There is no doubt that all university students have been affected in some way by COVID-19 and its impact on our emotional wellbeing in particular cannot be underestimated. However, looking for solutions to these unavoidable issues is important. Below, Biomedical Sciences student Cansel Hashim lists four ways in which this crisis has taken its toll on the mental health of thousands of students across the world and provides her suggestions on how best to combat these challenges.
An inability to return home
Many students, including some of my close friends, were unable to go back home either due to cancelled flights, or because they did not want to put their families at risk of infection. Either way, this meant spending indefinite amount of time away from the safe and peaceful family environment. While this is something that the majority of the students can successfully cope with under normal condition, it is not an easy task when this is imposed on you and you have no other choice.
Luckily, getting in touch with people has never been easier thanks to the technological tools that are available to us. Therefore, the easiest to implement and, perhaps, the most effective tip that I would give is to make the most of the internet and social media. This includes things like video calls, virtual games nights, group chats etc – we have so many different tools at our disposal and ,although nothing can replace face to face communication, these tools are providing us with a way to keep connected with family and friends.
Getting through a pandemic and struggling with loneliness at the same time is unfortunately something that many international students had to deal with during the lockdown period. Loneliness is one of the key contributors to mental distress and combined with the abrupt changes to our routines, many people have understandably struggled.
Being lonely in quarantine is not ideal to many of us, however, I must admit that spending a period of time in self-isolation has its positive contributions to one’s emotional stamina. Although spending too much time on one’s own may trigger dangerous behaviours, such as overthinking and chronic worrying, one can make the most of this prolonged ‘me time’ by spending more time on self-reflection – something that many of us will not have time to do once life gets back to normal. For once in our lives, it feels like the time has stopped. Hence, we all should embrace this opportunity, dive deep within our minds and explore what is in there.
Working from home
Before the announcement of a nationwide lockdown, we were in the middle of, perhaps, the busiest time of the academic year. The abrupt interruption of our busy and active routines and the sudden transition to the ‘work-from-home’ system may not have worked well for all of us. For some of us overcoming the desire to binge-watch our favourite Netflix show or to spend hours on social media has proven to be a big challenge.
However, in situations like this it is worth reminding ourselves that the path to success is never a straight line, and that sometimes our success is determined by external factors. Therefore, we need to accept the circumstances and learn to adjust to it. Besides, some students find studying from home easier than learning in a lecture theatre – everyone is different and it’s something we’ll have to get used to again in September.
The vague future of the class of ‘COVID-19’
What is next? This is, perhaps, the most common question asked to any final-year university student. On many occasions, I have witnessed how irritated students get by this question because not all of us know what will follow next, and that is completely fine! This is particularly true for the class of 2020. The world is currently undergoing major changes in the global economy and education, as well as in the future of work. Therefore, none of us really know what the future holds in terms of employment.
Will there be lower demand for employees after the pandemic? What if three years of university education will not help me achieve my goals? Will I be able to find a job? We simply do not have answers to these questions and the approach to find answers brings nothing but more anxiety and stress to our lives. I know this from personal experience. Instead, we should ask to ourselves questions like ‘What will the future of work be like?’, ‘What type of skills can i pick up during this pandemic that will help me to get a job after graduating?’ and ‘How can I build upon the skills I developed at university to achieve my goals?’ In other words, instead of worrying that we are not the right candidate for our dream job, we need to start thinking about how we can become an excellent candidate. It is true that the future is unclear. However, we, the class of ‘COVID-19’, should regard this as a challenge that we can overcome rather than an issue that will negatively affect our futures.
We need to be hopeful and keep reminding ourselves that better times will come, and regard this period as a challenge that is pushing our limits and making us stronger individuals.
To read more from our students about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their studies click here