As we mark University Mental Health Day, it’s even more important this year – in the middle of a global pandemic – to look after our wellbeing. OU student Liz Fox, who is in her third year studying towards a BSc in Psychology, champions mental health awareness following her own experience of a breakdown in 2014. Here, she shares some invaluable advice, to fellow students…
Whether you deferred this academic year, ploughed on through, or have recently started looking into starting a degree with the OU; there is one thing that’s for sure – studying has never been the way it is right now!
This is the case in both positive and, let’s call them less optimistic ways; and so, it’s crucial we look after our mental wellbeing as best as possible. This will aid our studies, but also it will help us to navigate through the upcoming changes over the next few months.
Let’s get started
There are well-known things that we know we can do for our mental health: get outside for some fresh air (or crack open a window), eat nourishing food, limit our alcohol intake… you know all of those things. (Regardless of whether you have been doing them or not, you do know them!)
With shifts happening, we are having to consider what that actually looks like for us, and how we can start to look forward and set ourselves up for greatness. At a point where things are still uncertain, there is also an air of hope lingering. This can make it hard to establish how we feel, or how to navigate what is coming up.
A great thing about study is that it gives us a structure. If you are starting a new module later in the year then there is no time too soon to get excited about it!
At this point, it’s worth flagging that you may actually have to give yourself permission to look forward to something again. This is totally natural after a period of such uncertainty and so many disappointments for many of us, so go easy on yourself.
Wellbeing advice from one student to another
- Start by setting the scene and begin to clear the area that you will work in. You may even find that dedicating a space in your home for your next block of study starts to refresh the place that so many of us have felt stuck in for the majority of the past 12 months.
- Look into any suggested reading for your new module or perhaps sources such as related TED talks… starting to dip your toe back into in while in your work space will help to get you back in the learning zone.
- Routine is something that has been missing for many of us, but it can be so good for our sense of self and wellbeing. The Open University provides a great step in establishing routine. Even booking in an hour to read each week initially can make a difference; not only for you mentally but also it will pay dividends come September.
- Failing all else, I say buy new stationery to get you in the mood for learning… In my opinion it’s never too early, and you can never have too much!
- Lastly, remember the role that people take in our wellbeing, specifically here, the community that exists with The Open University. Talk to your tutors, talk to other students, not only about your module itself but also if you have any concerns. It’s amazing how many people are struggling; yet we feel we’re not allowed to say so because, well, because everyone is struggling. That’s exactly why we should talk about it!
While these are all study-related tips, they can be translated to other parts of your life too. We don’t know what the “new normal” will look like, or how long it will take until we achieve it. What’s more, if we don’t know how it will look then that provides its own issues around knowing if we do ever achieve it!
However, we can start to create our own little patch of normal, and we can use our studies as a tool to help us do this. We can start to create routine, structure, spaces for purpose, and of course, a link to our future.
You can do this!
Lastly, be proud! Regardless of whether you deferred this year or have been studying through lockdown, the fact that you are still seeing this post means you have kept your toe in The Open University water. That alone is a huge thing. It can be so easy to forget that there will be an “other side” to this pandemic, but by staying connected to the OU you are staying connected to that link to your future. Right now, that’s really something to celebrate.
Find out more
- Psychology and Counselling courses available at The Open University
- Free courses on content on mental health and wellbeing on OpenLearn
- More study tips from Liz