Silviya Sotirova, a 4th year QMU film and media student shares her optimistic thoughts on keeping your spirits up if you’re a student who suddenly finds themselves needing to study remotely. Silviya has recently returned to her home country, Bulgaria.

Across the world, millions of people no longer have the luxury of going out, meeting a friend for brunch or shopping in their favourite clothing store. As social distancing, voluntary self-isolation and mandatory quarantine come into force to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in many countries, everyone is encouraged to take the necessary measures and spend unprecedented amounts of time at home. Sadly, students are no exception. The current circumstances have put governments and universities under severe pressure and all in-person activities at QMU and other universities have stopped for now. No more classes, no more late night studying in the library with friends, no more Starbucks social gatherings on campus. On top of everything, the end of the semester is fast-approaching which means one more hurdle to jump – digitalised exams, essays and projects which we have to do from home. Staying at home for days or weeks - while at the same time preparing for end of semester exams - can be quite bothersome.

Reminding yourself that we are all in the same boat and you are not alone might be slightly comforting. Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the established order globally and brought many challenges and stressors to us all. Regardless of whether you are staying on the QMU campus or in Edinburgh or have successfully returned to your hometown or home country, the good news is that there are always ways to avoid cabin fever, keep your spirits high and maximise your productivity. Perhaps the  best thing to do in this situation is simply focus on what you can control rather than getting caught up on what you can’t. Let’s make note of that and find ways to best approach these extraordinary circumstances. Here are a few things you could consider doing or avoid doing to remain safe and healthy and not let anxiety and boredom set in:

Try to not over study or procrastinate until the last moment

Spending most or all of your time at home in the upcoming busy exam period, you might feel tempted to either completely focus on studying or start watching a new TV show and procrastinate until you don’t have any time left and there is no way out unless to push too hard in one go. My personal experience of studying has taught me that neither of these approaches is ideal. Balance can be easily achieved by simply setting your own deadlines and dividing bigger tasks into smaller subtasks. We need to remember that organising our study sessions effectively not only minimises procrastination, but also allows for some breaks inbetween to indulge in other activities and recharge our batteries.

Get enough quality sleep

Being able to get 7-8 hours of sleep without having to get up too early in the morning feels awesome and is something that many people can rarely afford in their normally busy routine. When it comes to health, the experts tell us that sleep plays an important role in keeping the immune system in fighting shape to protect you from a cold or flu. What is more, getting enough sleep is an under-valued, but essential part of learning and there’s well-documented evidence that quality sleep is the key to functioning and performing well. Now is the best time to improve your sleep patterns and get more rest which will boost your immunity and improve your ability to focus on your studies optimally.

Reduce the sense of self-isolation

Staying at home doesn’t mean you should completely self-isolate from the outside world. It’s still important to get some fresh air and sunlight if you can. Though it’s important to adhere to the rules your government has put in place about social distancing and time spent in public places, walking around the nearest park or neighbourhood is not such a bad idea. But be sure to wash your hands as soon as you get home. If you are lucky enough to have a garden or a yard, that is one more great opportunity to spend some time outside within your home setup.

Keep in touch with your family and friends

People are more digitally connected than ever before, so going virtual or picking up the phone is another way to check in with your people and feel less isolated. Whenever you feel anxious or stressed or when you are taking a break from studying, just talk to someone on the phone or if you live with other people, chat with them. Video when you are able to. For me anyway, seeing the faces of my loved ones always cheers me up. Regardless of the method used to contact the loved ones,  communication is crucial to protecting your mental health and wellness. Hearing a friendly voice and finding out how other people are getting on in the same situation gives us the emotional support we need at this time.

Keep eating healthy

When you are shut off at home, it can be very tempting to sit on the sofa all day, eating unbalanced meals and snacking while binge watching. Filling your cupboards with some snacks and indulging a little is fine, but do yourself a favour and don’t forget that a good diet is vital to health. We don’t need a whole lot food stashed away to survive, so I’d say it might be wiser to avoid mindless hoarding and panic buying and instead come up with a meal plan. The period of social distancing or self-isolation allows us to pay extra attention to our dietary needs and improve our healthy eating habits. And cooking and experimenting with new healthy recipes that can be found in recipe books or online is one more way of having fun.

Keep Physically Active

Gyms have closed, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on exercising. Working out should remain an important part of our daily routine even at home, because it can greatly boost our physical and mental state. There are many different workouts that can be performed with little to no equipment or slightly improvising. It is not even necessary to do an hour-long workout. Great results can be achieved with 5-10 minutes of meditative relaxation or a few push-ups, sit-ups and squats that would positively affect the central nervous system and the immune system. It is only necessary to know what to do and how to do it. This can be easily solved through the use of online resources. Sadly, QMU gym has to remain closed for now, but you can still access workouts via their new app. What is more, YouTube, for example, has plenty of channels that offer some advice and instruction in everything from yoga to zumba to strength training.

Organise your home

There is a correlation between a chaotic home and chaotic mind and we would only benefit from making an effort to keep our homes clean and better organised. Now is the perfect time to take the next step on our journey toward better cleanliness and do the things we’ve been postponing for a little while – removing the dust from furniture or clearing out that overloaded cupboard that explodes every time someone opens it. The very act of tidying up not only helps us stay active while at home (or on campus), but also a thoroughly organised space might make a significant difference to our studies. It can help us concentrate and, in short, have a major impact on our overall productivity.

Keep yourself entertained

Undoubtedly, the amount of time spent watching films and TV shows while at home is going to skyrocket now. However, in case you are willing to consider taking a binge watch break and spending some time off-screen, there are other interesting activities, which I have engaged in during my self-isolation, and recommend you check out. The libraries are closed now, but you can pick up a book from your home library, download an audiobook, complete a jigsaw or play a funny or educational game with the people you live with. Any of these would bring variety to your routine, lower stress levels and keep you entertained.

Overall, this tough situation is new to everyone and deciding how to properly face it can be quite confusing. However, we know that self-isolation and social distancing is crucial for everyone’s wellbeing and safety, so we need to make an effort to adjust our lifestyles to the new circumstances to reduce risk for ourselves and others. Many aspects of everyone’s daily routine have changed and the key to my inner peace and satisfaction is reframing our mindset from “I’m stuck inside” to “I can focus on myself and have fun”. Doing some of the above-mentioned activities can change our experience indoors. In short, it can help us remain in shape, both physically and mentally and enhance our learning abilities. And remember, no matter how long it lasts, this is just a phase and at some point the world will get back to normal. Until then our task is to stay safe and healthy and finish the semester from our place with our sanity intact.  

Silviya Sotirova

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