Ashlea's Lockdown Diary: How to Find Happiness In Isolation
University life can be overwhelming at the best of times. There's the countless lectures, assignments and essays, the underlying feeling of guilt for not spending enough (or any) time in the library when everyone else is just short of paying rent there, not to mention having to get up early, spend money on laundry like it's bread and trying (and failing) not to order pizza every night. Throw in a global pandemic and it's no wonder you'd rather stay in bed with the covers over your head and hibernate until it's all over. While that is certainly something you could do - hey, no judgement here! - I have decided to share a few tips for finding a little bit of happiness amid all the chaos in the world right now.
I left UWE two weeks ago, right as Ireland was going into lockdown. I came home thinking it would be for a little "time out" but I didn't quite realise the magnitude of what we would be facing. Suddenly everything moved to online teaching and there was talk of not going back for the rest of the academic year. One of the hardest things for me was coming to the realisation that I wasn't ever going to be living in Mulberry House anymore, I wouldn't be spending my evenings with my flatmates, cooking, watching Netflix or moaning about who didn't do their washing up. It was all so sudden, but staying in touch with the girls has made it all feel a little easier.
Try to schedule a bit of time each day to keep in touch with your friends, especially if they are new friends and you were just building a relationship. If like me, you love your solitude, you may find yourself waking up 5 days later and realising you haven't spoken to anyone, but social interaction (the distanced kind for now) is good for the soul, especially when the soul is prone to solo Netflix binges. It can be good to push yourself out of your comfort zones, so call, text or zoom your friends until you can see them again.
Check in with your Clubs and Societies
We are so lucky that our university has such a diverse range of clubs and societies that you can be a part of. If you had a hobby, sport or club that you loved before we went into lockdown, check in with them now. Follow their social media pages and see if they are running anything online. I'm part of the UWE Dance Society, the most wonderful little family, who are keeping me happy and active during isolation. They are running their dance classes on Instagram live which has given a little sense of normality back into my days and lifted my mood in a big way
I'd probably get in trouble if I didn't recommend this one. It's hard, I get it. Motivation to keep up with the studies isn't high for everyone right now but stimulating your mind is probably what you need to keep you feeling good. At the end of the day, you picked this course for a reason - chances are that reason is that you find it interesting. Make that your mindset and try to do a little bit each day. Coming from the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination this is quite the sentence but I've been picking the lectures or books that I find most interesting and taking it as an opportunity to get back on track.
Draw a Picture
Luckily for me, I can trick myself into feeling like I have done some studying by drawing Anatomy diagrams. Basically this involves me drawing an intricate picture of a hand, standing back to admire and quietly commenting "wow, i've learnt loads" under my breath. Then swiftly moving on to doodling anything that comes to mind. You don't have to be the next Van Gough to enjoy doing something arty and it's definitely a fun way to pass the time.
Beware of Fake News
We all have a social responsibility and it's important to know what's going on, what is expected of us during this time and how we can access everything we need, so absolutely keep yourself updated with reputable sources such as Gov.uk or the NHS, but don't obsess. For my first few days of lockdown I spent hours checking and rechecking the number of cases by country, I read articles that were most likely fake news and as a result I washed my hands so many times they started to bleed. Panic got the better of me, so if you're going through this phase, know that it's ok and it will pass. The best way to manage fears is to make sure that you aren't overwhelming yourself with everything COVID-19. So check the updates in the morning and try not to look at them before bed, especially if you're an anxious person. If you're being a good human and doing your bit by staying at home and acting responsibly then you have little to worry about.
Try to share positive content - there is so much of it out there. You might be feeling fine, but be mindful of how others are feeling during this time and don't share something that might make someone else feel scared or stressed. UWE is a beautiful community of people who always support each other, let's continue to live by this even when we are apart.
Keep a Journal
Not only is journaling believed to be good for your mental health and managing anxiety, but the Coronavirus Pandemic is a critical point in our history. Our personal experiences with lockdowns, toilet paper shortages (um... yeah) and the challenges we are facing now will be talked about in years to come. This is your opportunity to document this time in world history from your perspective. Give the fans what they want.
**Crowds cheering as I wave my journal from a golden podium in 2045**
Redecorate Your Room
I chose to say 'redecorate' because it's kind of a fancy way of saying 'clean' and sometimes I like to be fancy, but also because I think we are all already incessantly sanitising every surface we see. This is more about changing things up. I moved things around in my room yesterday and what looked like a boring, small space now looks totally different. I even made myself a little yoga corner with my candles, mat and indoor plants.
And now, for the pièce de résistance... mindfulness! Do whatever makes you happy. Take a few deep breaths and try something new. Go for a walk if you can, do some yoga, bake a cake, light a candle, have a bath, wash your hands while singing happy birthday (just not too many times) and try to find at least one reason a day to smile. Yes times are scary but stay present and be grateful for the time we get to spend at home.
Stay Safe everyone.
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