Tackling Overworking (and Over-Relaxing) During Lockdown.

Student Matteo

UofG Biomedical Science Student Matteo talks about the cycle of overworking and over-relaxing being toxic. And the new balance work/break schedule he created to help him find a healthy balance.

Even though we're all forced to hop on an once in a lifetime experience trainwreck in the form of a pandemic, our education life goes on. Our classes and labs shift online. Some dread online classes substantially whereas some enjoy them (like me!). But as much as I enjoy online classes, deep down, I still despise the barrage of assignments that I have to do.

I've always been an 'early-panicker'. I want to produce high quality work as early as possible to allow some extra time to check and evaluate my work. During my undergraduate degree (before this whole pandemic fiasco happened, of course), this plan has worked out well as I can pace out my day properly by meeting friends, having proper lunches and dinners out, and basically any other engaging activities. The same can't be said for my master's degree. Ever since I started classes, I barely have had any chance to meet and hang out with my friends (which is a good thing. Stay at home peeps!). This means that my way to pace myself when doing work is disrupted. As a result of this, I've been overworking (and over-relaxing) depending on my mood.

A master's degree is intense. We are expected to deliver a higher standard of work within a short amount of time. Before the degree started, I have implemented a mindset in my head. "I'll have to work every single day to graduate with distinction no matter what". This allowed me to be highly motivated when the classes started. Unfortunately, after some time had passed, the mindset really confused me.

There would be days where I would work for 6 hours straight, barely with any breaks. I'll feel anxious before, during, and after work. Moreover, my eyes and head would feel so tired after, prompting me to skip on meals and destressing activities. "I'll need to do this again to pace myself", I thought. But that would not be the case most of the time. I would wake up with tachycardia (increased heart rate), feeling horrible and anxious. Sometimes I'd wake up with an annoying headache. These would then prompt me to take the day off, which is definitely recommended and beneficial if done in moderation. Unfortunately, after forcing myself to work for a day's worth, I would experience a burnout the next few days. These unproductive days consist of me just sleeping in, not eating properly, and procrastinating.

After some time, I realized that this cycle of overworking and over-relaxing is toxic. Also, my friends realized that I would be so anxious and panicky at days. These prompted me to set a 2021 new year's resolution of creating a balance work/break schedule. Below is a list of activities that helped me to set this balance:

  1. Only work for a maximum of 3 hours a day. Working consistently for a lesser duration of time daily is still better than an inconsistent, explosive approach. This can help preventing burnouts too.

  2. Take constant breaks and allocate break days (at least 1 day a week). I usually avoid anything academic/work related during my break days. I would just take a breather and enjoy the "jolly" Scottish weather!

  3. Eat 3 times a day! As banal as this may sound, it can be a challenge for some, including me. Eating properly ensures that we are getting all the nutrition that we need; hence preparing our body to face all the challenges that the student life can throw to us. Furthermore, it's really important to keep healthy during this pandemic!

  4. Engage with hobbies. I realized that I have ignored my art-related hobbies due to my vicious overworking cycle. I genuinely have a passion for dancing, but sadly, I had completely forgot about its magical de-stress ability. After properly scheduling my week, I now can dance more often. I can express my feelings AND do cardio at the same time! Other than dancing, I have picked up skateboarding as a new hobby. I've discovered that skateboarding is a fun and cool thing that can be done with social distancing. The feeling of cruising around and finding new places or new angles of places I thought I was familiar with and learning new tricks (even though I can't nail them just yet) is phenomenal. I'm really glad I picked up this hobby.

  5. Talk with your friends daily. Last but not least, keeping up with your friends and sharing your challenges and feelings with them are vital. Loneliness is a big issue during a lockdown. By video calling or voice calling, you can help alleviate some of the loneliness and maybe even make your day better!

To conclude, being a university (especially master's) student during a lockdown is tough. Keeping a healthy work/play balance is vital. I hope that my experience can help any of the readers if they're struggling with anything related to this post.

Stay safe and healthy!

First published: 17 February 2021

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