The final year of my studies introduced me to a few challenges that I expected to face, from planning my future to submitting my thesis. However, a pandemic sweeping the nation was not one of them. Beyond residing in my second home i.e. the library, I had planned to spend my last few months with friends and participating in as many activities as I physically could, before the end of my undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen. How I spend my free time says a lot about me: I’m an extrovert, I love socialising and keeping a little too busy. Naturally, I was devastated to find out over the course of a weekend that many of my friends had left for home and that the library was closing for the foreseeable future. We were due to go into lockdown shortly, an idea which I found terrifying.
Thankfully, the psychology department, amongst others, had been pretty quick to adjust the assessment to an online format with appropriate measures in place. This was not a huge change for me since both my job and most of my study materials were accessible online anyway. However, it still took me a week to get over the initial shock of studying at my kitchen table where my tea consumption levels dramatically rose, while my ability to stay focussed plummeted. During that week I had gone through moments of distress, from the fact that I never got a chance to say goodbye to my friends to the idea of motivating myself to study without social pressure. I had decided to stay away from my family to minimise risk, but boredom quickly set in. I soon realised that had to accept the fact that there was nothing that I could do to change the situation but revise my lifestyle in accordance with the new social distancing measures.
Within a couple of weeks, I had surprisingly adjusted to a new routine without even realising it. I took up creative activities which I previously never had the time for, I maintained social activities with my close friends through video chat and I appreciated the greenery around me when I could get out. I felt much calmer about not only the situation but also my life in general. Earlier in the semester I was becoming overwhelmed with the workload that I had taken on. I had crammed everything such as work, studies, sports and socialising into my last semester, over fear that I would regret not making the most of my time at university. In contrast, having limited options to socialise had forced me to take a step back and relax, which did wonders for my mental health. My anxiety levels subsided, and I felt less exhausted which enabled me to study again.
So far, I have learnt two things. Firstly, that this was first-hand experience of poor affective forecasting. Whilst I feared that I would feel terrible about staying at home from my sociable nature, I was actually able to adjust to this new routine, even with limited social interaction. Secondly, I was reminded that sometimes we need to take a break and recognise the necessity of downtime in order to perform well. I’m not saying that this is the most enjoyable situation ever, but I do believe that there’s a silver lining to even pandemics. I learnt to spend my time wisely with people I care about and activities that I enjoy, whether it be socialising or exercising in a field. I look forward to the end of this pandemic but in the meantime, I’ll take this as an opportunity to give myself take a break from my busy lifestyle.
Lucy is a final year undergraduate studying for an MA in Psychology.