Managing your mental health while studying online is perhaps the most important aspect of your learning experience. Finding intuitive and fun ways to keep your mood and body in check can be integrated into each day to achieve a rhythm that fits you like a glove. We’ve made some suggestions to springboard your ideas -
By Elena Carruthers. Published 12 June 2021.
Stick to a routine
Routines have so many positive benefits, but we all have our own rhythm. Waking at 6am is not an energising experience for everyone. Where napping at lunchtime might be one person’s answer to recharging, running at lunchtime may be another’s. Observe what your natural rhythm is and if altering waking and sleeping patterns gives you the extra boost of endorphins you may need while studying at home.
We suggest injecting playfulness and fun into your routine to lighten the mood. Do you have a stress-ball to bounce off a wall while revising complex information? Find something to look forward at the mid and end points of the working day – a hot chocolate or trip to the gym for example.
Make a comfortable safe space
How many cushions do you need on a chair to feel completely comfortable? Can your feet fully touch the ground when sitting at your desk? These are important questions to ask when making your designated workspace feel like a cosy cocoon. The safer and more comfortable the space, the less likely you are to experience the stress, anxiety or racing thoughts that can sometimes arise with pressure.
Also, be aware of light from the computer screen. Blue light can have damaging effects on your focus, tension levels and ability to produce melatonin. Get a screen cover for blue-light reduction and it may also improve your ability to wind down in the evenings and tap into that most precious resource - sleep.
Take a break
Work on your projects in focused bursts, with regular screen breaks in-between. Take time to reconnect with your body and remember that what you do, feel, and eat effects your mood. We can manage our moods by adding some creativity and silliness to each day – whether that means half an hour of online laughter yoga or making a fruit plater in shape of a spaceship – every upbeat activity contributes to a more agile and calm state of mind. It is this ‘flow state’ that holds the key to problem solving and thinking ‘outside of the box.’
Experts say that we need a few positive relationships in life to support us and keep us on track. These don’t have to be old school friends but think about who your cheer-team could be and how often you can realistically spend quality time with them by phone/zoom or in person. Choose wisely – who is it that always leaves you feeling good when you come off the phone? Pets can be motivating too and dogs especially are sure to keep you on a good early rising/sleeping schedule. Does your campus, employer, local council, or club offer a free counselling service? Accessing confidential wellbeing is not as intimidating as it might sometimes seem. This often comes in the form of structured appointments or a twenty-four-hour chat service. In the UK we are lucky to have a few charities that also provide that sense of community support when we most need it, including CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), Samaritans, The Mix – if you are under 25, and Switchboard if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
While you may love your family/cat/partner to bits, they might (at times) be a distraction from studying. Setting boundaries with people we share space with can be hard. Having that friendly conversation at breakfast about when you’re going to be in a study-cave each day can manage expectations and set the scene of what your day will look like. You might want to develop a personal ritual of putting a sign on your door when unavailable or leaving a note on the fridge…
Don’t work 24/7
It can be tempting, while working in your natural habitat, to keep working into the evening or early hours of the morning, especially when revising for exams. Hold yourself accountable to a routine and only study for a set hours per day. Burning out, exhaustion and anxiety caused by lack of rest/sleep will do far more harm to your chances of success than good. Importantly, be kind to yourself and check in with how you feel in each part of the day.
It has been proven that anxiety and depression increase during periods of isolation and pressure. Know that there is always someone you can reach out to and that managing your mood can help you steer the course of a rewarding and fulfilling part of your life.
If you are a ULaw student and need someone to talk to please visit our wellbeing page here. Otherwise, consider using one of the services below -
Calm: (5pm-midnight) 0800 58 58 58
The Mix: (3pm-11.15pm) 08088084994
Switchboard: (10am-10pm) 03003300630
To find out about learning your way with ULaw, visit our Online Campus page here.