Cast your mind back to February, if you will. Chances are you were savouring the last days of summer before classes kicked off, the year ahead brimming with possibility. 

  • Concerts and gigs with friends
  • Late night study-sessions in the library
  • Fish and chips on the beach
  • 21st parties
  • Roadies

Come at me, 2020!

And it did, bringing coronavirus and lockdowns of a global scale. Now we find ourselves at home, in flats, or in halls of residence with no clear end to quarantine in sight. Hopes, plans, expectations have been well and truly torpedoed. The novelty of lockdown is fast fading. How are we supposed to do well as students in such fluid uncertainty?

To save you hours of research, the Student Life crew have gathered practical wisdom from a mix of certified smart people that include medical professionals, probation officers, and our mothers. Act on their encouragement and you may find it’s the difference between you thriving through lockdown- or merely surviving it. 

  • Alter Expectations of Yourself and Others

“For many of us, a lot of our mental energy is being used up processing the many changes going on around us”, says Desiree Dickson, a Kiwi clinical psychologist. “Try to accept that and develop a new normal for this situation. Lower expectations of productivity a little bit and also for others.” Just to clarify, being okay with slightly lowered productivity is not the same as going full-sloth-mode on your studies, team. 

“Often when we work, work, work for two or three hours our productivity plummets.” To stay productive, she recommends you work in short breaks- “say 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break”. Fun fact: this is known as the Pomodoro technique.

  • Establish Rhythms of Resilience

One of the biggest favours you can do yourself over lockdown is set up some regular daily and weekly rhythms. Think of them as “rails to run on”, practices that keep you purposeful and joyful. The world runs on rhythms- daily sunrises and sunsets, annual seasons, tides that ebb and flow. Turns out we do best when we’re living in rhythm too. 

Rebekah Lyons is a best-selling author who spent years battling panic disorder. She highlights four kinds of rhythms to practice often and fine tune as you need to. 

  1. Rest: Where we give ourselves permission to switch off and just be… 

Here’s a secret: going screen-less for one day each week is incredibly liberating. Screens and shows are designed to be addictive, so a habitual technology detox does wonders to help keep us grounded. Not to mention a lot less overwhelmed. 

  1. Restore: Where we do what nourishes us emotionally, physically, spiritually… 

It’s healing to engage with what ignites childlike glee and wonder. Jumping in autumn leaves? Savouring a beautiful view? Getting a sweat up? Belting out your favourite show tune? Yes please! 

  1. Connect: Where we play, laugh, and relate to others on more than just a surface level…

This one takes the courage to be vulnerable, but the payoff is massive. Few things feel as amazing as being raw and real with people who are 100% for you.

  1. Create: Where we harness our talents to make stuff that matters… 

We offer something of value back to the world. Maybe that’s whipping up brownies, crafting an Insta post or essay, or simply making space to dream about what could be.  

Weave these into your routines and it won’t take long before you’re flourishing.

  • Check Yourself

How attuned are you to what’s streaming on your ‘internal playlist’ of thoughts and feelings? Most of us simply aren’t that aware of what’s going on inside us. There’s a lot of power in voicing or writing down what’s running through our heads or happening in our bodies, especially when anxiety sets in. 

Dr. Lucy Hone lost her 12-year old daughter in a tragic accident and has since delved into research on developing resilience in the face of loss and fear. She urges us to “separate facts from fiction” when we’re stressed or picturing worst case scenarios in vivid detail (“What if my Dad gets the virus? What if I can’t graduate? What if I graduate but the only jobs left are at Pak N Save?! What if Pak N Save won’t taaake meeee ahhhhhh!). 

As Dr. Hone puts it, “Just because you thought it doesn’t make it true. Slow down and consider the evidence for your catastrophic thinking. Ask yourself, is imagining the worst helping or harming you? Speculating over what might happen only makes us feel worse and doesn’t alter the outcome.” Keep regular tabs on what’s going inside over lockdown, even if it’s as simple as spending five minutes writing out what’s on your mind.

The Essence of Thriving

  • Altering expectations of yourself and others.
  • Establishing rhythms that build resilience.
  • Checking yourself.

These are practical steps you can take towards thriving over lockdown. But there’s something else essential to thriving – both in lockdown and life- that you might not have considered before. And that’s a relationship with God.

Imagine for a moment you were plunged into a part of the world ravaged by civil war. You don’t speak the language, and you don’t know where to go for safety or how to get hold of vital supplies. What might be going through your mind?

What difference would it make if you had a fearless local with you, one who knew exactly how to source the necessary provisions and lead you to refuge- and what’s more, they’d willingly take a bullet for you if it came to it? 

You might not have ever thought about it, but Jesus is a whole lot like that fearless local offering to love and lead us through the upheaval of life. He wants us to experience peace in the assurance of his unwavering loyalty, however gnarly our situation. He made the call that none of us can fully thrive without him. He didn’t take any bullets but he did sacrifice himself saying it was for our sake. 

The question is, if you could know him, would you want to?

If you’re curious to find out more about how to know God personally, check out this brief clip here.

Grace Mackenzie is a Dunedin-based Fiwi (Fijian-Kiwi) on the Student Life national team. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she delights in quality company, wordsmithing and anything that involves caramel.