Mindfulness, Mental Health & Positivity

By Stephanie Nedoshytko

Feeling down and cooped up? If you’re anything like me, you might find it difficult to be productive when you’re overwhelmed with working from home, studying, or struggling with ongoing anxiety. Here are some strategies that might help you fellow SUSKites out.

Find your strategy to stay organized

Calendars

I’m a huge proponent of Google calendar to keep track of my events, due dates, and meetings. Because I have so many different email accounts (school, work etc), I find Google easily syncs all of my calendars straight to my phone. I never lose an invite and my phone reminds me of the upcoming meetings. Studying or working from home doesn’t mean every day is Saturday.

Write Out Daily Task Lists

In addition to my online calendar, I also keep a day planner for my daily tasks. I try to map out how I’m going to tackle the week on paper. It gives me a lot of satisfaction crossing something off my list. I recommend writing down even the smallest tasks so that they get done, both personal and work/school-related. For example, write down the jog you want to take or the laundry you want to do.

I also recommend breaking down your big tasks into smaller tasks to help you feel more productive as you complete them. For example, your assignment can be broken down into draft 1, then research, then collect journal articles, or read x pages of a textbook. The smaller the tasks, the more manageable they become.

Daily Task List

Keep a clean workspace

I know how easily your desk or table can get cluttered with paper and other stationary. However, the cleaner your space, the less overwhelming you’ll find your work. But, I understand—sometimes there is a method to the madness. Try to tidy your space up at the end of the day so starting the next day is less intimidating.

Self-care and digital detox

I’m not against binging Netflix, but it does little for my mental health. For me, binging episodes can actually increase anxiety because it’s another way to procrastinate the tasks I need to get done. While we self-isolate, I encourage you to take a break from your electronics. Your mind will thank you. It’ll also prevent you from binging 5 seasons of a show until 4 a.m.

Move Your Body

I have found it especially difficult not having access to my gym because it helped me establish a good routine. Despite this, try to fit in any kind of physical activity you can. Whether this is walking around your house, up and down the stairs, or taking in some fresh air outside, make sure to treat your body well.

Your physical well-being is connected to your mental well-being. Activity is good for you! At-home workouts can be hard to get used to, but there are plenty of online materials. Even a simple walk or quick jog will do you well.

I love to create my own at-home workouts by amalgamating some moves from my favourite Instagram accounts. Happy to share.

Don’t Snack All Day

Anyone who knows me knows I am a notorious snacker. Your sugary snacks can lead to crashes and your heavy snacks can make you feel sleepy. This one is hard but try to stay as close as you can to your normal schedule.

Turn Off Your Phone

It’s so easy to for us to get carried away by constantly looking at our phones. Try completing tasks and turning off your phone or setting it in a separate room for one-hour periods. Our phones can suck a lot of productivity out of our days. Waiting an hour to reply to the next email won’t be the end of the world.

Do Mind Calming Activities

Give your eyes a break by keeping them away from a screen. Try doing a puzzle, get back into reading, write писанки, play with your pet, or play your бандура.

One activity I find very helpful is cleaning. This activity is not only mind-numbing, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment that boosts my productivity later into the day. I know many of you have had to move back in with мама and тато—I’m sure they wouldn’t mind your cleaning!

This will help you become more mindful. Instead of checking social media during a break, try one of these activities.

Work in Bursts

If you have trouble staying focused, promise yourself to work focused for a certain period of time. You can even set a timer if it helps. I also find it helpful to stretch frequently to refresh myself.

Establish an online accountability buddy where you check in every hour to see where you are at with an assignment, studying, or work. This can be very effective when you set up future study sessions.

If your schoolwork or job requires a lot of writing, let yourself “free write.” I often find it difficult to get over writer’s block. Freewriting gets your fingers moving. Even if you think the thoughts you’re writing aren’t making any sense, at some point you’ll write something you can edit at a later time.

Meditation Helps

Despite my initial skepticism, I find meditation not only helps calm anxiety but also puts me in a productive mindset. I try to meditate at least once a day. Sometimes in the morning or later in the evening depending on how my day progresses. I’ve compiled a short list of apps that may help you ease into guided meditation and improve your mindfulness.

Headspace

I’ve been hooked on Headspace since my first semester of law school. I was finding it hard to balance SUSK Presidency duties along with the demands of transitioning into law. My favourite part of the app is the welcoming interface and range of programs.

I pay for the yearly student deal which costs me less than $20. I can curate my experience and choose courses on “Dealing with Distractions” or “Exam Prep.” The app also offers short 3-minute sessions when you just need something to calm you from your wits end. There are also many options to help you fall asleep!

Headspace is offering free access to a few resources as a result of Covid-19. They also offer an ongoing 2-week trial.

Stop, Breathe & Think: Meditation & Mindfulness

This app has a similar feel to Headspace but has a few less options. One unique aspect is the 10 second check-in on your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. The app then curates mediation activities for the day depending on your answers. The free version is sufficient, although I haven’t tried to premium option.

Screenshot from Headspace’s “Exam Prep” guided meditation

Calm

Calm has a lot of free options to offer but it wasn’t an app the worked for me. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you! I found it difficult to find guided mediation that suited my needs. The app does ask you what your biggest needs are when you first log in and tries to suggest options. Some neat parts of this app are “bedtime stories” to help you fall asleep.

Overall, meditation can be hard at first. But, it could help you become more mindful. I find it best to ground myself when I need to. I will sometimes lay out my yoga mat and do some light stretching.

Your mental health is important

We’re currently in unique circumstances. Some of you are stuck away from your friends and family or may be struggling. Know that your feelings are valid and not something you should be shy talking about.

Here is a list compiled of mental health resources in each province with a USO:

Use a yoga mat to ground yourself

We’re getting through this together. If you have questions or want to chat, don’t hesitate to reach out at pastpresident@susk.ca.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and most importantly look after yourself.

Будьте здорові!

– Stephanie Nedoshytko (Стефанія Недошитко)