Elinor Nichols, Senior Residents’ Assistant for North Houses tells us what she has learnt to appreciate during social distancing and shares her top tips on making the most of this time alone.
Now that I’ve got time to myself and don’t have constant meetings and activities, I can enjoy time outside, or simply taking time to draw or sing. I’ve realised how much better I feel about myself and my life at the moment and I’m definitely planning, once things return back to normal, on making sure I defend my free time and don’t overcommit myself.
I thought all my friends moving back home and being alone on campus would be really lonely and depressing, but it’s been nice. Things are finally quiet and I have space to do things I really enjoy. Things only get lonely if you let yourself lose contact with friends and family, but so long as you spend a little time each day talking with the people you love, it’s really enjoyable to spend the rest of your time on your own.
There are things I’ve discovered here. First, it’s important to have a daily routine, especially for the mornings to get you out of bed and start your day. The evenings are also important to have a routine for so that you can unwind, go to bed at a reasonable hour, reflect on your day and avoid everything blending into a monotony.
Second tip is to have an accountability partner; find a friend you respect and tell them at the start of the day what you intend to do, and promise by the end of the day you will send pictures of that accomplished task. It’s a really big motivator to actually commit to getting things done, whether it be going for a run, cleaning your room, or writing your dissertation.
My third tip is to have at least one scheduled meeting or commitment in the morning to make sure you get out of bed. Whether it be talking with a friend, a work-related meeting, or a webinar you’ve signed up for, having a firm time to start your day helps you get started on the right foot.
If you are totally alone on campus, make a few playlists for when evenings get a little too quiet for comfort. Just because you’re stuck in the same flat all the time doesn’t mean you can’t create different atmosphere. Even better, have your friends send you some of their playlists and you’ll feel even more connected to them from far away as you listen to their favourite songs.
Do you have international friends? Or a club or society you were a part of during term time? Reach out to them and establish weekly meetings. Personally, as part of the Catholic Society it’s been really cool to see how we’ve been able to maintain our weekly prayer groups even though we’re now scattered all over the globe. Praying the rosary together is not only reassuring, but it reminds me that I have a community I can reach out to that is more enduring than university life; if we’re able to connect and stay together during this time, we’ll probably also stay connected and keep our virtual prayer groups going even after this whole thing is over. That’s a really exciting and encouraging thought. Now is the time to set up habits and routines to help your long-distance relationships endure.
Hone in your ability to understand why you’re opening your Instagram or Facebook app. Is it because you genuinely want to be inspired or to connect with others? Or is it because you’re bored? Spending hours on Instagram or YouTube is not as fun as it might seem at first. If you start figuring out why and when you use social media the way you do, you can avoid being sucked down the rabbit hole of endless scrolling by checking in with your motivations when you open the app.
Working for ResLife and a local parish, my top priority the past few weeks has been reaching out to vulnerable people and trying to establish a sense of community and support those self-isolating. That means setting up lots of Zoom meetings and community networks. But it’s okay if you want to disengage. It’s okay to take this time to yourself to block out the noise of the world and just focus on doing the things you love or only talking with the people that really matter to you. So long as you are not feeling utterly alone and miserable, it’s totally fine to use this time as a sort of personal retreat. Just know that the support networks are there if you do need it and we’re all in this together.