Happy New Year! This isn’t where we’d hope to be at the start of a new year, but there is relief in having got through 2020 and in knowing that vaccines are on their way. While we wait, 2021 will have to be about being kind to ourselves, leveraging the self-knowledge we have gained in 2020 to cope with local restrictions, protecting our mental health, and taking steps forward with our work.
England is in the process of entering a third national lockdown. Those of us living on or near campus must stay at home except where necessary (necessary activities include work, grocery shopping and exercise). We’ve done this before, and the familiar rhythms of daily exercise, meal planning and Zoom calls are already established. Think about what worked and what didn’t work for you during previous periods of restrictions and use that knowledge to get through this one as best you can. If you’re not in England, check your local restrictions.
It is natural to struggle with aspects of your mental health during periods of restrictions, especially where we don’t have physical access to our support networks. Make an effort to connect with other PGRs (in your department or across the institution) and your friends and family using your preferred online platform. If you feel worried, anxious or scared about the impact restrictions are having on your personal life and/or your postgraduate research studies, visit the University’s Wellbeing webpages or contact your School Wellbeing Officer. Alternatively, the Wellbeing Thesis provides an online resource for postgraduate research students to support wellbeing, learning and research.
And at the same time, we are hoping to make some progress with research. If this seems difficult, review your research plans and adapt them for the current conditions – be realistic about what you can achieve. Of course these plans might need to change, but that is always the case with plans – remember that plans are worthless, but planning is everything (attributed to Eisenhower). Share your plans with your supervisor and your support network, to embed both accountability and moral support. Once you have your plans, can you make use of productivity tools (e.g. Trello, the Pomodoro technique, Forest) to help you work more effectively? To form new habits, maintain a simple tracker to record when you have achieved something – and don’t break the chain.
These are challenging times, and everyone is affected differently. Be gentle with yourself, support others, and keep going. The vaccines are on their way, and the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.