The current global pandemic has seen a rise in mental health related illness. With this week marking Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), it’s important now more than ever to take time to be kind to ourselves.
Open University (OU) student Liz Fox is in her second year studying towards a BSc in Psychology. In addition to running her own baking business, she also dedicates her time to raising awareness of mental health on her blog, where she talks openly about her own experience of having a breakdown in 2014. Support from friends, counselling and baking helped ease the symptoms of anxiety, and has led to the Liz we meet today – a thriving student and business-owner.
OU students are renowned for juggling multiple roles whilst studying – be it employee, parent or carer. Accustomed to fitting studies around her busy life, here Liz provides some tips to help you both relax, focus and clear your mind in preparation for a successful study session, and to ensure you are looking after your mental health during lockdown:
Routine is key
Create a routine that suits you. With some of us furloughed or dealing with an unusual schedule, it can be tempting to have a lie in, stay in your pyjamas all day, or to dismiss any form of a bedtime. But, doing all these things will only add to the feeling that something isn’t quite right, which will in turn add to feelings of anxiety. Instead, set an alarm, get showered and dressed, stick to your usual eating patterns and try not to stay up all night watching boxsets “just because you can”.
Not all news is good news
Limit your exposure to the news and social media. It may seem counter intuitive to shield yourself from keeping up-to-date with what’s happening in the world, but each time you hear or read something scary, you actually register it as a new threat – even if it’s something you were already aware of! Stepping back from sources where you are overwhelmed with such information will help to lower feelings of being overwhelmed within.
It sounds so simple, but focus on breathing out as much as you are focusing on breathing in. Try to pause a few times a day and take a couple of minutes to breathe in for a four counts and out for a six. If you can do this by an open window to get some fresh air into your body, then you get bonus feelgood brownie points.
Do something that channels your inner artist; it will make you will feel so much better. When I was first diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder, I was having panic attacks daily. It was when I picked up a random piece of fondant icing that I had a day without a panic attack, and it’s become my daily therapy ever since. Trust me and give it a go… even if it’s something as simple as drawing around your hand lots of times across a piece of paper and then colouring in the different sections (I’m sure we’ve all done that as kids).
Small simple steps can make such a difference, in a time where there is uncertainty and worry, you can do one thing to change how you are feeling. The Big White Wall is available to OU students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service has an active forum with round-the-clock support from trained professionals, where you can talk anonymously to other members and take part in group or one-to-one therapy with therapists.
Find out more
Psychology and Counselling courses available at the OU