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Wellbeing

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How to study effectively during lockdown

While we’re all used to studying online it’s not the same as studying through lockdowns. Working from home full time and being unable to attend campus can take a lot of adjustment both practically and psychologically. It helps to have a few strategies in place to help you through these challenging periods.

Make a study timetable

Possibly one of the hardest things about studying and working from home is sticking to a schedule. It’s so easy to blur the boundaries between daily activities and study. One minute you’re doing your weekly reading and the next you’re catching up on laundry. Or in the other extreme you spend the whole day in front of a computer on just one unit. To create balance and prioritise tasks it helps to have a daily timetable that divides the day into chunks of study. Start by listing the things you want to achieve and then work out the best order to do them. Don’t panic if you don’t get through everything – just carry the unfinished tasks to the next day. Make sure you include regular breaks and leave time for some exercise. Learn more about managing your time.

Organise your study space

Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated space to study but it’s important to try and find an area that you can use. Keeping your study space neat and tidy helps you feel organised and in control. Make sure you have everything you need so you don’t distract yourself by wandering through the house looking for things. If you share a space with others let them know you’re working so they can keep disturbances to a minimum. Sometimes it helps to change your environment so take some reading outside or do some writing at the kitchen table to change it up a bit.

Minimise distractions

We’re all prone to procrastination and it’s even more of a problem when studying at at home. There’s always something else to do and it’s more difficult to avoid the temptations of social media, gaming, streaming your favourite show and so on. This is the time for self-discipline. Try limiting time that you can use your phone. Put it in another room an access it only when you have a scheduled break. Noise-cancelling headphones may help you concentrate or you could find ‘focus’ playlists which feature instrumental music to help keep you in the zone. Check out an earlier post with tips for being organised.

Understand how you learn

Different students learn in different ways so it’s worth thinking about what works for you. If taking endless notes and re-reading material doesn’t seem to help you process infromation then change it up. Try creating flashcards to test yourself or create a mind map to explore different aspects of a topic. Experiment with note-taking and find a method that suits you. The Cornell method is useful for organising notes to revise later. It involves dividing a page into a main column, a narrower column beside it and a space at the foot of the page. The main column is for main notes, the right-hand column is for headings and/or key words and the space at the bottom is for a summary. This format allows you to test yourself easily and the process of creating the notes actually forces you to think about the meaning of the content. Learn more about note-taking in QUT’s study resources.

Stay connected

While we’re all in lockdown it becomes the norm to stay in touch with friends and family using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom etc but it’s also important to make contact with other students. Use social media, video links, email, chat or voice calls to share ideas, discuss assignments, test each other or just share experiences. Commit to attending online tutorials and support sessions to make sure you stay connected with your lecturers, tutors and classmates. If you feel that you need extra support or some advice on how to manage your study book a Success Coaching appointment. QUT also offers free, confidential counselling services for all current students.

Don’t forget to keep checking for COVID-19 updates.

Girl using laptop

Strategies for managing exam stress

It’s that time of semester again and we all know that the exam period can be super stressful for many of us! Even though we know it’s coming and we have the best of intentions things often begin to unravel at the end of semester. It helps to have a plan and a reminder of some of the simplest things you can do to set yourself up for success:

Check in with yourself

Often we forget to really notice what’s going on for us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways but these are some common signs:

  • Feeling confused
  • Losing touch with friends
  • Feeling moody
  • Having trouble making decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lacking motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Upset stomach, or feeling sick
  • Tense muscles and headaches
  • So how can you minimise the impact of stress when trying to prepare for exams and assessments?

    Get into a healthy routine

    It may seem like a good idea to pull an all-nighter but lack of sleep has a significant impact on your mood and energy levels. It’s hard to focus on revision when you’re sleep-deprived and your body starts to crave all sorts of things like caffeine! Try to aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and also make time to enjoy other activities like spending time with friends and family. Balance is the key!

    Set realistic goals

    Make a plan and divide your tasks into realistic goals with a reasonable timeframe. It can help to break each unit into sub-topics to focus on in one study session. Chunk your time down to 30-minute sessions so that you can see what your priorities really are. Make sure you allocate time for breaks as well as food and sleep! Seeing a plan in front of you can also help you stay on track so try printing it out or add it to your screen background.

    Look after your body

    We all know that nutrition plays a huge part in our wellbeing but when we feel stressed it’s easy to reach for something quick and easy. Unfortunately highly processed food and fast-release carbs can make you feel sluggish and unmotivated after the initial food high. Surround yourself with healthy snacks (fruit, nuts, energy bars, healthy smoothies, eggs etc) and try to plan your main meals during the entire study period. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet to give yourself the energy you need to power through this intense time!

    Look after your mind

    When you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed it helps to just stop and re-set. Take some time to close your eyes and just focus on your breathing for a few minutes. By calming down your breathing you can decrease your body’s response to stress and give yourself a new perspective. It’s also important to find time to exercise. Just moving your body for 30 minutes a day can increase your energy, focus, and boost your endorphins! You don’t have to fit in a full gym workout – just a walk will do.

    Balancing study with everything that’s going on can be a real challenge. Just remember that it’s only for a short time and there is always someone at QUT that can support you. There are also plenty of useful resources available!

    Top tips for starting uni

    Starting your first year of uni or returning to study after a break can be overwhelming. To feel more comfortable and confident about your study there are lots of things you can do to set yourself up for a successful semester at QUT.

    Attend Orientation sessions and activities

    Orientation runs every semester and is designed to help you get a great start to uni. It’s important to attend essential orientation events for your course as they give you a chance to meet your classmates and teachers, and get to know key information. You’ll learn about workload expectations, how and where to access support, peer programs, career planning and extra study opportunities (like exchanges and internships). Sessions are run by academics in your study area, as well as student support staff, student club executives and experienced students from your course.
    Once you’ve registered for your essential events, there’s lots more to explore in our campus tours, help sessions, postgraduate and mature-age student events and skills workshops.
    Check out your orientation program online.

    Connect and get involved

    O-week is great opportunity to connect whether you’re on campus or online! Speaking to people in the same sessions can help you make friends and network before semester even starts. If you don’t get a chance to connect at orientation, then engaging with other students in your lectures and tutorials can be just as effective. Perhaps suggest forming a study group to help motivate each other and share what you’ve learned.

    Joining a club or society is also a great way to get involved and meet like-minded people. QUT has dozens of options and something to suit everyone. Check out the full list online.

    Get familiar with the campus

    If you’re studying on campus it helps to be familiar with your environment before you start. Take time to work out where everything is on your campus and decide on the best transport options for you so there are no surprises. Access campus maps and shuttle bus times to make sure you’re fully prepared.

    Whether you’re planning to do some quiet study in the library, or you need to book a room for group work, there are plenty of options for you on both campuses. You can find out more about booking rooms and accessing computer labs, audiovisual and multimedia equipment, assistive technology rooms, and printers, copiers and scanners on the student site.

    Learn how to balance study

    Staying on top of your studies and creating a healthy balance is important for long-term success. Use your time wisely and plan how you’re going to spread your workload across the week. Make the most of time on public transport and catch up on reading or review lecture material. Check that your schedule includes times to have a break and build in other acticities.

    Making the most of social and sporting events can be a great way to take a break from studying. To encourage a healthy body as well as a healthy mind you have the option of using pools, gyms and sports facilities on campus. QUT Guild organises all sorts of events throughout the year as well as providing free advocacy, legal and tax help to assist you when needed.

    Don’t wait to ask for support

    Studying can be a real challenge for a number of reasons and QUT offers a wide range of support for all students including free counselling services for current students. Our counsellors are qualified professionals and their services are flexible and confidential. Counsellors can work with you to develop strategies that best meet your needs via phone or face-to-face appointment.

    We also have a academic help and workshops for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students in all faculties. Whether you’re looking for a quick chat or are needing some assistance to get on track with your studies, you can book in for a one-to-one coaching session to start working on your own individual success plan. There is a wide range of workshops on offer to help you improve your academic and communication skills.

    It’s ok to take a break

    As a student it’s really easy to focus on all the things you ‘have to’ get done and forget to look after your own health and wellbeing. As the semester goes by and there are assessments looming self-care often moves down the list of priorities or even drops off completely. When you are stressed and anxious about everything you have on your plate it can be hard to see things differently but you can start with some small changes.

    Change your daily routine

    Change doesn’t have to be massive. There are so many things we can do to look after our health and wellbeing without going to too much effort. Think about something you enjoy doing and build it into your routine. Start the day with your favourite music and a healthy breakfast. Take a walk, do some gardening or join a friend for a workout.

    Be nice to yourself

    It’s easy to be our own worst critic when we’re feeling the pressure but we can turn things around by being a little nicer to ourselves. Write a positive note and stick it to your screen. Treat yourself to your favourite food. Download some new music or buy some stationery to organise your study.

    Shift focus with a podcast

    Listening to something non-study related can be a great way to shift your focus while still staying engaged and informed. We really are spoilt for choice but here are a few great podcasts about life, the mind, and human behaviour.

    podcastoneaustralia.com.au/podcasts/the-briefing

    tofop.com/wilosophy

    abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/

    Remember – it’s okay to take a break! In fact, it’s often just what you need to refresh your mind and be more productive.

    Five apps for dealing with exam stress

    Exams coming up? For most of us the pressure of exams and final assessment submissions cause some level of stress. Stress is your response to pressure and while a small amount can be useful to keep you focused if it becomes too much exam revision can seem impossible.

    The good news is that there are so many apps out there to help deal with this intense time:

    Exam Countdown is a free app to keep track of exam and assessment dates. It provides a handy visual reminder of all your important upcoming dates. You can keep focused by easily checking how much time you’ve got to revise before you sit each exam. We love the fact that you can colour code all your exams and tests and use icons as a quick visual reference for each unit. You can also add notes to remind yourself of anything you need to bring on the day. Available on both Android and iOS.

    Mind mapping is a great study method as it helps organise your thoughts, spark your memory and come up with new ideas. With SimpleMind you can create your own mind maps, or choose one of the auto layouts and fill it in. If you like finding creative ways to revise for exams then this app is for you. The free version does plenty but the full version is reasonably priced too. Available on all platforms.

    Studies show that meditation can help you stay on task longer, switch between things less frequently and enjoy your tasks more. Headspace is a popular app, with meditations to help you through all phases of your life. The Focus pack can help you de-clutter your thoughts and sharpen your concentration, even under pressure. Try the free version or access hundreds of hours of extra content when you subscribe.

    Take a deep breath. Calm is both a call to action and a defining feature of the app’s approach to mindfulness and meditation. It’s message is simply “you’re going to get through this, and all you need to start is a moment”. There are so many new apps for meditation and mindfulness, but Calm stands out for its ease of use and attention to (soothing) detail. Try the free version on Android or iOS.

    PAUSE is based on the ancient principles of Tai Chi and mindfulness practice. When you want to shake off your stress and start relaxing, this app can work wonders. Against a backdrop of soothing music, you move your finger slowly across your screen, being careful not to speed up your pace. This triggers the body’s ‘rest and digest’ response which helps you regain focus and release stress within minutes. Check it out on Android or iOS!

    Don’t forget that QUT also provides free, confidential counselling services for current students!

    Stress less – take control of your life

    It’s that time of semester when the workload starts mounting and exams are looming. It’s natural to feel anxious about everything you’ve got going on but the key is not to let things overwhelm you.

    Try these simple strategies to help you stress less and feel more in control.

    Be active
    Try not to let your assignments and exam revision take over your whole life. Maintain a balance and continue to do things that you enjoy. Spend time doing activities that will relax you, such as listening to music, going for a walk, cooking or catching up with friends.

    Make a plan
    It sounds simple enough but it’s surprising how many students actually don’t plan their time. Make a plan for the days leading up to your assessment deadlines and exams so that you can manage your time effectively. Divide your day into study blocks and dedicate each one to a different unit. Make sure you also include time for work, relaxing, family, friends and SLEEP.

    Get enough sleep
    We all know how important sleep is but when you’re stressed it’s easy to stay up late finishing assignments or cramming for exams. Sometimes it’s better to stop what you’re doing and tackle it again after a good sleep. Make sure you get plenty of rest leading up to exams, especially the night before. When you feel refreshed and energised you can think more clearly.

    Look after your body
    Good nutrition is not only essential for your physical health but it also plays a significant role in maintaining your mental health. It may be tempting to reach for fast food or quick snacks from the vending machine but you’re better off choosing with some brain boosting ingredients like nuts, seeds, fruit and whole grains. Avoid having too much caffeine as it can work against you by increasing your stress levels and anxiety.

    Talk to others
    Often when you’re really stressed it seems as though everyone else has things under control. That’s usually not the case and chances are that your friends and classmates are also feeling some pressure. By opening up and talking about your concerns you can help each other put things into perspective and manage your concerns.

    We all cope with things differently but if you feel that you have too much to cope with it’s important to ask for help. QUT has a range of support resources and confidential counseling.

    R U OK?

    R U OK Day is on Thursday September 12th. This is a chance to remind ourselves to meaningfully connect people around us, and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling with life. You don’t need to be an expert to reach out – just a good friend and a great listener.

    You can start an R U OK conversation following these four steps:

    1. Ask R U OK?
    2. Listen
    3. Encourage action
    4. Check in

    To learn more about how to ask and have R U OK conversations, and where to find help for someone, please visit the website at www.ruok.org.au

    R U OK?’s vision is to create a world where we’re all connected and are protected from suicide. Together we can all inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

    Make a difference

    You can make a difference to someone who’s struggling by having regular, meaningful conversations about life! If you feel like something’s up with someone you know or you notice a change in what they’re doing or saying – trust your gut instinct and take the time to ask them “Are you OK?”. You don’t have to be an expert to have a caring, meaningful conversation.

    Follow R U OK?’s four conversation steps:

  • Ask R U OK?,
  • Listen with an open mind,
  • Encourage action,
  • Check in
  • Learn the signs and how to ask R U OK? at ruok.org.au.

    Sometimes conversations are too big for workmates, friends and family. At these times, it can help to call upon specific organisations:

    Lifeline (24/7 )
    13 11 14
    lifeline.org.au

    Suicide Call Back Service (24/7)
    1300 659 467
    suicidecallbackservice.org.au

    Beyond Blue (24/7)
    1300 224 636
    beyondblue.org.au

    SANE Australia
    1800 18 SANE (7263)
    sane.org

    Remember, you can make a difference to someone’s life!