CARLI BOTHA

The nationwide lockdown commenced on 27 March, affecting numerous aspects of students’ lives. “We recognise that lockdown is a stressful time for everyone, and for students there are in addition specific worries” said Dr Linda Blokland, acting HOD of the Student Counselling unit (SCU), to PDBY. The lockdown can be a difficult time for many, but there are ways of dealing with the difficulties ahead.

Mental health

Although individuals are not prohibited from seeking medical attention during the lockdown, seeing a psychologist could still be difficult. This could have a serious effect on the mental health of individuals. Dr Blokland emphasised that “the anxiety around the virus and its spread is intense”, and that students also worry about the impact it has on their studies. Keeping this in mind, the SCU is keeping its virtual doors open during lockdown. Students can contact the SCU via email at studentcounselling@up.ac.za or call them at 012 420 2333. Dr Blokland also gave students a few tips on how to take care of their mental health during the lockdown. A few important points are: to set a structure, eat sensibly and refrain from overeating or eating junk food, schedule time to relax, keep in touch with friends and family and having good time management. “Do not see this lockdown time as a free holiday extension” Dr Blokland also emphasised.

 

We recognise that lockdown is a stressful time for everyone, and for students there are in addition specific worries

 

Physical health

Although most students may not regard the daily route from one lecture venue to another as exercise, it does make a difference. During the lockdown all the calories usually lost during a walk to class, will be retained. It is therefore important to find another way of burning a few calories. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, and according to Dr Blokland, any form of physical activity will suffice. “This might simply be stretches or running on the spot, lifting some sort of weights, push ups, and so on.”

For students who regularly visit gyms, Virgin Active is offering online classes for members that can easily be done at home. All a member needs to do is login with their membership account details. There are also classes to follow on YouTube and fitness apps available to download on most mobile devices.

Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, and according to Dr Blokland, any form of physical activity will suffice.

In the article, “Stay fit at home: best workout tips that are not too technical” on the Health24 official website, there are five tips given for exercising at home. These tips tell readers not to complicate their exercise routines, to go online and look up fun exercise plans, to give full attention to every workout, and to try out new workouts.

Emotional health

Dr Blokland reminded PDBY that “Students may be living in families that are impacted in other ways such as financial stress brought on by the lockdown”. The reality is that individuals are facing a variety of problems during the lockdown, and these problems can affect students emotionally as well.

Harvard Business Review interviewed David Kessler, an expert on grief, in the article, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief”. Kessler explained that the sudden changes individuals are facing are temporary, even if it does not feel that way. It is “the loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll and the loss of connection” that is negatively impacting people globally. According to Kessler, the power is in acceptance, “I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

A bigger problem that has presented itself, is an increase in gender-based violence and emotional abuse. Being in lockdown with an abusive partner or family member can take a toll on an individual’s emotional state as well.

 

Students may be living in families that are impacted in other ways such as financial stress brought on by the lockdown

 

In the article, “Nkoana-Mashabane condemns abuse as GBV complaints escalate during lockdown” published on sabcnews. com, it is shared that the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) has received three times the number of calls from women than before the commencement of the lockdown. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, said in the article that “she is deeply alarmed by the number of calls that her department has received from women who are trapped with abusive partners during the lockdown period”. The GBVCC can be reached on their emergency line, 0800 428 428.

Finally, Dr Blokland shared an important piece of advice with PDBY, and emphasised that it is important to make plans for after lockdown. This also serves as a reminder that the lockdown is only temporary. It is therefore important that students take care of their mental, physical, and emotional health.

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