So #lockdown is happening and we are in the midst of a world-changing pandemic #covid19 #coronavirus.
The first point I realised that life was going to get busy was when my employer published plans to move teaching out of the classroom and into online learning spaces. I’ve done a bit of distance teaching and a lot of distance learning before, and so I immediately wondered how my colleagues – students and staff – would be feeling. So I shared this message with them to help them to cope during this period of change. I’m sharing it with the wider Internet community with the same intention.
As you enter a time of significant transition, I wanted to get in touch and offer a few ideas for coping and looking after yourself whilst trying to manage your studies at home. This is a time of change, uncertainty and challenge, but we know you have within you the resilience, compassion and creativity to excel and to maintain your focus on your work. As someone with many years experience of supporting distance learning students, and of managing my own studies alongside raising a family, I wanted to reach out and offer some ideas for you to consider. This is offered with kindness and compassion, but if these ideas do not help you, feel free to ignore them! And if you have any good ideas, don’t forget to share them with your fellow students/colleagues.
First of all, give yourself a daily routine. Get up as if you were going to college, have a shower, dress and do the usual morning routine, whatever that would be. Keep to regular mealtimes and if you have a family, plan activities with them. Routines help you stay focused and enable you to plan your days.
Set yourself defined hours for working/studying. This allows you to make a clear distinction between work and home life and also supports you to build in regular breaks. Take breaks where you get up from your workspace, and potentially add in doing other things like household tasks, dog walking, or similar, during your breaks. This helps to give your mind a rest and also breaks up the monotony of sitting at a desk for long periods of time. You can also communicate your ‘working hours’ to family and friends and help them to follow a regular routine.
Log in regularly to check emails and Blackboard, but give yourself clear periods of the day when you do not check emails. This gives you the headspace to work. Similarly, whilst working/studying, stay away from your phone and online social media for defined periods of time.
Make a defined workspace, if you don’t already have one. This could be a separate room (if you have the space) or a designated area where you can work, and can get up and leave your work undisturbed, then come back to it. Ask those you live with to respect that space. Try to keep your workspace in reasonable order and regularly tidy it up and sort out your papers, books etc to help maintain your mental clarity.
Set daily goals. This would include prioritising what needs to be done on each day. If you have online meetings/classes in real time to attend, plan around these and ensure the software is working and you are ready to go when it happens. Start your day setting your goals, and end it reviewing them and noting what your plan for the next day would be.
Maintain contact with your friends, family and lecturers/colleagues where possible. Those conversations you have in class or in work serve a valuable function for emotional and mental health. Agree how you will communicate with your cohort/friends/colleagues, and check in on those who seem a little quiet.
Eat well and exercise. Things you can do at home include dancing to your favourite music, online workout videos, yoga, pilates, running up and down the stairs… and if you have kids, you can involve them in this too.
Try to spend some time each day on yourself. Whether this be reading a book in the bath, meditating, watching a favourite film, sitting listening to favourite music, cooking, building a wall, fixing a car, gardening, painting, sewing, knitting – whatever you like to do. Give your mind and emotions time to recharge. Allow yourself to acknowledge how you are feeling about all of this, and then focus on what you CAN do during this time, and how to make the most of it for you and those you love.
I recommend keeping a diary if you are so inclined.
Work with those around you (family, partners, friends) to maintain good relationships. Remember, this time will pass. Maintain clear communication and if you have a partner, set aside time that is just for the two of you, like a date night, on a regular basis.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, however that might look. There are community groups being set up to support people, and the University is doing everything it can to help us all through this. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
And finally, use this time to really focus again on your goals and to ask for support where needed. Your teaching team/colleagues are ready and able to support you, and although learning at a distance like this is very different, we are all in this together and together we will come through it.
I want to wish you all the very best during this time, and hope that you all find your path through this unknown country, knowing we are all just a few steps away.