Learning Off-campus living Stress

Finding the balance while we work from home

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Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, it was easier to distinguish work or study-related stress from personal stress. Now that many of you are working, living and socialising at home – and often in the same room – the boundaries are more blurred. 

The past few months have brought about very rapid change giving us little time to adjust to new ways of working, and we understand that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with the pressure of university life. However, some small changes can really make a difference in allowing you to better manage this balance, allowing you to meet your deadlines while still having time to wind down without feeling guilty. 

  1. Recognise your priorities

There’s only so many hours in the day, and so it’s really important to figure out what is important to you and prioritise that when you’re planning your day. It’s fine if your list is different from that of your coursemate, or your partner or friend, and it doesn’t need to be all work, work, work – some days you need to prioritise your self-care and that’s totally fine too. 

Remember that we’re a few weeks into the semester now, but if you feel like you’re slipping behind and have lots of work to catch up on then prioritising your tasks will be really beneficial for making sure you can hit your deadlines and still have time to relax.

  1. Set and stick to a routine

Without steady schedules, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred and be stressful to get right. Follow your normal sleep and work patterns if you can, and stay consistent. Get up at the same time, eat breakfast, and get out of your pyjamas! Try scheduling in your “commute time” and spend it exercising, reading or having a cup of tea before logging in.

We should be careful not to set ourselves impossible targets, as this will build on stress levels and reinforce feelings of failure and guilt. Structure your day around your prioritised tasks and break these down into manageable times. 

  1. Figure out how to work with the people you live with 

Setting boundaries with other members of your household is key to mental wellbeing while working at home. You can be more flexible when working from home, but it can also be difficult if there are other distractions to deal with that you wouldn’t get in a lecture theatre. 

It’s a good idea to have a discussion about your needs with those you live with. If you have to share your work and living space with housemates or family, it’s a good idea to discuss ways to share common spaces so that you’re not stuck in your room all day. 

For example, if one of you is attending online lectures then you could do these in your room so that others can still use common spaces without disturbing you. If you have to write a report or have to focus on a task, you could choose a time that is typically quieter, such as first thing in the morning before others get up. 

  1. Give yourself a break

Working at home can make us feel like we have to be available all the time. But just being “present” is no use to anyone if your mental health is suffering. Making time for breaks is important to help manage feelings of stress – try to take lunch and regular screen breaks and don’t feel guilty for needing some down time. 

Give yourself time to concentrate on something else so you feel more focused when you return. Even just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity too so you can still meet your deadlines. 

  1. Be kind to yourself

Remember, this is an unusual situation and things will not feel normal right now. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you might not be as productive as you usually would be. Be realistic about what you can achieve given the circumstances, and relax when your work is done.

If you’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed, please reach out and talk to friends and family, your academic advisor or a member of support staff about how you’re feeling. 

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