April 8, 2021, by School of Medicine

Mental health in a global pandemic

Hey there! I’m Susan and I’m a 2nd year MPT student who also happens to be one of your welfare representatives, and what a role that has been. Given the global pandemic and multiple lockdowns, student mental health has been an all time low and it’s been one of my jobs to support fellow students by directing them to resources, checking in and providing tips and tricks to assist with practicing good wellbeing habits via our weekly #WelfareWednesday Instagram posts. In addition, to my position as the welfare representative for the MPT Society, I am also the marketing officer for Nottingham Nightline: a student run listening and information service. So I would say I’m pretty well versed on how the pandemic has impacted student mental health and essentially I’m just going to try and offer some words of wisdom on things I’ve learnt during this time about good welfare practices 🙂

How are you? Really?

This question can often be asked out of niceties and seem superficial as you are left wondering do they really want the honest answer, or are they just asking because it is expected? But it really is an important question, even to just ask yourself and reflect on your own feelings. Are you feeling stressed, demotivated, low? Frequent internal checks are more important than often realised as without it, before you know it weeks/months have passed, and you have been in this constant low state without even processing it.

Staying motivated in a pandemic

Motivation has been in huge deficit this lockdown, with everyone experiencing higher stress levels, facing greater uncertainty, and dealing with fleeting levels of motivation. The pandemic has really uprooted most of our routines leading to this sense of things being unstable. With things changing constantly and quickly, it can be hard to maintain hope and see the purpose in your actions so relying on just willpower alone to get things done can be very hard at times. Some things I’ve found helpful in maintaining motivation is breaking big tasks into smaller achievable ones. It can be very overwhelming thinking about all you have to do, for instance if one of the tasks is to do a reading, perhaps breaking it down into smaller chapters will make it more digestible. In addition, creating a routine that works for you can help to give your day a sense of purpose and something to actually look forward to. Whether you’re an early or late riser, as long as you get what you need to do done, and you’ve made sure to eat decent meals and get some sort of exercise in that’s absolutely fine; don’t stress and compare yourself to others, whatever works for you.

Deadlines and demands

April 1st. April 7th. April 14th. It always feels like there’s thing after thing and it can be very overwhelming especially when it feels like you don’t even have the time to pause. Deadlines alone are stressful but coupled with the lack of structure that COVID has brought to our schedules, it can become even harder to see the point of your work. There are many ways this can be combatted, one thing I’ve found that helps is to impose smaller deadlines on yourself. For instance if you have a piece of coursework, then maybe setting a deadline for the reading, then a deadline for the research an another for your first draft and so on. This can make the workload feel less daunting as you’re able to see the smaller things you have to do within the bigger task.

Social connection whilst social distancing

Keeping in contact with friends and maintaining healthy relationships during this time has been hard. First things first, it is not just you, if you’re feeling like this then chances are your friends will be to. We really are all in this together and now more than ever it is hard to keep up relationships when you cannot see people, and there are only so many Zoom calls you can have before it becomes tedious. It is important to remember that this past year has been hard for everyone, and it’s important no to be too hard on yourself if you haven’t spoken to your friends in a while, take things at your own pace, I’m sure they will understand. Remember daily walks are allowed if texting is not your thing and with the rule of 6 coming back in place it will be easier to meet up with those you may not have spoken to for some time.

Ultimately there are so many resources out there to assist with your wellbeing during this time, you just have to maximise them. And most importantly, take each day as it comes, it has been a hard year so don’t forget to indulge in yourself every once in a while.

  • Nightline – an anonymous, non-advisory, confidential, non-directive and non-judgemental listening and information service open during term time between 7pm and 8am and 24 hours during exam periods.
  • Wellness in Mind – Wellness in Mind provides information and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing. The service will help connect people to the services which may best support them.
  • Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Network – The UoNSU BME Network represents all students studying at the University of Nottingham who self-identify as African, Caribbean, Asian, Arab or Jewish heritage, and anyone who experiences racism, antisemitism, or islamophobia. Can offer support if you feel discriminated or harassed.
  • Students’ Union LGBTQ Network – Free and confidential service for anyone requiring support, seeking information or just to talk.
  • Cripps Health Centre – Based on University Park, this practice specialises in looking after students and staff of the University of Nottingham.
  • Personal Tutor – Their roles differ across individual schools but essentially, they can act as a gateway to wider student support. Personal tutors can offer academic advice/support and guide you to any further resources you may need.
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