Studying during COVID-19: Reflections and advice from our students. Blog 1, by Gabrielle Nieuwoudt (BSc Psychology)

Studying during COVID-19: Reflections and advice from our students. Blog 1, by Gabrielle Nieuwoudt (BSc Psychology)

This blog was voted the best blog in this series, congratulations Gabrielle!

Learning How to Manage My Anxiety During the Pandemic

The first few weeks of lockdown are a blur – I barely remember individual days. I was overcome with anxiety, struggling to focus, and barely sleeping. I would log into Moodle and feel dazed. It didn’t feel real – it still doesn’t.

My psychiatrist and therapist were concerned for me. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder years ago, lockdown was the furthest thing from conducive for me. But with their help, and the compassion of my family, I was able to manage my mental health.

I struggled initially with balance. As I sat and worked through the online lecture content or my revision for the approaching alternative assessments, I found it very difficult to know when to stop. But introducing a daily planner into my life helped me, and is something I’ll continue to use post-lockdown. A daily planner allowed me to map out my day, just like a standard lecture timetable would. I was able to manage my thoughts and time more effectively, and reduce my anxiety levels. I would schedule small tasks like ‘Make your bed, and break down bigger tasks into smaller more achievable ones, such as ‘Revise page 200’, instead of ‘Revise Chapter 10’.

I also tried to pick up new hobbies – nothing too complicated, as I knew that would stress me out more. Cooking became a fun activity for me to do. I tried to draw, which I wasn’t very good at, but I loved having something else to focus on. I also spent a lot of time listening to music – and I ensured I was listening to music that made me feel good. I knew that what I consumed would impact my mental wellbeing.

As the alternative assessments neared, I found myself feeling quite anxious again. It was also during this time that the weather was changing and many people in my neighbourhood were spending time outside. I felt the familiar panic from the beginning of lockdown settle in once more. I’d have my daily planner next to me, but I couldn’t follow it – I was unable to manage my time effectively.

Talking and writing definitely helped me here. I turned to people, both at home and on social media, and spoke or wrote to them, or just listened to what they had to say. It helped me realise that I wasn’t alone in my feelings and experiences. This helped to settle my anxiety and get into the right mindset for exams.

I tried to maintain this attitude by sticking to my daily planner, but by also going easier on myself. If I felt like I couldn’t get work done, I wouldn’t force myself to work. I’d get up and try again later on. I listened to both my body and mind, and learned a lot about myself. I am more resilient than I thought, and capable of surviving the unknown.

As humans, we are adaptable, and I hope we can take this lesson with us into the world post-lockdown, too. Therefore, my advice to other students, especially to those experiencing things similar to me, is to remind yourself that you are capable and resilient, and you will get through this.