By Vicky Witts | Advice Editor
Most of us know the feelings of stress, confusion, and being overwhelmed that come with returning to education after a break such as the summer holidays. But this year it will clearly be particularly difficult to readjust to the university workload following lockdown, as it has led to most of us being away from academic studies for many months.
Whilst some productive individuals have used this extra free time to develop old skills or gain new ones, many students have taken lockdown as an extension of the summer break, choosing to enjoy the weather rather than focusing on education.
Without a regular routine for months, it is fair to suggest that many of us may find it difficult to cope as the new academic year begins and we are forced once again to adhere to the usual deadlines and timetables that come with being a student.
The worry that these routines can cause may have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing and social life if you are not correctly prepared for the year ahead. The negative consequences of feeling overwhelmed at university will likely only be heightened this year as many of us have not experienced the daily stresses of student life for many months.
Being able to adjust to life as a student after such a long period of time may seem like a daunting idea, but there are methods and tools you can use to help you keep your work on track and your mental health in check when university finally resumes.
Use organisational tools to keep you focused
The creation of a clear timetable for your work is usually a useful tool to create whilst at university in order to prepare for any tasks set or upcoming exams. This is true at most points of being a student in education.
However, with many universities choosing to teach a large percentage of content in an online format, keeping yourself organised and on track with your work as it is released is now even more important.
It is very likely that most people have used or attempted to create a timetable to organise some aspect of their lives or learning, so it may seem obvious that they are useful tools for readjusting to a routine.
Despite being a very popular organisational tool though, people still find using planners and timetables difficult and sometimes stressful as they tend to fit too many tasks into one day.
This can be overcome by editing your current schedule as simply breaking the writing of lecture notes or study time into smaller sections and giving yourself more breaks can help to settle much of the anxiety you may feel about your work.
Try journaling to help your mental wellbeing
Coping with the university workload is not solely a physical, organisational matter. The sudden vast increase in work and routine which most of us will experience may also take a toll on our mental wellbeing by creating unnecessary extra stress and anxiety.
A key method for staying mentally prepared and overcoming these anxieties is by tracking and becoming aware of your mental health. This may be in the form of classic diaries or more modern style journals such as bullet journals, all of which are designed to track and record your thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.
By recording how you are feeling about your university studies you can learn when to readjust and alter your routines, and learn to manage your emotions so that you feel less overwhelmed with the transition back into education.
Talk to your peers about how you are feeling
Although the disruptions to learning caused by the coronavirus has caused additional stress about getting used to a vastly increased workload, a positive of this is that many of your peers may also be feeling the same way.
A survey conducted by Universities UK found that 95% of universities they interviewed would be utilising both online and in-person teaching this year and so a large number of students will likely share the same anxieties about the university workload following lockdown.
Our shared experience of lockdown has created the opportunity to talk to each other about how we are feeling and reflect on our shared experiences throughout the pandemic.
This increase in discussion does not have to end when university returns.
A good way to maintain a healthy mindset and cope with the increased workload is to talk to your friends, flatmates, and peers about how you are feeling and ask if they have any advice on how to reduce your stress or anxieties.
Just realising that other people may be feeling the same way that you are can begin to help improve how you feel towards your studies.
Ultimately, in the unusual amount of time that we have all been away from university in the past few months, it is likely that many students will feel anxious and worried that they won’t be able to stay on track when they return to learning.
Whether you are a new or returning student, just starting the new academic year with the optimism that you will be able to manage the university workload following lockdown may help in preparing you for the year ahead.