Focus on wellbeing during COVID-19 (Coronavirus): suggestions for autistic university students
This is an unexpected and stressful situation. Nobody expected to be working in a totally different way in the middle of an academic year.
It is important to work out who from the university can help you to deal with managing your studies during this time.
This is a temporary situation that affects everyone. It will not last forever:
Whatever works for you is OK. Help is available if you need it. You can do it.
Your wellbeing is just as important as your course.
Managing change and setting expectations
Your top priority should be to do whatever you need to do to maintain your mental and physical wellbeing:
Keep your environment, your routine and your household as calm as possible
Manage your stress, and work through this change calmly
How you manage your mental and physical wellbeing is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, as long as it works well for you.
Managing unpredictable change
Create or adapt a routine for this period. You can find a blank timetable to complete if it is helpful for you to use one - Click Here
It may help to lower your expectations around your studies. It is more important to prioritise your wellbeing at this time – this includes good nutrition, exercise, leisure activities and rest. Looking after yourself is as much of an achievement as doing well in your academic studies
You are unlikely to be able to achieve as much during the day as you might have done before the pandemic, and that is OK:
Accept you may not be able to achieve as much studying as before
Acknowledge that looking after yourself is also an achievement
If you do feel that you cannot keep up your studies, or that you do not have enough time to fit everything in contact your academic department, Mentor/Study Skills Tutor or Disability Advisor for support or to discuss your progress and deadlines.
Remember that navigating all the current changes means that you may also be gaining valuable non-academic knowledge and experience:
Recognise any new skills, knowledge or experience you are developing, and think about how these will transfer into your life after lockdown
Feeling good about yourself and managing stress and anxiety
If you are feeling more anxious and stressed than usual you are not alone.
Spend time on your interests/things you enjoy:
Exercise, particularly outside
Meditation and other forms of relaxation
Spending time with animals if this is possible. If you do not have an animal maybe you can work out a safe handover with a friend who does.
Going to a park or quiet natural area. The Government guidelines have been relaxed to allow autistic people to go out more than once a day and to travel away from home to find a quiet area to exercise. You can take advantage of this but should make sure you keep safe while travelling.
Talking about your interests to other people, but you may need a time limit on this.
Online games or other leisure activities you enjoy.
Destressing activities, such as bashing a cushion/punch bag or shouting if you have somewhere to do this where it will not disturb other people.
This is an unprecedented situation. If you feel like looking up the news makes you stressed, then do not feel you have to keep up with the news:
Think about how looking up Covid-19 information makes you feel. If it makes you stressed, then you may want to limit how much news you interact with.
No-one knows how this situation will develop – we all feel uncertain and concerned – this is normal
Some of the news at the moment is guesswork; don’t read or listen too much if this is stressful for you as the media may only be able to speculate on some matters. It may help to limit watching the news to once per day, for example
Consider where you are getting information from. It is advisable to get your news/information from reputable sources. For example, reading or listening to expert reports and discussions may make you feel better informed and therefore less anxious
Speak to your family or people you live with; how do they feel? How are they coping? Tell them how you feel – you may be surprised to hear your thoughts are very similar
Focus on what you can control and plan
Focus on what you can control – plan your own timetable, with deadlines, planning stages of work, reading & note-making
Don’t forget to include exercise, hobbies and mealtimes!
Notice your anxiety triggers and avoid these where possible
Remember that you are not alone in this situation: this is a global pandemic, affecting every country in the world, and everyone is having to learn how to adapt very quickly:
Many of us in the world are having to change how we do things – it's ok to feel confused
We are having to do many things differently, so ask if you don’t know, it is Ok to ask for help
If you are accessing support outside University to help you to deal with anxiety it is worth keeping up with this arrangement if you are finding it useful:
Keep accessing mental health support if you already have this in place
Your GP is likely to be the best contact if you need to talk about mental or physical health concerns. You could contact your GP practice online initially to avoid visiting the surgery unnecessarily
If you are registered with the University Health Service please go to their page for further information https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/health-service/index
The following is a list of resources which you may wish to refer to:
The University of Sheffield’s advice for current students: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/coronavirus/faqs/students
National Autistic Society guidance on Coronavirus: https://www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines/coronavirus/resources/helpful-resources.aspx
The following is a list of resources which you may wish to refer toe of change https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Advice from Anxiety UK: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/blog/health-and-other-forms-of-anxiety-and-coronavirus/
Advice from Autistica about coping with uncertainty: https://www.autistica.org.uk/what-is-autism/coping-with-uncertainty
A video from Purple Ella on coping with coronavirus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIpvdMVnfGs&feature=youtu.be
Advice from The Calm Zone on coping with social isolation: https://www.thecalmzone.net/2020/03/putting-the-social-into-social-distancing/
Advice from The Mental Health Foundation on looking after your mental health during the pandemic: https://mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus
Resources for managing your time
Advice from London Metropolitan University on freely available apps and other resources: https://student.londonmet.ac.uk/life-at-london-met/wellbeing-at-london-met/disabilities-and-dyslexia-service-dds/make-the-most-of-it/
Advice from the University of Leeds on free tools to support learning: https://students.leeds.ac.uk/info/1000032/support_for_disabled_students/1171/assistive_technology
A factsheet from Ability Net on autism and technology for study: https://abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets/autism-and-computers and a blog post on apps to aid focus and motivation: https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/great-apps-help-students-focus-and-motivation
Information from Diversity & Ability on the main study tools available to students: https://diversityandability.com/resources/
This has been adapted from a guidance article recently produced by the Network of Autism Practitioners in Higher Education:
Nicola Martin, (London South Bank University; firstname.lastname@example.org) and Harriet Cannon, (University of Leeds; email@example.com), with contributions from: Emma Banks; Jeremy Bennett; Christine Breakey; Martyn Brown; Janet Britton; Joanna Hastwell; Marion Hersh; Debbie Huckin; Sharron Sturgess; Andrew Veasey and Lisa Whiteley, and other members of the Network of Autism Practitioners in Higher Education. The Network is a collective of 200 Autism Practitioners working in, or with, and supporting students in Universities and Colleges across the Higher Education sector.
Student Wellbeing Advisor - Faculty of Science