Student Resources
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COVID-19: Staying motivated and warding away low mood

EHL Insights
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One quarantined Italian described the experience of quarantine being like as “a boring vacation” and the whole self-isolation process comes with a lot of the same risks and challenges: it is easy to let go of usual routines of self-care, such as having a schedule, showering, dressing well and eating structured meals at regular times. While not all these patterns are risk factors for depression, they may affect your motivation and energy levels.

Similarly, sleep patterns can become dysregulated, with either excess sleep or sleeping out of sync with the usual daily routine - going to sleep early morning and waking around lunch or later. Such sleeping issues are associated with risk factors for depression. 

Basic tips

  • Keep a regular schedule that closely resembles your pre-confinement daily schedule, or even improve it if it was problematic
    • Have a set wake up time
    • A have a set “get to work time” and some time limits
    • Keep regular mealtimes
  • If you can, sync up your schedule with important partners - your group, your family – being “at work” at the same time as your groupmates will facilitate cooperation, as will sharing meals with your housemates
  • Maintain or improve your sleep pattern 
  • Maintain regular self-care activities such as showering and grooming
  • Dress up especially to attend classes and even study - no need to go full-on dresscode, but a smart shirt or blouse helps you get into the right mindset.
  • Physical activity, especially anaerobic exercising, improves mood and overall reduces depressive and (to a lesser degree) anxious symptoms 
  • Keep your social contacts going:
    • Talk regularly with distant family members or friends
    • Find pleasant activities to share with people living with you
    • Share comfortable moments with distant friends or lovers by eating a meal, watching a film or playing together (video or party game) over video chat

Ensure you are engaging in as many pleasant and rewarding activities as you can and reward yourself for accomplishing unpleasant activities in relation to how difficult they were to accomplish - getting up out of bed can be a real challenge, for some.

 

Staying motivated

Studies are not in and of themselves motivating, and it can be even more difficult to keep going in the context of being outside of school, in a completely different atmosphere, away from classmates and the school building.

Some of the most important things to bear in mind are:

  • Keep connected to the classes, even if it’s difficult – losing track will only make it more difficult to come back, and doubly so in distance learning
  • “Just five minutes” – if you’re struggling to start, tell yourself you’ll do it for five minutes
  • Use a progress mindset as opposed to an end-goal focus – broad progress goals like “progress on the groupwork document” are more manageable and encouraging than “finish the conclusion of the document” -  which you might not achieve.
  • Use a learning goal mindset “Increase the speed of doing exercises”, “Improve my understanding of this topic” as opposed to a goal like “Finish chapter 13”.
  • At a distance, it can be really useful to have specific friends to discuss coursework with in a positive way, using a chatroom study group or even discussing attending the lectures together over video chat.
  • Have plenty of personal projects or activities on the side to keep you motivated or get your energy up.

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Mindfulness as a means of improving mood

Using mindfulness - a state of mind and form of non-spiritual meditation practice – can also be very helpful in managing your mood and emotions.

A mindful state of mind involves awareness of the presen moment in a curious, “as if you were experiencing something for the first time” , non-judgmental and compassionate manner.

There are many applications (Headspace;  Calm; “Petit Bambou” in French)  that can help you learn this skill, and you can also practice it in daily life by “tuning in and being aware of your surroundings”, as if you had suddenly witnessed a beautiful sunset and wanted to take it in.

Toolbox - Mindfulness for improving your schedule

Mentally run through the day before, or a specific day which represents your schedule well.

Write down any activity or transition (Getting up, Showering, Preparing breakfast, Eating breakfast in the living room, Moving to your “work area”, setting up your desk, etc., with a good degree of granularity).

Then go back of the list and run through it step-by-step, visualizing each activity and noticing how it affects you, how you feel doing it, as if it were the first time you were doing it. Is it more of an energy source or booster, a resource (mark it with an up arrow Þ), or is it a drag or drain on your resources (mark it with a down arrow à)?

Step back and look at the pattern of Þ and à: are certain times a real drag on your energy? Are others real boosters? Are there times when you would need a booster that isn’t there? Consider how to improve or change your schedule as a result.

Other links

You can also make use of the excellent advice already available from the following websites:

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