BreatheUni: Coping Amidst the Pandemic

Anisa D., MSc Health Psychology & Lauren T., MSc Health Psychology Students and volunteers


Since this pandemic started, many of us have experienced a whirlwind of emotions. Admittedly as students, (who are also working and volunteering), sleeping, working, attending lectures, completing assignments, and socialising from the same four walls have become particularly hard. And to be fair, we’re not alone! Many students (some of which are our friends) have expressed how difficult it has been. This is where conversations about coping have come in, in particular, coping mechanisms we have adopted to help our mental and physical wellbeing.

But what are coping mechanisms?

Coping mechanisms can be understood as a combination of emotions, thoughts and behaviours that are utilised to adjust to a stressful situation. They can be categorised into ‘adaptive’ and ‘maladaptive’ strategies. Adaptive coping mechanisms are considered to be healthy and effective long term, whereas maladaptive coping mechanisms are not.

When we look at what can constitute as adaptive coping strategies, it can be overwhelming as there are many. However, the most commonly used ones (which we also use) are:

Look to support – Talking to some friends and family can make a world of a difference. Obviously, in this pandemic where strict rules and guidance on meeting with people are in place, it can certainly be a bit harder. Try to continue regular social contact with friends and family! Virtual connection may not be as satisfying as the real, in-person thing, but it’s certainly better than nothing. The ability to have audio or video contact with those close to us can provide us with great support to combat feelings of loneliness or depression.
For us, facetiming, or even setting up group zoom calls where we catch up and vent can provide an effective way in managing our stress. We BreatheUni volunteers love our weekly meet-up, catch-up call!

Engage in some form of physical activity – Physical activity, like exercising, is a great distraction from loneliness and boredom. Taking part in a class, even if online, can simulate engagements and structure to combat isolation. And it goes without saying that exercise helps both our physical and mental health. Even better if you can get outside and get some air! You can go for a quick walk to your local Tesco or a walk around your area. Sometimes a small thing such a change of scenery and fresh air can alleviate our mood! Being outside can be a great activity to help you ease your feelings of isolation. The fresh air and being in nature are also good for your physical and mental wellbeing.

Try and let yourself relax – We’re big believers in relaxing and having self-care days to recharge mentally and physically. Allow yourself to unwind and take part in activities you like. Give yourself a me day – you deserve it. A few ways to relax can be through meditation, journaling, taking a bath, baking, painting, or listening to some music.

Give some of these coping strategies a go and let us know how it goes! While we recommend practising self-care, it’s understood that sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes you need a little more help, and that’s okay. Be sure to sign up for our BreatheUni sessions for some relief and let us know what type of coping mechanisms you guys utilise on our Instagram @breathe_uni!