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Dealing with psychological impacts of Covid-19 as a student

Hamizah Afandi, final year UCL Archaeology student, shares her advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during these challenging and uncertain times.

The past few months have been a long ride for each and every one of us. Whether you had your learning experience disrupted, holiday or internship plans cancelled, or you had to go through the hassle of taking precautionary measures to travel on planes in order to be with your loved ones - the outbreak has definitely impacted all of us in one way or another.

It is important to acknowledge that the pandemic that we are living in is not only an epidemiological crisis, but also a psychological one. While fear about Covid-19 can trigger emotional distress and extreme paranoia in individuals, mass quarantine or restricted movement order imposed through nationwide lockdown programs has also led to a myriad of consequences on one’s mental health. As students, it has been a challenging period to stay sane while having to stay indoors especially when you’re living alone, yet it is also a challenge to focus on your online task when you are back home with a less conducive environment to work remotely. 

Women in red t-shirt looking at her laptop

In order to endure this challenging time, it is essential for us to cope with the unprecedented situation by prioritising self-care. Despite the undesirable outcomes of the pandemic – sudden suspension of face-to-face teaching, closure of shops and international borders, novel health and safety consideration; on the bright side, Covid-19 has prompted the global community to look more closely at mental health. In fact, the outbreak had heightened the impact of mental health awareness like never before. 

Here are some simple tips to live by while adapting with the ‘new norm’: 

Walk away when things get overwhelming  

Social media is good in terms of keeping us up to date with local and global news. However, such news can be overwhelming to keep up with every single day. When you feel like things get a bit too much, it is advisable to ‘switch off’ from the outside world and focus on things that can render you some form of inner peace. If you still want to keep yourself updated with the breaking news (which can be inevitable as everyone is ‘posting’ about it), try to limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through the updates, especially when you find them a bit unsettling.

"Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson"

While some people can get distracted from work with the ceaseless Covid-19 news, work can in turn be a form of distraction from the worrying updates. As a matter of fact, concentrating on a task can be the most effective way to divert one’s attention from the overwhelming news and updates. Isolation can keep you sane when there are things you can look forward to. Apart from spending time on coursework and projects, look forward to simple pleasures in life to keep your mind engaged like reading novels or short stories, watching movies or series, listening to podcasts, mindfulness activities or light exercises. Being occupied can keep you away from having the time to think about things that would worry you!

"You're not alone"

Stay connected! Since everyone is generally experiencing ‘lockdown’ or some form of quarantine worldwide, it is a great opportunity to keep in touch with your friends online. Schedule virtual hangouts to keep yourself away from being haunted by loneliness – spending time alone for a long time is not good for your mind. In addition, some departments also provide incredible support throughout this trying time where you can reach out to your personal tutor or year tutor for any form of support or enquiries. UCL has also been constantly sending updates on wellbeing and support through their weekly online issue of myUCL. Although all face-to-face appointments have been suspended, UCL Students’ Union Advice Service is still offering advice via email, telephone and video/voice chat for those who need to access support from their service. 

As more and more countries are starting to ease off lockdown orders, it is highly recommended to comply with advice on breaking the Covid-19 chain. While you’re practising social distancing and good personal hygiene, don’t forget to put your mental health on top of your priority list!

Hamizah Afandi, final year UCL Archaeology student