A Toolbox For Studying Online

How does working from home make you feel? Perhaps you thought it would be over by now. Maybe you were trying to form some kind of schedule but thought you wouldn’t be spending the entire year studying virtually.

For those of us at UCT, we’ve recently received the news that the second semester will be completed virtually. This is not really a surprise, given that we’re in the peak of the pandemic and that RSA has secured a top 5 spot for Covid cases. How can we move forward with this, given how overwhelming it truly is?

Today I’d like to share some of my life lessons and what has been working for me through this turbulent period. I’ll talk a little about scheduling and time management, how to make stress your friend, being supportive to others, understanding mental health, keeping your goals in check and remaining mindful.

Since I’ve spoken in depth about most of these topics before, I’ll provide links to the full posts under each heading.

Time Management

In order to successfully manage our time, we need to keep 3 things in check:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

This is forming a skeleton of your ideal day. Think of it as the foundation of your empire. How do we form structure? By setting out goals and objectives, each and every day.

When you’re consistent with the structure you’ve formed, it opens up time for you to do more. You gain confidence from consistency because you know what to expect from yourself.

Your structure should include time for you to rest, recover and reload. Make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night. Make sure that you’re putting in exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Make sure that you’re spending some time in nature too. Important here is to also monitor your social media usage and the amount of time you spend online.

Time management

I’ve been requested to talk a little about time management, so let’s give it a go. I’d like to first try and define time, or at least come to an understanding of what it is. Then we can dive into how to maneuver through the time we have. I aim to make you feel more … Continue reading Time management

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first … Continue reading Make Stress Your Friend #2

Make stress your friend

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

Keep in mind that stress is a beneficial part of your nature, it’s meant to help you adapt and react swiftly to changes in your environment. Manage stress by focusing on your breath and finding cues to the present moment.

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Support structures and mental health

This is especially important now that we’re unable to physically meet each other on a regular basis. It’s really helpful to try and form a support structure with your peers, even if it’s just on group chat. Knowing that there are others who are going through a similar experience will make you feel a lot better.

This adds to the issue of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health is something that you need to take care of regularly. You can’t wait for things to go south and feel overwhelmed before you put in any effort.

Regularly taking care of your mental health can be as simple as journalling, meditating, praying, going for a walk or speaking to a friend. When it gets a little more hectic, speaking to a therapist or seeking professional help may be a better option.

Many universities offer virtual therapy sessions to their students for free. Be sure to utilize those resources if you need to.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health? We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are. … Continue reading Mental health

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment? I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought … Continue reading Mindful Monday #1

Mindfulness

This has been a recurring topic in my blog since I started. I’ve done a presentation on mindfulness a few weeks ago on 20 Life Learners that I’d like to share here.

It’s essentially about finding cues to stay in the present moment. Using grounding techniques such as focusing on your breath, you can control your physiology to condition your mind. There’s quite a bit of neuroscience behind it, you can read more in my Mindful Monday posts.

Goals

I’m not sure about you, but this year has forced me to reevaluate many of my goals. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it means that we need to be realistic and adapt.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool to help you move forward in life and to reach peaks you never could’ve imagined climbing. Find a place to write down some of your objectives for the rest of the year and review them constantly. It will make a difference in how motivated you feel.

Don’t give up when things don’t go according to plan. Find ways to improvise and keep looking at the bigger picture. You’re worthy. You’re capable. You will achieve greatness.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health?

We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are.

We prioritize our diets and fitness regimes for our physical goals, without realizing how interconnected they are to our mental health. So I want to dive into how mental health is just as important as physical health. By discussing ways to accept our thoughts, overcoming the stigma of seeking help (therapy), forming a routine to stay mentally fit, an Islamic perspective and as always: gratitude.

Acceptance

A very difficult aspect to deal with when it comes to mental health is acceptance. Accepting the fact that there’s something wrong. We often don’t realize it, but our idea of ‘normal’ is purely based off our experiences and exposure to the world.

When it comes to mental habits & thought patterns, we have absolutely no idea what ‘normal’ could mean. That’s where it gets a little tricky. Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed all the time may start feeling normal. We think it’s just who we are.

But there’s a limit to that. We need to become more aware of these unhealthy thought patterns and learn to accept them. That’s the first step towards making progress; clearly identifying the problem. With acceptance, we can find solutions and ultimately move forward.

Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results

We need to be more compassionate towards other people too. Accepting ourselves for who we are comes first, but accepting other people for who they are is just as important. There’s always been this huge stigma with regards to seeking help for mental health.

Let’s try and break that barrier down and make it easier for people to seek the necessary help they need. To live healthier and more functional lives.

Stigma

Would it make sense to judge someone for visiting the doctor because they broke a leg? Or someone who has had a heart attack? Or any other ‘physical illness’?

Why then do we make it difficult for people who have anxiety disorders, panic attacks or are feeling clinically depressed?

These aren’t issues that people can just ‘get over’ or ‘pray’ away. They’re deeply neurological and affect the body’s entire chemistry. It’s imperative that we start learning more about these issues and their causes. To help those we can to the best of our ability.

Support & seeking help

This is the reason I chose this topic. To encourage support among each other. Recovery and growth occur so much faster with a solid support structure.

Pay more attention to your friends and family members. Ask them how they’re doing more regularly. Watch out for red flags or consistent negative thought patterns.

Be nonjudgemental! We’re stronger together. I was absolutely inspired when I spent some time in nature the other day. I saw a school of fish moving together at a reservoir, and the synchronization was impeccable. They were truly stronger and more resilient together.

So I felt the need to share that because we’re part of nature too. It’s in our advantage to work together and help each other become better versions of ourselves. How exactly can we help though?

By encouraging people to seek help.

Psychotherapy

Here’s another aspect of mental health that we need to work on. Removing the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. Apart from seeing a therapist because of a mental illness, seeing a therapist would be beneficial to almost anyone.

Like going to the gym to take care of our body, we need to take find ways to take care of our minds. And exactly like we use personal trainers to find what works for our physical goals, we can use therapists to help us reach our mental goals.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking: I speak to my friends / family members about my issues, I don’t need therapy. But it’s much deeper than that. It’s about unraveling the issues that you didn’t even realize were issues. Professional help will almost always be a better option.

It allows for a deeper understanding of patterns in your life that you’ve been subconsciously ignoring. And most importantly, figuring out what messed you up when you were much younger.

Apart from seeking help, there are certain habits that we can instill to ensure we’re on the right track towards a healthy mental state.

Routine- Consistency

What are the key habits that promote a healthy state of mind?

  • Reading
  • Solving puzzles
  • Meditating / Praying
  • Exercise
  • Diet

The first and most obvious one is reading! The second would be solving puzzles, playing chess, or doing any activity that requires critical thinking. Meditating definitely helps here as well as exercise. But an underrated aspect to mental health that we often don’t realize, is our diet.

The food we ingest has a direct effect on our mental health. It makes sense if you think about it. We’re just a bunch of cells that need constant servicing. So the way we choose to service our bodies has an impact on our day to day activities.

Keep the food you eat as natural as possible. I’m not using the word ‘healthy’ here because that’s just vague. But eating food that comes directly or as close to nature as possible, will yield the best results.

We’re all part of nature at the end of the day. It’s important to understand that these are just habits that can be used to keep your brain ‘healthy’. They’re not solutions to any illness.

Prevention is better than cure; especially as you grow older.

The most important part of the entire process is consistency. We need to take care of ourselves Every. Single. Day. We need to stay mentally fit for us to contribute as best as we can and to serve those around us diligently.

Islamic perspective

First and foremost, put your trust in God. Have faith that you will recover and get through this. It’s all part of the journey. Seek help with the conviction that everything happens for a reason.

“What’s meant for you will never miss you. What misses you was never meant for you.”

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”

We’re here temporarily. Don’t ever forget that. Spend time in nature if you need a reminder of that. The only constant is change. Nothing is meant to remain the same. Let’s see how incorporating gratitude can also assist this process.

Gratitude

Increasing gratitude increases your presence. The more grateful you are for what you have, the better you deal with setbacks. It’s one of the most important values to have (in my opinion), as it allows for grit and perseverance.

You get to choose your reaction, not the circumstances you’re in. Being thankful is like armour for your soul. Regardless of the trials and tribulations, there’s always something you can be grateful for. Keep that in mind and you’ll find yourself making exponential progress.

I just want this to serve as a reminder to all of us, that mental health is an everyday struggle that we need to take care of. I also want to emphasize how important it is to be supportive to your peers and family members who are battling with mental illnesses.

It’s not just a choice or change in attitude. Having a positive attitude certainly helps, but it’s not a cure. Theses are issues which require constant treatment and medication. So it’s time we start treating them more seriously and compassionately.