5 Things to Do Every Day to Get Through the Day
Clara Sablitzky provides some tips on how to look after our bodies and minds during midterms, winter weather and the current pandemic.
Artwork caption: Throughout the pandemic, I have allowed myself a small £2 bouquet of carnations and a regular supply of crosswords when I order groceries. As someone on the Shielding List, it's the little things once taken for granted that have really helped to keep me sane. (Acrylic on canvas.)
As midterms hit and winter sets in, this time of the uni year is always the hardest. Add the global situation on top and it’s easy to see why many of us are struggling right now. Some days are better than others, but sometimes we just need to look after ourselves. Here are some tips to do on the days when you just need to get through the day.
1. Take a Minute
Uni is a lot at the best of times. Seniors have honours to deal with and Freshers are trying to navigate a completely new life, but this time amid a pandemic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let things build up in your head without knowing what to do about it.
Meditation: Taking a minute, or ten, every morning to sit and breathe with no distractions can help with mood, stress and focus. Daily meditation requires nothing apart from you, your body and your brain, but if you do want guided practices to get you into it there are apps, like Headspace and Calm, or thousands of YouTube videos to choose from (I like Michael Sealy and Jason Stephenson, but it’s important to find what you prefer). As you learn to observe, rather than react to your thoughts, it should become easier to manage those days where your brain feels like it’s going a million miles an hour. Learning to meditate is basically just learning to apply the brakes and take a breather.
Journaling: Dumping your thoughts and feelings on paper can often help you look at them from a new perspective, as well as being an incredibly cathartic exercise when something’s really wound you up. Over time, daily journaling can help us become more self-aware and make it easier to identify when we might be slipping into old habits or a lower mood, and the more self-aware we become the easier it is to deal with off days. It’s also fun to journal the good days, so there are amazing memories to look back on when our uni days are far behind us.
*While meditation and journaling can help relieve feelings of anxiety and low mood, it is so important to reach out to people you feel comfortable with if you feel like you really need help. No issue is too small. If you need professional advice, please have a look at these resources:
· Or go to your GP
2. Move Your Body
Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make us happy.. We know this but sometimes it is easier to close our eyes and pretend we do not see it and spend a couple more hours in bed scrolling on TikTok. While the gym is open, it’s understandable if it’s not exactly appealing at the moment and going for a run in this weather might not be your ideal Monday morning either. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be beneficial – even stretching is better than nothing. Yoga and Pilates are about as uni-room friendly as exercise goes, and if you’re not bothered about your downstairs neighbours you could try a body-weight home workout (actually, please do be considerate). Again, YouTube really is the gift that keeps on giving if you’re stuck for ideas. Even just having a one-man dance party in your bedroom counts and is probably the most fun out of all of these options. (Not house parties though, please don’t have house parties right now…)
3. See Friends
We may have lost the Pear Tree and the Library Bar for the moment but at least we still have Black Medicine and good old Amphion to serve us decent coffee and give us somewhere to meet our friends. While a Sunday studying in Teviot isn’t quite the same as a Saturday night at Big Cheese, getting out and spending time with people you like is an easy way to feel better. There’s still time to join a sports club or society too if you haven’t already (I reckon Zoom socials are actually better than a Wednesday night in WhyNot). It’s easy to shut yourself off when you’re not feeling great - sometimes being on your own is actually the best thing for you in the moment. However, if you’re finding yourself withdrawing beyond your normal level, maybe try organising a movie night with your flatmates or a coffee with your uni friends or a call with your home friends. It’s important to really be there for the people you love, and the people you love will be there for you too.
4. Get Outside
I know, I know, telling you to get outside in Edinburgh in Winter to help you feel better seems counterproductive, but I promise you it helps. Sometimes getting out of your house is the best way to get out of your head, so you can completely walk away from whatever’s bothering you (literally). We are so lucky to have beautiful parks and beaches that make you feel like you’re out of the city completely. Holyrood Park and Blackford Hill are stunning walks if you’ve got more energy in you and walking around the Meadows just isn’t cutting it anymore. You could even take a trip to Portobello or Cramond Beach - not quite the summer holiday we’d all hoped for but it’ll do. Even the five minutes of sun we get during Edinburgh Winters can make all the difference (I have a SAD lamp, that’s always an option too.)
5. Do Something Else
Sometimes the best thing to do is just close your laptop and put your phone away and just do something else for a bit. How can you expect to do your best work when you’re sat stressing that you’re stupid and you can’t do it and you might as well just drop out now and become a goat farmer in the Andes? 1. You’re not stupid, 2. I reckon you probably know a lot more about your degree than goat farming, and 3. There are easier things to do to take your mind off things than move to Peru.
Now the pubs are closed, I’ve started doing crosswords to relax in the evening (yes, I am a grandma) and I love to read in my spare time. My flatmate knits (another grandma) but honestly it doesn’t matter what you do to switch off. Drawing, painting, singing, dancing, running, walking, crocheting, baking, sudoku-ing (that’s definitely not a word), poetry-ing (yeah, that’s not either), writing, playing music, skating, cycling, colouring, windowsill gardening, jewellery making, video gaming, literally anything you can think of that you enjoy doing, just do it. You don’t even have to do it well. Just do it because you want to.
Clara is a third year French and German student at the University of Edinburgh.