Megan Maunder is a PGR Mathematics student (CEMPS), who has kindly shared her thoughts on ways to manage stress and fatigue during lockdown.
As a neurodiverse and chronically ill person I am finding lockdown particularly challenging. The change in routine, inability to make long terms plans, and absence of some of my favourite activities and distractions all add to my discomfort and my ability to self-motivate. Talking to family and friends, I am not alone in this. I’ve found one of the biggest issues with lockdown is that we are suddenly consumed by the minutiae of life. We often turn to the bigger picture to help centre ourselves and give us a sense of perspective, but now this may be inherently scary, and we have little planned to look forward to. Many of us are now bogged down in the small things, and whilst they might help and give comfort, they in themselves can also be a source of distress.
The uncertainty of this situation is something I’m struggling with but with the help of family, friends, mentors, and adapting my existing coping techniques I’ve found a few things that help:
We tend to be quite good at making to do lists when it comes to planning university work or errands but we’re not so good at doing this for positive things that help us feel better. Make a list of everything you enjoy that you are still able to do, activities, hobbies, and self-care. It sounds ridiculous, but often when I’m stressed I often forget what I can do to help myself. Make sure you schedule time each week to do some of the things on your list and, whenever you feel overwhelmed choose to do one of them for at least 10 minutes to help focus and calm you down. For me this includes Tai-Chi, short walks, reading, and I’ve recently taken up watercolours.
At the start of each week, I also make a plan for meals (with a few contingents) so that my partner and I know exactly who is cooking and what we’re eating each night. Making all my food decisions for a week in one block helps reduce some of the stress and fatigue around decision making. It also helps reduce food waste and it’s surprisingly easy to hype yourself up for whatever is planned that evening. Tonight I’m looking forward to making Mediterranean Tarts!
Timers are your best friend. When I lived alone, I found it almost impossible to function well without them, particularly for meals and separating work and leisure. If you don’t like the idea of eating alone, I find the TV or video calling a close friend or family member helps. If you live with other people, I suggest setting a mutually agreed upon time for lunch and your evening meal. This gives you all a chance to decompress, and take some perspective and makes sure you eat and look after your body. For example, my partner and I have set times for lunch and when to start preparing dinner, it gives us a way to manage our schedules, separate work and leisure, and encourages us to eat healthily.
Most of us struggle with maintaining a healthy level of digital connection. Spending too much time ‘plugged in’ can often make me feel anxious and overwhelmed. Being apart from so many family and friends it’s tempting to schedule in more virtual commitments and want to feel more connected – I was definitely guilty of this at the start of lockdown! I was constantly connecting but I quickly felt burnt out and realised I needed more time offline and to myself. I’ve now cut down on online social events and massively reduced my social media consumption. I set screen limits for certain apps and make sure I have plenty of ‘analog’ activities. I’ve recently removed all work/university content from my phone and tablet. Before, with locations changing and travel I needed to access my work emails and files from these devices but now I’m permanently at home I only access them via my laptop. This way I can ensure my time off is truly separate from university work.