Monday 26 October 2020

Taking things one day a time

Adam shares his advice on how to be okay with short-term plans and how to balance University work with good mental health.
  - Adam Jones

I’m not sure if you guys feel the same, but the coronavirus pandemic has been a fascinating period of time for my mindset. 

Before all this chaos started, I had long-term plans detailing the direction I wanted to take post-university: Did I want to stick with online writing? What about jumping into the world of broadcasting? How about newspapers? Then BOOM – just like that, coronavirus hit the UK, and everything changed.

Lockdown started and I realised that I had been spending way too much time planning things ahead, rather than living in the moment and making decisions that are right for the current time. This realisation, and my change in perspective, came not only as a result of the many people lost to Coronavirus, but because lockdown has changed my circumstances in many different ways.

At the start of 2020, I planned some work experience at a radio station for the summer and I can’t lie, I relied on that to an extent to ‘beef up’ the broadcast section of my CV. However, this didn’t work out because of lockdown restrictions, so I started volunteering from home for a local newspaper instead. This was a success, and equally as valuable as my radio station work would have been.

The experience taught me that short-term decisions can work out – you just need to strike a balance, and learn when short- or long-term strategies are appropriate. Of course, you need contingency plans in place to deal with different levels of lockdown – but you can’t plan and micro-manage every part of your life for the foreseeable future. A lot of my heavy emphasis on long-term vision was based off of the intense anxiety I feel trying to make it in the journalism industry. This is pressure I have put on myself, and only myself.

Recently, I joined a Facebook group for sports journalists and the amount of talent there is unbelievable. I thought to myself: “How can I really compete with these people and stand out?”. Then I realised, success isn’t only about planning; it’s about grafting in the present day and seeing where that will take you. If you spend too long planning your dream future, you burn out and sacrifice your mental health.

Seeing it as a marathon and not a sprint is a famous ‘long-term’ metaphor – but it’s doing little and often every day, instead of a huge pile of work, that allows you the time to recuperate and recharge your batteries. This change in mindset has been a huge benefit going in to my third year of university. I started my year later than most, in mid-October, but rather than panicking, I saw this delay as a chance to crack on with things that will ultimately help me complete my first semester. Sometimes, it has felt a little overwhelming because I have no idea how much work is a ‘good amount’. The questions flying around my head are: Have I really done enough? What else can I do? Do I regret not doing more?

At the end of the day, these questions are irrelevant if I burn out before my first semester can even begin. Comparing the amount of work you have done to another person on your course is natural, but a cardinal sin at the same time. Go at your own pace – and do things in frequent, little amounts. This ensures the stability of your mental health; by completing work on time and feeling as if you’ve achieved something, you can relax by playing a game of FIFA, watching a film, or enjoying a hobby, allowing these things to be the incentives that motivate you to keep on chipping away with university work.

If I could sum my message up in four sentences, it would be this: If it’s meant to be, it will be. Live in the moment. Never take anything for granted. Don’t sacrifice your time in the present day by planning intensely for the future.

Following these small steps, I have been able to improve my mental well-being by enjoying what I already have. There's a time and a place to plan for the long-term, but it's not important 100% of the time – and you should never feel pressurised in to thinking that.

I’m taking things one day at a time – perhaps you could too.

We understand that studying during coronavirus can be challenging. Student Space has tips and tools for managing your academic year, including this helpful article on uncertainty.
Hello! My name is Adam. I study Journalism and Media Production (BA Hons) at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Being a keen blogger and having several experiences during my academic studies, I hope that I can help people along the way whilst enjoying writing for you.

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