Being a university student right now isn’t easy. Lately, I have found myself feeling angry, panicked, or disheartened by the opportunities we’ve lost and the uncertainty of what’s to come. It’s hard to listen to celebrities preaching from their million-dollar mansions about how lockdown is a time for self-growth while we’re stuck back in our childhood bedrooms with an abundance of college work. With the surge of Covid cases after Christmas and several deadlines looming, I found myself in an awful routine of going to sleep at around 3 am, spending hours on my phone, rarely cooking for myself, and hardly leaving the house. I was feeling overwhelmed which made me unproductive which in turn made me feel guilty and anxious. This overwhelming situation caused my productivity levels to plummet, which lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety.

However, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken the time to practice some mindfulness tips that have been very beneficial for my mental health. Firstly, when I’m stressed about college work, I remind myself that having got this far in my degree is a huge achievement in itself. It’s important to not compare yourself with other students who seem to have everything together. We’re all having our separate journeys and are dealing with different things behind closed doors. The reality is some people come from a background where they can just focus on college entirely, others might have to juggle working to pay through college, others might have illnesses, disabilities, sick family members and so many other things could be going on that might affect how they’re doing. As long as you’re doing the best you can that’s all that can be asked of you. I’ve learned lately that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Instead, I try putting my energy into celebrating the small victories and focussing on my own journey.

My favorite thing to do lately is using a planner. Ticking off even the most mundane things on my to-do lists makes me feel productive and having all my responsibilities planned out on a piece of paper helps my brain feel less muddled. It’s kind of become a self-care routine of mine. I’ve always thought the whole “self-care” thing sounded cheesy and never really gave it much thought, but I realize now that self-care isn’t just spending money on skincare and clothes I don’t need. Instead, I can practice self-care by writing a list of everything I need to achieve that week e.g., text a friend to catch up, post-birthday card to my cousin, make a start on that assignment. Self-care is also eating a healthy meal, doing my hair nicely, reducing screen time and whatever will make me feel better in the long run. If I make a plan on Sunday evening of what I want to achieve the following week I go into the week with a positive mindset. These goals are often small and doable like “Go for a walk at least 5 days this week” or “Drink more water” instead of being overly ambitious and then feeling too overwhelmed to do anything.

Another cheesy thing I’ve started to do is morning affirmations. I kind of thought this was cringey and weird at first but you know, who’s going to know I’m saying morning affirmations to myself? There are so many different affirmations out there for whatever your goal is at the moment, but I try to keep mine short and simple. The general goal of affirmations is to remember your health, be grateful for what you have, and look forward to what’s to come. It starts my day on a good note.

Simple things like using a planner, cleaning my space, getting some fresh air and eating some comfort food are all things that have helped me feel calmer about the current situation. I’m trying to enjoy the spare time I have right now and doing my best to take care of myself. The way I see it is that hopefully, I’ll never have this much free time to myself again! I’ve gotten better at not comparing myself to others and remembering that I’m doing great. I try to celebrate the small victories and try to appreciate the little things in life. Whenever I do feel overwhelmed and anxious, I remind myself that these are completely valid feelings given the situation at hand. I take comfort knowing that whatever negative thoughts I have will eventually pass.

Since becoming a Niteline volunteer I’ve really understood how important it is to reach out to friends, family or the supports available is and how bad bottling emotions up can be to my health. If you’re feeling down, there are many supports available that are listed on the Niteline website. You’re doing great.