Looking after your mental health

5 January 2021

Looking after your mental health is more important now than ever. Ralitsa Bobcheva, BA Comparative Literature student shares some strategies that have previously helped her to achieve calmness during exam season.

Dandelion blowing in the wind

Looking after your mental health is more important now than ever. This is particularly applicable to lockdown and exam seasons. Even though scientists confirm that a moderate amount of stress could be beneficial for setting you in a studying mindset, symptoms such as recurring anxiety, sleep problems and a lack of motivation are not only counterproductive, but also place your mental health at risk. Having dealt with stress management during a few exam seasons myself, Ive learned the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing, and want to share some strategies that have helped me to achieve calmness.

In fact, as you read this, you are already applying one of my favourite mental tricks for stress relief: the so called focus-shift technique. This means taking some time in between studying stints, in order to reboot your brain by shifting your focus towards something completely different. This doesnt mean switching to another type of work, but rather something entirely unrelated. You might read a few pages of a (non-course related) novel, or go for a quick walk.

Finding ways to revise online with friends is a good solution if youre lacking motivation – a kind of positive spin on peer pressure! Even a simple division of space the so-called spheres can be extremely beneficial as it helps set you in the right mindset for completing your tasks. All you have to do is choose a spot at home that you only use for studying, and another thats only for rest and breaks.

The current situation is also an opportunity for us to spend more time with ourselves, and observe our reactions to external stimuli. We dont often get extended periods of time to consider our own thought processes, without one distraction or the other getting in the way. This means it can be the perfect opportunity for some self-learning. So, observe, observe, observe. Get to know the things that annoy you, and then take some time to plan how youd like to deal with them going forward.

Now is also a great time to try out things like mindfulness and meditation, and get to know which bits you like and which you dont. We dont often consider taking care of our mental health until we notice a problem, which usually happens at a moment of high stress. If you take the time now to implement a regular practice, youll find balancing future stress and the university exam period a lot easier.

So, four tips for lockdown survival: take breaks, separate your spaces, take time for self-reflection and try out some mindfulness techniques.

Visit UCL Student Support and Wellbeing pages for further information on mental health and wellbeing support.

Ralitsa Bobcheva, BA Comparative Literature with a Year Abroad

Updated by Student Support and Wellbeing, January 2021