Life throws major obstacles in your way, often at highly inconvenient and challenging times. During these times study can be the last thing on your mind. At the moment, we are all experiencing this external source of stress and disruption with the COVID-19 pandemic which has changed our lives for the foreseeable future. Global pandemics aside, personal and internal battles such as mental health, relationship breakdown, natural disaster, or grief might also interfere with your study at different stages of your degree. In what is undoubtedly a troubling time, it can seem impossible to stay focused on study. Thankfully, there are ways to keep yourself on track, stay resilient, and come out the other end proud of what you have accomplished and overcome.
Acknowledge the feeling
Trying to mask your emotions and put on a brave face will not provide any relief. If you are stressed, emotional, or feeling helpless, then try to acknowledge these feelings rather than stifle it away.
Bring awareness to your thoughts and body with just a few minutes of mindfulness every day. Mindfulness will not only relieve stress but also bring clarity to your mind so you can more effectively think and concentrate. Mindfulness can also mean taking care of your physical health in order for your mental health to be strong. Check-in with your body and give yourself a break if you feel tired or sore.
Keep your support network strong
During stressful periods it is so important to have a support network you can confide in. Friends, family, neighbours, pets – whoever it is, use these resources to build yourself up when needed. If you are lucky enough to have a close group of friends at uni then draw support from this group and reach out to them for help with your courses if you need. Whenever you feel concentration fading it is this support network which can keep you accountable, resilient, and strong.
Reach out to your Professors and academic mentors
Professors and tutors are people too. They can offer support, provide suitable adjustments, and accommodate for the challenges you are experiencing. Don’t be afraid to bring things up – remember, teachers have all been there before.
Limit your external stimuli
During these times you don’t need anything else to unnecessarily distract you. Remove external sources of distraction from your life. During COVID-19, that involves limiting the amount of time you spend watching the news or reading updates. More broadly, things such as social media cleanses or disabling notifications on your phone will help keep your mind clear and focused.
Resilient study techniques
Getting back into study or transitioning into a new study environment is undoubtedly challenging. To help you stay concentrated, implement some of these “smart study” techniques:
- Create a study timetable which is specific, visible, and measurable.
- Create a working home environment which is separate to your bedroom if possible. It is too tempting to crawl into bed otherwise! If it’s not possible to change rooms then try and face away from your bed on the opposite side of the room.
- Study smart, not hard. For example, read your course outlines and assessment rubrics thoroughly to make sure you are hitting the main outcomes in your study. This will stop you from wasting your time on unnecessary detail which is bound to overwhelm.
Remind yourself of the end goal
You probably started your degree with an idea of what you wanted to be doing at the end of it (or, what you DON’T want to be doing). It is crucial to keep this goal in mind now. Do whatever you need to keep it at the forefront of your mind. Write it down, say it to yourself as a mantra, or set it as your lock screen. Never lose sight of this goal – it will steer you through the hard times.
Believe me, I know how difficult it is to study when it feels impossible. Keep calm and take a breath – you will get through this!