Managing Your Psychology Degree (and anxiety) During COVID-19 Lockdown

The coronavirus has changed our lives in so many ways. From the fear of the unknown and anxiety over contracting it, to the complete change of things we have in our lives that give us structure and routine.

For those of us that are studying psychology degrees at the moment, that anxiety is heightened. Due to uncertainty over course work, exams, meeting competencies and graduating.

I have always felt that psychology degrees are different from others. We delve deep into the human mind and emotions in our studies. We reflect and consider the challenges we face as people. We dedicate years to understanding how the human mind can be challenged and influenced.

All the fun stuff really…

With that though comes a lot of personal difficulties. We are forced to confront the vulnerable parts of ourselves. We are asked to delve deep into personal reflection.

Now we have to manage all of this whilst on lockdown and whilst facing isolation.

It’s no easy tasks for any student at the moment, but there are additional challenges for the psychology student I feel.

So, I thought I would write an article looking at my top tips on how psychology students can best manage their degrees whilst on lockdown.

1. You have expertise in psychology…use it

When I was doing my undergraduate degree in psychology I once had a tutor that told me that we should be using our psychological expertise o our advantage when studying.

She was 100% right.

I realised that I was in a great position to use what I knew about attention, memory and the brain’s ability to absorb new information.

I knew that regular breaks would be important, reducing distraction would be vital and staying hydrate really necessary.

I even knew some of the empirical literature that backed all of this up.

The ability to use psychological principles in my daily life has stuck with me ever since. I feel the same principles can be used in the challenge we all face with lockdown now, particularly when you are trying to manage a psychology degree.

Using your psychological knowledge will allow you to understand the importance of self-care, taking breaks, organising your working environment and having a structure to your day.

You have psychological expertise…use it!

2. Structure your day and keep these three pillars in mind

Let’s face it, your normal everyday routine and structure has been totally thrown out the window…pretty much overnight

Implementing a new structure, one that you have created yourself, is so so important right now.

We are people that thrive off of routine and structure, when that structure is changed or destroyed its not uncommon for us to struggle.

That will mean you need to sit down, think about the regularity of when you are going to wake up and when you are going to sleep, when you are going to take your one piece of exercise or day, when you are going to study and when you are going to relax.

I’m not trying to advise you become like a robot, but I am saying that if you are in the middle of your psychology degree during this lockdown, routine should be one of your main priorities.

There are three key pillars that all psychology students should consider when establishing this new routine though.

1. Achievement

This goes without saying. A big part of your routine will be about trying to maintain progress in your psychology degree.

And if you are going to maintain progress then you have to undertake and execute tasks that are going to keep you on track.

So, plan out a goal for each day you are studying. Maybe you want to finish the first draft of the introduction section of your most recent research paper.

Maybe you want to read up and get more familiar with a topic that you missed as the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding and classes were cancelled. Whatever it is, set a goal that you can achieve.

Not only is this going to motivate you as you are studying, but it is also going to make you feel pretty god at the end of the day.

2.Pleasure

Do something each day that you enjoy…bottom line.

Right now isn’t the time for half measures, if you enjoy something then make sure you invest in it each day.

It could be working out, make sure you get some good exercise each day.

It could be cooking, make sure you cook up your favourite meal each day.

It could be watching Game of Thrones, make sure you watch a couple of episodes each night.

Whatever it is that gives you pleasure, make sure you invest in it each day.

3. Connection

During lockdown, you’ll have limited connection with people. You won’t be in uni classes right now, and you won’t have the opportunity to see family and friends.

Establishing some form of connection will be really important. Video calling family and friends and even setting up a zoom call with people from your psychology class to discuss how you are all doing and how your assignments are progressing could be a really good idea.

Whatever it takes to get you more connection with others, make sure to do it!

3. Focussing on controlling what you can control, and accepting what you can’t

For me, focussing on controlling the controllable is a vital consideration for psychology students right now.

You might be worried about graduation, you might be concerned about whether or not you’ll get a job right away at the end of your degree.

As difficult as it is, that is something that cannot be controlled for right now. Acceptance of the uncertainty is the only option, and although it sounds like a less attractive option, it can actually be a really healthy process for anxiety to accept the uncertain and uncontrollable situations in our lives.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is something I am reminded of here, and something I use often with clients when they feel anxious about a situation that they have no control over.

We understand the acceptance part, but the other part is commitment, this means committing to the things you can change. Although you have to accept the unpredictability of the end of your studies, you can commitment to ensuring you continue with your work each day.

I think this is something that’s really important to think about during your psychology studies during lockdown. Accept the unpredictable nature of your studies, but commit to doing all you can each day to maintaining your progress.

4. Don’t forget to remember the light at the end of the tunnel

There is something really important also to remember that all of this will end.

Your psychology degree will come to an end, if you stick with your studies and invest effort each day, you will get what you deserve, you will get your degree.

Of all the acceptance and all the commitment we have discussed in this article, don’t forget that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s so important to remember and focus on that.

I really hope this post has given you a little assistance and support during a really difficult time for those of us in the middle of our psychology degrees. Stay strong, accept the things you cant change and commit to the things that you have control over.

 

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