Students have faced unprecedented challenges this year – from school closures and predicted grades to virtual Fresher’s Fayres. And on top of that, despite the increased safety measures in UK universities, more than 50 institutions have now confirmed cases of coronavirus, meaning thousands of students are self-isolating.
Mental health charity Mind has revealed that over two-thirds of young people have felt their mental health deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. We know it can be tough to remain positive and focus on our mental well-being during these unusual times, but there’s never been a more important time to do so – especially if you’re self-isolating!
10 ways to put your mental health first
Earlier this week, Universities UK published a checklist to help universities support student well-being in the autumn term, including making sure you have access to basic necessities during self-isolation.
And there are plenty of things that you can do yourself to prioritise your mental health during self-isolation – here are our top 10 tips:
*Please note: These tips are for students self-isolating without symptoms. If you’re feeling unwell, please consult the latest NHS advice.
If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, we recommend disclosing them to your university – as they will be able to signpost you to the best student well-being and mental health support services.
1. Stay in touch
Just because you’re self-isolating, it doesn’t mean you have to cut off contact completely. As we wrote in our moving in blog, you can bubble with your new Sanctuary Student flatmates, so make sure you socialise as much as possible/you feel comfortable with.
Video calls with ‘home’ friends and family can also instantly lift your mood – there are lots of free apps you can use, and don’t forget you get Wi-Fi included in your Sanctuary Students accommodation!
You can also connect ‘virtually’ in other ways. Why not watch a TV show with someone using the Netflix Party app, take part in a quiz, play an online game, or even watch a theatre performance together?
2. Know where to get support
This is important for all students but is especially vital for those who have to self-isolate. Check out our list of resources at the end of this blog, and make sure you keep any advice from your university close at hand.
3. Stick to a routine
Your normal routine might have been thrown into the ether, but making a new one will give you a sense of normality and will add some structure to your day. Try to keep to the same times for waking up and going to bed. And, although it can feel good to lounge in your pyjamas occasionally, long-term it’s much better for your health and mental well-being to get showered and dressed.
4. Get creative
Getting away from your phone and immersing yourself in a creative activity can be relaxing and distract you from any worries about coronavirus. Why not try a new hobby such as drawing, colouring, blogging or sewing?
Mind has launched a ‘Do one thing’ campaign for World Mental Health Day 2020, which aims to inspire us to make one small change or take one action to look after our mental health – and getting creative is a great way of doing this!
5. See it as an opportunity
As well as getting the paints out, try to think of this time as an opportunity to get something done. Although it can be easier said than done to reframe the situation in a positive light, this is the perfect time to do other things you didn’t use to have time for. Why not try a new recipe, sort out your wardrobe, or catch up on a favourite podcast?
These activities will keep your brain challenged and stimulated, but it’s important to relax, too. Try some meditation with a free mindfulness app, such as Headspace and Calm.
6. Spruce up your immediate space
As you’ll be spending all of your time in your student flat when self-isolating, it’ll help you feel calmer and more positive if you keep it clean and tidy – plus, cleaning will also help stop germs spreading! You’ll find antibacterial gel located throughout our properties – please use it regularly.
As well as keeping it tidy, you could also add a personal touch to your room to help you stay positive when self-isolating. Put out some photos of your favourite people/pets. You can find more tips in our recent blog about coping with moving away from home.
7. Get into healthy habits
Gentle exercise can lift your mood, and there are plenty of ways you can incorporate movement into your life – even when confined to your flat! Try some seated exercises, dancing to music or online exercise workouts.
Try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, as this can help boost your mood, energy levels and immune system. Although alcohol tends to go hand-in-hand with Freshers’ Week, try not to get into a habit of drinking in your room. It’s also easy to eat unhealthy and snacks as a way to pass the time – especially if you haven’t cooked for yourself before. For culinary inspiration, check out our top simple student meals here.
8. Open those windows
Even if you’re self-isolating, you can still engage with nature. Get as much natural light as you can – even sitting by a sunny window can help you get that vital Vitamin D. Keep the windows open to let in the fresh air and spend time looking outside. We’re not suggesting you become a full-time birdwatcher, but looking outside and soaking up some natural light will have a huge effect on your mental well-being!
9. Check your sources
Mind suggests: “Stay connected with current events but take care with where you find your news and health information. Try to use trusted sources to find reliable updates.”
Social media is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with loved ones, but it can also be used to spread misinformation. Consider taking a social media break if people sharing news stories makes you feel anxious. You can find a list of reliable information sources at the end of this blog.
10. Remember those “micro-lifts”
Counselling psychologist Dr Lucy Atcheson says that one of the main problems with self-isolation is that we start to miss daily “micro-lifts”: “You’re on your way to work, you might pop into your favourite coffee shop or say hi to someone in the street, there are small little things throughout our day that help to lift us often without us even realising.”
Make sure to treat yourself, even if it’s something as simple as watching your favourite TV show. And also try to engage in activities that make you feel productive and give you a sense of accomplishment (see Tips 4 and 5), as these have the same effect as a micro-lift!
World Mental Health Day 2020
Mind says that World Mental Health Day 2020 is the most important one yet – and we couldn’t agree more! The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns/social distancing measures have had a huge impact on us all and encouraging conversations around our own mental health and that of others has never been more important. World Mental Health Day is on Saturday 10th October 2020 – find out more about how you can get involved.
It’s important to know when to ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence – talk it through with someone. Whether it’s a friend, family member, your GP or university tutor, sharing your feelings will help.
There are plenty of avenues of support you can turn to, including our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured. At Sanctuary Students, your health is our priority and that’s why we offer professional support to help you with any problems you may face from stress and depression to financial issues and coping. The phone line is open day and night, 365 days a year, and everything you discuss is kept confidential, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Call the freephone number on 0800 030 5182 – we’re here as often as you need us, for as long as you like. Learn more about Sanctuary Students well-being services.
You could also look at these pages for advice on looking after your mental health during the pandemic:
- Mental health charity, Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/
- Student Minds: https://www.studentminds.org.uk/coronavirus.html
Useful information resources:
- The UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
- NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- NHS guidance on self-isolation and treating coronavirus symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/
BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news