From being surrounded by friends daily to being at home with family 24/7; from having a timetabled school or college day to being required to study at home; from having clear study and career goals and a stable vision of the future to living in a new and uncertain world with many unanswered questions; this is a challenging time for Leaving Cert students and third-level students. Here are some of the things students are saying:
You are not alone in this. Thousands of students across Ireland and the world are feeling this way. Here are some little tips that may help you during this time to maintain general well-being.
Routines help to bring a sense of calm and grounding in times of change. It's important to find routines that work for you. A good night of sleep and nutritious food will help your focus. Exercise will help to keep you alert and engaged in your study and to relieve feelings of anxiety and/or low mood. Self-care will help to bring balance into your day and may be in the form of rewards that motivate you to persevere with your studies when you want to give up. Study routines will put you at ease knowing that you are not procrastinating and that you are working hard with a plan in place, doing the best that you can.
Here are a few study methods that may help:
1. Replicate the school or college day- follow the usual timetable you would have at school or college.
2. Choose your optimum time- plan your study time around your most productive time of day.
3. Start with your favourite or most disliked subject- Sometimes getting the hardest subject out of the way brings a great sense of achievement and an energy to work through all of the other subjects with more ease. Sometimes easing into your study day with your favourite subject helps to build up to harder subjects.
4. Ignore the clock- Sometimes setting study goals by the clock leads to clock-watching and takes from productivity. It may help to focus on completing tasks rather than achieving a set number of hours of study.
5. Short bursts- Do you work better in bursts? To mix things up, focus on a specific subject intensively for 20-25 minutes then move on to another subject and rotate.
Build an Anxiety Toolkit
Having your own personal toolkit of anxiety relievers is vital for supporting uncertain times. What kinds of activities help you when you are feeling anxious, upset or stressed? You may like to have a physical anxiety toolkit box including items like a scented candle, aromatherapy oils, Bach Flower "Rescue Remedy", a pretty journal, a book of quotes, affirmation cards, colouring book, a stress ball, bath bombs and/or herbal teas. It may be helpful to have a list of your favourite anxiety relievers written on a piece of paper that you can draw upon when you feel anxious. Activities may include meditation, dancing to your favourite music, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, journalling, yoga and/or breathing exercises. Headspace and Calm apps are offering some free resources during this time.
Reward Yourself Regularly & Self-Care
We all need positive reinforcement to stay motivated and being kind to yourself makes life worthwhile. Before Covid-19 you may have gone to fitness classes, music classes or clubs with friends during the week for self-care and you may have rewarded yourself with a social activity with your friends at the weekend. It's important to find new ways to enjoy yourself during Covid-19. Pick a new activity to experience each weekend e.g. bake a new dessert, try a decoupage project to jazz up your bedroom, join an online dance party with friends, have a table quiz night on the Zoom app, listen to live streams on Instagram of your favourite music artists. Take breaks from study regularly, have a hot chocolate, make Wednesdays bubble bath night and when everything feels too much, know when to step away and breathe.
Stay Connected with Friends
Connecting with friends throughout each day and week will support your overall well-being. We all need social time. Apps like Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, Facetime and Whatsapp all have group video call options and many of these include games to play as well. Play board games virtually via apps found through the Google Play store. Why not connect in with a friend at the beginning and end of each day as an "accountability buddy" to help to keep you on track with your study routines? You might even arrange to have a virtual lunch with your friend a few times a week as a self-care routine.
Talk to Your Parents
You may be worried about your parents right now and the stress you see them going through. Please don't let this stop you from talking to them. They will most likely feel more relief in knowing what is going on with you and to be sharing your struggles with you than to learn that you are struggling alone. Let them help you to overcome challenges like finding a suitable study space, juggling study time and helping out with chores at home, sticking to your routines, and/or feeling anxious. They have a wealth of experience in dealing with all kinds of life challenges and they will be glad to be helping you as your parent.
Use Extra Supports
Educational Supports- For second-level students, many Irish education and revision companies such as CJ Fallon and EDCO are offering free access to their resources at this time. Projectmaths is also available for maths learning and apps such as Teanglann and WordReference can be helpful for language learning. The Gaiety School of Acting are hosting a Hamlet Watch Party on 23rd April which may be a fun and interactive way to mix up your study time.
Online Mental Health Chats- Jigsaw, the national centre for youth mental health, is offering free mental health themed online chats for groups of ten 12-25 year olds, from Monday to Friday, twice a day. Special topics include: 'Support for Exam Stress', 'Managing Isolation and Loneliness', and 'Coping with Feeling Low'.
Online/Telephone Therapy Session- Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone and to get some extra support for anxiety, low mood and other challenges you are going through. If you are a third-level student, reach out to student support services, particularly your student counselling services and arrange an online/ telephone session for free. If you are a second-level student, try reaching out to your guidance counsellor by telephone or email for support. Many therapists across Ireland are offering online therapy during this period too. Let's Get Talking are a charity organisation which offer online/ telephone counselling and psychotherapy sessions for students and young people at whatever rate you can afford. Whichever service is most accessible to you, link in with them and let them support you.
If you need to reach out to talk to someone immediately, Samaritans are available on 116 123 or Crisis Text Line, text TALK to 086 1800 280.