- Ridge Michiels
Throwback Q&A: your mental well-being in times of coronavirus
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
We noticed that we and you were looking for more information about our mental well-being. That is why we posted a Q&A on 20 May 2020 to the UAntwerp Youtube page. For one week, you were able to send us your most pressing questions, which were included in the livestream. Our guests were DJ Eagl and student psychologists Hanne and Vicky of the STIP. Robin Thomas, who took the initiative for this Q&A, was our host.
"It’s all very personal. You can give tips and explain how you cope with certain things, but this doesn’t mean that this is a one-size-fits-all approach’, is basically the baseline of this Q&A. Nonetheless, the livestream provided some fascinating insights into how to express your emotions, and cope with loneliness, as well as the increasing pressure to perform as the exam period draws closer.
"Being emotional is not a weakness. It is a nice property to have, it shows that you are honest with yourself. There’s no need to be ashamed of this. So share your emotions." (Robin)
"Everyone needs to succeed in striking a balance between aspects that require energy and aspects that energise you." (Hanne)
"Set your boundaries. People will respect them." (Vicky)
"You are complete; you don’t need anyone to complete you." (DJ Eagl)
At the moment, DJ Eagl can’t do what he usually does to earn a living, i.e. have a party. But he also has other tricks up his sleeve: “I have mental health problems and I don’t mind discussing this from my own perspective, if this makes it easier for people, and students especially, to talk about it more freely. Nowadays I organise live Q&As on my Instagram account. The main topic is loneliness. Usually students are distracted from being unhappy, but under the current situation, they don’t have access to this distraction. There is also a lot of uncertainty about whether they will be able to graduate and the difficult times that the labour market is currently experiencing.” The DJ receives support from a therapist, which he makes no secret of. “I’m fortunate because I have the help of a good psychologist. But I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could love myself better on my own, which was a real help.”
Before and during the exams, students are inclined to compare themselves with others. Just think of the many messages asking how far you’ve gotten with the revision of a specific course, or how many pages you studied in a day. The DJ is very clear on this: “I’ve also had a tendency to compare myself with others. I recently watched a very good documentary in which Jimmy Iovine said something really interesting about this. Why does a race horse wear blinkers? Because it will fall if it looks to the left or the right. Looking at others can cause you to have a mental block.”
Vicky definitely agrees with him: “Don’t let other people influence you or stress you out. If you feel that you have a lot of catching up to do, then check whether your method works. It involves some searching, which ideally you don’t want to be doing in this period. Also check what’s feasible and what isn’t. There are only 24 hours in a day, you cannot extend it. Nor should you be studying 24 hours a day. Give yourself the time to focus on yourself, even if you don’t think that you have the time for this. You need to relax to recharge your batteries: if you don’t have the energy, you won’t be able to work.”
Her colleague Hanne adds: "Take a good look at yourself and make a realistic assessment of what you are capable of. Set short-term goals, you’ll feel more motivated. But it doesn’t stop with time management. Sometimes you also have to make strategic choices. Think about it: what energises you? It doesn’t have to be anything special: sleeping, eating something good, watching a series… Make sure you have enough time to recharge your batteries. How you choose to do it is your own personal choice.”
Robin recognises this. “In the past, I was always behind schedule, and I’d end up studying through the night. At one point I said, ‘that’s it’ and I decided to prioritise a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel well-rested, you’ll feel up to your exam and you’ll also be in a stronger position.”
The growing loneliness and touch starvation associated with it is a problem that can’t be ignored any longer. DJ Eagl thinks that we need to look for the solution in ourselves: “My psychologist says that loneliness is a dissociation with yourself, as if others are a surplus to yourself. Which isn’t the case.”
Hanne thinks that there are other ways of solving this problem. “Some people don’t mind digital contact, whereas others find this way of keeping in touch sucks. I think that this is mainly due to our balance: we rely on contact, like an energy supply. When you lose this contact, you may perhaps have to go in search of other sources of positive energy.”
DJ Eagl recognises this other way: he bought a box of Lego which has kept him busy. Robin turned to sudokus.
"A blanket or a warm bath can help you cope with touch starvation”, says Vicky, “but the real solution is complicated because of the measures.”
Hanne and Vicky have noticed that students often wait too long when it comes to seeking out help. But there’s no need to wait: “We are here to help our students. So don’t hesitate if things aren’t going well and you need our help.”
You can follow the STIP on Facebook and on their website. There you’ll also find their contact details.
DJ Eagl’s Instagram account can be found here.
This article was written for fromyourkot.be, an online platform that was created in times of corona at the request of the University of Antwerp.
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