With the introduction of the UK’s third lockdown, students are again plunged into uncertainty. The fact that Boris Johnson has yet again failed to mention the words “students” or “universities” left us feeling disregarded and kept in the dark. Amongst the chaos, the student community have come together; creating open letters to Vice Chancellors and checking in on each other.
Despite everyone’s best efforts to help one another, the sense of anxiety for the future ahead is inescapable. It seems unfair that students have to form support networks themselves because of the absent support from their university. Feelings of isolation, negativity and hopelessness are completely normal, and valid.
Not being able to see friends and course-mates as usual, and being told to just stay put takes a toll on mental health. And sadly, reports show that the pandemic has led to increased mental health problems in young people who have never previously been diagnosed.
A great concern for many is what life will look like post-lockdown and post-pandemic. There are two sides to the anxiety about the future. The first is eager to return to normality, whilst the second is being worried about what the new normal will look like. Dr Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry, argues that the latter can be explained by becoming comfortable and complacent in lockdown. When it comes to reintegration and opening back up again, he proposes that the government reassures the public that it is safe to have contact with others again. The public needs clarity to feel secure and confident.
It may be a while until we have to cross that bridge, so until then Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, advises people to take it easy and to be kind to themselves. To create a sense of control, she proposes that people take up hobbies that they can continue into the future after lockdown has ended, which will allow for a smoother transition.
However helpless we are all feeling now, it is important to try and find a silver lining that currently exist in our lives. In other words, the only way to get through the situation that has put our lives on hold and stolen the liberties we love, is to take one day at a time, focus on the present, and make the most of what we do have. As numerous sources will tell you, we can take this opportunity to do what our previous life’s daily distractions stopped us from doing. We can learn new skills and try new things, as well as focus more on pursuing our current passions: to do what makes us happy. We can practice our cooking skills (ideal for us university students!), learn a musical instrument or take up a new language of a country that we plan to visit as soon as we have the chance. As Rhea Vitto Tabora asserts in her article, How to use your time at home wisely during coronavirus lockdown – (travelasianow.net), there’s nothing to distract us this time.
In order to keep ourselves going, we must try to reflect on the little things that really matter: to focus on the people around us, and to look forward to seeing others once it is safe to do so. There is no denying that the situation is hard, but the way we choose to respond to it is what will make or break us at this moment in time. After all, our family and our friends are everything, so making the effort to bond with them and to keep those relationships going is key. We are all in this together, and we should not forget that.
By Kallista Jayasuriya and Olivia Morel
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