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“Cheer up”; “Get over it”; “Why don’t you ever say anything”; “You are always sleeping”.

 

Author: Jason Schlachter (LLB IV)

Date published: 24 August 2020.

 

I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have been on the receiving end of one of these phrases. The reality is that, no one ever really knows how bad a situation is, until it is too late- this is why I am writing to you guys and girls out there, especially in the context of the current Covid-19 world dispensation. Before the global pandemic there was a lifestyle at universities and colleges around the world that created an atmosphere of prospective prosperity and coupled with what seemed to us all as an overpowering social component, that now that it is virtually gone (yes pun intended), as our classes have been declared online- the ugly truth behind the strain University takes on the average student has been revealed. 

With all other aspects of university life now a thing of the past, we see more and more students falling victim to the chaos to the financial and academic stressors that are, under normal circumstances, easy enough to become a life consuming internal battle. Students used to rely on extra-curricular activities, such as sport and cultural engagement to let off some steam, or to recalibrate the mind. 

One of the biggest concerns lie with the fact that students may have misgivings with regard to the relevance of their chosen study tracks in a post COVID-19 world and the over-hanging, “What-if” that plagues our minds with soul sucking clouds of irrational fixation on these contemporary and unchartered psychosocial battles.

  • A recent survey conducted jointly by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Change, and the developmental, capable and ethical state research division of the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa found that during the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa, 45% of adults were fearful, 33% depressed, and 29% lonely.

Deteriorating mental health can lead to a significant decline in personal motivation- although taming the demons on your shoulder may be a form of temporary relief, depression will still whisper in your ear underrating your capabilities. So how can we as students deal with this? Firstly, the stigmatisation surrounding mental health is a huge contributing factor as to why depressed people, “Just sit there”- this is because in the public eye, one would be perceived as anti-social if they express their grief and be labelled as a, ‘Party downer’ or that you are just seeking attention. 

Secondly, Don’t give yourself time to talk yourself out of your day- act as if you feel great already and you know for a fact that you’re leaving the house and will have a good time. The small victories all count, getting dressed and looking decent can go a long way toward giving you a mental boost- and with this it opens the door to external cognitive stimulation: whether it is a small workout (great for alleviating the symptoms), but also to engage in the things that used to make to happy, or to feel content for the lack of a better word.

Discipline over yourself and self-governance are elements to embrace on the route to successful mindfulness- the ability to overcome mental adversity.

  • The brain is able to create new neural pathways. Change your way of thinking over a period of time, and a new neural pathway is created.

Exercise your body BUT more importantly your mind- when you have a spontaneous feed of anxiety about an issue, write the problem down and break it down into the steps which you have control over. By doing this, you create a pathway less intimidating. For example- you get an email from your lecturer saying that you are undergoing investigation for academic misconduct and your results are not being released. Break down your problem: Organise a consultation with the SDAP. After you are given some clarity on your position, then you can write down the ways in which YOU can deal with the stressors and put them in a broader life context- after all it is not life or death. ‘Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future- it comes from trying to control it’ (Kahlil Gibran), focus on the aspects of life which are under your own control. 

  • Some people carry flashcards to remind themselves of their good traits when they’re feeling particularly down- this proven behavioural psychology method is good but sometimes it’s impossible to blow away that dark cloud around your head and weighing down on your shoulders. Personally in situations like this- I harness the mental burden as a source of motivation, to alleviate the burdensome emotion as swiftly and effectively as possible. (When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.)

Once the dust around the pandemic settles, we will see the rubble left behind, largely the mental health casualties

  • We are the generation that needs to pick up these pieces and rebuild a world where everyone matters, instead of viewing the pandemic as a destruction of life as you knew it- why not try and see the beautiful renovations that we can enforce in society and create a world which we would like our children to grow up in: there is always a bigger picture and better things awaiting us in the decades to come- do not let these malignant thoughts cut this short.

 

Tough time’s never last- only tough people last

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- Author Jason Schlachter
Published by Thato Mpye

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