdown is extremely difficult. I know we’ve heard it all before, but this pandemic has taught me that we really do need to be kinder to ourselves routinely and that’s exactly what I’m planning to do.
The question is, are you?
Louisa Daley, final year BA English Literature student