A guide to managing your wellbeing and boosting your productivity during the assessment period
Sitting down and concentrating for extended periods can be difficult at the best of times, but we should also consider that we are experiencing unprecedented changes to our lives due to the pandemic. Some of you will be working from a busy family home or in your student accommodation when you’d normally go to the library.
This guide will look at some top tips for boosting your wellbeing and boosting your productivity with particular focus on the impacts of COVID 19. Below are some of the most common issues that students have been experiencing:
Do you sit at your desk for 8 hours a day and find that at the end of the day you have very little to show for it?
Is the idea of starting work making you feel overwhelmed or anxious?
Are you lacking motivation or feeling hopeless faced with your workload?
These are just some things you may be feeling and they are all normal responses to what is a very stressful situation. This guide will empower you to make small changes that will improve your wellbeing and enable you to persevere with your work and accomplish your goals.
Below are the basic principles that you will need to think about in order to boost your wellbeing and maximise your productivity. When we neglect the basics of self-care we risk feeling anxious, irritable and low and may feel unable to focus:
Sleep. As simple as it may sound if your sleep cycle is disrupted this can have significant effects on your wellbeing. Improving your evening routine and following good sleep practices, such as limiting screen time in the evening and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, will have a positive effect on your mood.
Exercise, as we all move around less while working from home, dedicating time to exercise is more important than ever. A 15-minute walk or YouTube workout increases serotonin which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite.
Diet and water consumption. We all know that a healthy diet and water consumption can make us feel better, but many people would be surprised just how quickly making healthy changes can have an effect on the body.
Screen time. When you’re working on a laptop and your recreation and social time is on a screen it can be really hard to reduce your screen time. Try to have dedicated time every day away from your phone or laptop, maybe when you have meals, to improve your wellbeing.
During assessment season it is particularly important to have a routine. For many of you that may have included going to the library, going to the gym or meeting friends. Now we are all working from home, for many our usual routine is gone. More than ever having a routine is essential to maintaining our wellbeing.
While we do not want you to schedule every minute of the day, having a regular alarm, set meal times and dedicated times for study and recreation will help you get the most out of your time.
The amount of work you have may feel daunting and sitting down with the prospect of multiple essays to write and exams to revise for can make it difficult to start work at all. The trick is small attainable goals, aiming to write a certain amount in an hour or read 2 articles by a certain point.
When revising for exams this can be particularly difficult as in theory there is no endpoint to revision until the exam is over. Many students can find revision overwhelming as there are not as many accomplishment markers such as ‘I’m going to write one paragraph’. Shifting your mindset to ‘I’m going to do 2 hours of revision’ or ‘I’m going to make a mind map’ are more tangible goals than ‘I’m going to revise everything for the exam’ as this has no endpoint.
If the thought of starting any work is too overwhelming, try taking the time to sit down and create a timetable or to-do list. This is a small task that can give you a sense of accomplishment. When we achieve small goals this gives us a boost and the confidence to undertake another task and tick another goal of the list.
It is important to schedule recreation time into your day. After you have completed a few tasks, try to reward yourself with a walk, a cup of tea and a biscuit, a facemask or a chat with a friend. When we overload ourselves with work, we run the risk of getting to the end of the day with no energy to do anything we usually enjoy. You may find you end up sitting and scrolling on your phone or mindlessly binge-watching Netflix, feeling no better or more refreshed afterwards. Social media and TV time can be a great way to relax when it is interspersed with productivity and time-limited.
It is hard being away from our friends and family right now. Technology can help us feel connected and supported by our peers. Gatherings, quiz nights, virtual book clubs or group online gaming are just some of the ways that people are getting together. Try to schedule time to connect with your loved ones into your day or week if daily feels overwhelming. Get creative and find new ways to take your usual activities online.
Making the most of your space
Having a dedicated home office has suddenly become a lot more appealing to people. But many of us don’t have that luxury and this is a big practical challenge that students are facing. If you are working from a small space or within one room it is important that you try to be boundaried about how you use the space.
Dedicated work area, this may be at a desk or dining table (add headphones and an ambient playlist if you’re in a busy house!) or on the sofa (watch out for poor posture if this is the case). If you need to use your study space for something else, such as meals, make sure you clear the area and mark the end of study time by having a stretch and walking around the house before you begin your meal. Where possible use this space only for studying.
Dedicating your bed or sofa for relaxation will give you a sense of relief and accomplishment when you sit here after a day of working. It also helps to keep you focused when you’re in your study space.
If you don’t have access to a garden or balcony, open a window and have your breaks here. Standing by an open window for 10 minutes will give you some fresh air and have the added benefit of reducing the time you spend sitting down.
Student Wellbeing Service
If you are still struggling with feeling overwhelmed, low, worried or lacking motivation, you can follow the link to the student wellbeing service website for more information. We can offer you support to help you make sense of your difficulties and formulate a plan to help you get back on track and get moving again in the right direction (www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/wellbeing)
Student Wellbeing Advisor - Faculty of Social Sciences