With the world as it is right now, it is very understandable that some of the nation’s mental health is suffering. Isolated from our loved ones and our normal lives, many of us are feeling totally unable to function and yet we are expected to continue with our lives to the best of our ability – namely our degrees. Burnout is a usual part of the university experience when there is not a pandemic going on and so now it is even more prevalent. We need to take care of ourselves and look after one another to get through this dystopian reality that we have been plunged into.
Burnout is not something to be ashamed of, we all go through it and now more than ever. Here are some tips on dealing with burnout.
- Wake up and shower.
This sounds like such a basic task but waking up early and starting the day off clean and clothed makes me feel so much better. Even if I am feeling sluggish and unproductive, doing this every morning – even if I do not feel like it – means that I have at least accomplished one thing.
- Treat yourself as you would a friend.
It is very easy to spiral into a self-criticising cycle of self-loathing when we are isolated with only ourselves for company. One way of tackling these thoughts is to meditate – one technique that the app Headspace teaches is labelling. When your brain tells you something negative or horrible, or you feel a certain way label it ‘thought’ or ‘feeling.’ Although simple, after doing this for a while your brain reprograms, and you will find that these thoughts become quieter and hold less weight in your mind. (Headspace is free with a student Spotify)
- Listen to your body.
If you are feeling really burnt out and simply cannot move – give yourself the day off! There is no point in forcing yourself to stare at your screen not taking anything in for hours. You will be more productive if you give yourself time to breathe. If you feel like sleeping – do it. If you feel like binging a tv series – do it. It is so important to let yourself have a break, especially while stuck in lockdown as many of us feel like we must be working all the time!
This has been scientifically proven to help your mental health. With gyms closed you may be wondering how you can do this. Running is a great option and is so rewarding – try couch to 5k if you are a beginner (I did this last lockdown; I could not run for more than a minute and I am now running 10k! It works honestly!) If running really is not your thing, there are loads of workouts on YouTube. You can also buy weights online, which may be an option if you have cash to burn. Walking and cycling are also great, and with access to Next bikes, Cardiff is your oyster. The dose of fresh air and physical exertion is essential to your mental wellbeing – even if you are not feeling up to it, take yourself out for a short walk every day, you will be amazed by how much better you start to feel.
- Set yourself a timetable.
It is so easy to start the day thinking you will be productive and end up staring at your screen for five hours having written one sentence. Map out how long you want to study, use an app like Focus to force yourself to work for a specific period and when the timer goes – have a break! This means that you do not waste time and breaks up your day more.
- Take up a hobby.
With no access to the outside world right now, many people are finding it difficult to do anything other than work – what else is there but Netflix? Lots. You could draw, paint, crochet, knit, make jewellery, write, photography, read, cook, chess, games night with your housemates – there are so many things you could do. You must realise that you are not going to master anything immediately, skills take time so do not be put off.
- Make time to facetime loved ones.
Lockdown can be a lonely time. Everyone is in the same boat and often find it difficult to reach out. Even if you do not feel like it, sometimes it can be good to force yourself into social situations (even if it is over a screen now). If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can always make an excuse – with Virgin WIFI in Cathays it is understandable!
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Having suffered with depression and anxiety throughout my university experience, I have found that keeping a gratitude journal in general has helped my mental health massively. In times such as these, keeping hold of those positive thoughts are so important and often make me realise that my day has not been as bad as I thought it had.
- Take a break from screens.
While this is easier said than done now, finding ways to disengage from your screens – even just for a few hours – can make such a difference. This is when your new-fangled hobbies can take centre stage and you can engage with the world outside of a blue-lit rectangle.
- Get enough sleep.
Try turning your phone off at 10pm and get yourself ready to sleep/wind down for 11. This gives you plenty of time to sleep which is necessary to ensure your mood, productivity, and general well-being for the next day. A healthy sleep pattern is important for general mental health but in lockdown, when it sometimes feels as if there’s no point in getting up – having a good sleep pattern can give you a base structure on which to build your day on.
I hope this has helped, burnout can be a depressing and lonely experience. Most of the population are currently experiencing it or have experienced it so you are not alone. If you are really struggling it is a good idea to talk to a professional, either a Cardiff service or a counsellor on an app (BetterHelp has been recommended by many people).