Managing Stress

While it’s important to stay informed of the latest news and developments, the evolving nature of the news can get overwhelming. I try to find a balance of exposure to news that works for me. This is particularly important to me. I try to limit my exposure to the media and provide constructive information and positive write-ups that are appropriate. Whenever reasonably possible, I disconnect physically and mentally. I play puzzle games on my phone when possible, reorganize my room, or find a new rock song to listen to. The ever-changing news environment can create a lot of stress, stress that gets amplified when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s especially important now I get the recommended amount of sleep to help me stay focused on work and on managing the stress the current outbreak can bring. I try as much as I can to avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. When I find myself too stressed to sleep, I develop a new pre-bedtime routine, including a long bath, and a movie. These help me to manage stress and add a sense of normalcy with the ever-changing environment.

Experience on Loneliness

One cannot overemphasize enough how important connection is during times of uncertainty and fear. Fear and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. I make a point to connect with others regularly. I make sure that I check on those that are alone. Reach out to family members, friends and colleagues regularly via phone, chats, and other virtual platforms. 

Maintaining good health

Stress can adversely affect both one’s eating habits and metabolism. The best way I keep a healthy body is being mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. Having a well-prepared meal and keeping healthy snacks on hand helps nourish my body, arming myself nutritionally to better deal with stress. Helping to regulate my blood sugar throughout the day keeps my body stable and my emotions on a much better playing field. While gyms are closed and social distancing guidelines are in place, I get into exercise like walking, running, playing football, and other exercises I can do in the comfort of my room. All can help release endorphins (a group of hormones secreted that help one feel better and maintain a positive attitude). 

Avoiding Distractions

I maintain a schedule similar to what I would follow if I worked in an office, including getting out of bed, go have a shower, and putting on clothes other than pyjamas. I try not to work from my bed. A designated workstation in the room was prepared to help give me a feeling of being at the office. Playing music during my workday helps increase my focus. I switch it on and within minutes my productivity skyrockets. I try to pinpoint my major distractions and knock them out before I settle down to work. Without an issue hanging over my head, I’m more likely to focus on my work. If my environment is untidy, I know I won’t get any work done, I’ll stop what I’m doing and tidy up since I can see it directly from my desk while I work. To help keep myself focused during the day, I make sure the environment is clean before my work hours begin. Checking social media on phones can be a huge distraction. It’s so easy to pick up one’s phone, open Facebook, scroll through Twitter, like a bunch of photos on Insta, and before you know it, 20 minutes have gone by, I simply put my phone on silent mode and turn it facing down during work hours, so I can’t be distracted by notifications. I found a way that works for me while keeping my availability for calls if needed.

Relating to Supervisor

One of my major concern at the start of Covid-19 lockdown was the switch from a face to face supervisory meeting to a virtual one. Surprisingly, I have had a positive experience regardless. My supervisory team have continuously maintained regular productive contacts and meetings with me. This has been very encouraging and reassuring and has helped me reached key deadlines. The quality of advice and feedback has been consistent. I have not failed to discuss any challenge in my research with my supervisors. In most cases, they understand and further signpost me to key materials, personal development tools and training that has made me remained focused.

Coping with the New Working Environment

When I started the academic year, I probably focused on creating a strong academic and social life. As one who is new to the university, my time was likely all about making friends, finding my way around the campus, and maybe adjusting to a new level of personal freedom. Then the lockdown happened. It was essential I established a routine and stuck with it, to maintain some normality and help with motivation. I keep to the same hours I had while going to campus. I try to get enough sleep. When I do get up, I do some things that I’d normally do: take a shower and get dressed. Once I’ve had breakfast, I head to my workstation to study, put on some noise-cancelling headphone and play non-distracting music. I get out for fresh air, out for a brisk walk every day – a jog, some sprints or other form of high-cardio exercise. And I try to keep my distance from others, of course, and maintain recommended levels of hygiene. 

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