Isolation and wellbeing

Viren Swami

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Psychology and Sport Science
Category: Staff

30 March 2020

As we self-isolate due to coronavirus, Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at ARU, offers some tips for staying healthy and maintaining our well-being.

Having to stay at home or self-isolate because of coronavirus can be difficult. You may feel anxious, bored, worried, or lonely, and all of this can take its toll on your mental health. It is OK to feel like this – everyone reacts differently to challenging events and uncertainty.

While it is important to stay informed and follow all Government guidelines, there are also many things you can do to support and manage your mental well-being during this time.

The tips and advice here are things you can do to help you cope with how you may feel while staying at home or self-isolating.

Plan practical things

All teaching has now moved online and the Government is telling students to stay at home (or in University accommodation if you are unable to return home) and to only go outside for food or health reasons. This will mean that most of you will be spending a lot of time indoors and many of your regular social activities will no longer be available. It may help to try and think of this as a different period of time in your life – not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.

One thing you could do to help you manage any anxieties you might be feeling is to create new daily routines that prioritise looking after yourself. This should include planning practical things, like getting food and any medicines you might need, finding out when your online lectures will take place and new deadlines for any coursework, and checking-in with your personal tutor if necessary.

Our students Faye and Zoe have both written blogs about their new routines, as they adjust to learning from home.

Stay in touch

Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your well-being. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while you are at home – by phone, messaging, video calls, or online. If you are feeling particularly distressed, you can also get in touch with your personal tutor or the University’s counselling services (if you're a current ARU student), or charity helplines.

Remember also that it is OK to share any concerns, worries, or feelings with others you trust – talking about your worries is important for your mental health.

Lots of people are finding the current situation difficult, so staying in touch could also help them as much as it will help you. If you know anyone who is alone at this time, it might be helpful for you to get in touch and set up regular times when you can talk.

This might also be a good time to assess your social media activity. Ask yourself whether there are particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry and anxiety. If there are, consider muting or unfollowing accounts that cause you to feel anxious. Use trustworthy sources instead, such as the NHS website or (for current ARU students) My ARU.

Stay active

How you feel physically can affect how you feel mentally. Try to think of this period as a time to either maintain positive habits or develop new ones. Make sure you are eating healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, and get outside for a walk or run if you can. If you can’t get outside, you could look online for a home exercise programme.

Try to keep doing the things you enjoy if that is still possible. When we are feeling worried or lonely, we often stop doing the things we usually enjoy. Make an effort to focus on something you have been working on or something you enjoy, if that is something you can still do at home or in University accommodation. If not, challenge yourself to learn something new at home – there are lots of ideas online. Doing something that may help your University learning in the longer term may also be helpful.

Manage difficult feelings

It is normal to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed by all the changes that are happening, especially as you cope with changes to University life.

However, you may also experience intense anxiety that affects your day-to-day ability to cope. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to, and where to get help from. It is important to acknowledge these feelings, but if constant thoughts about the situation are making you feel extremely anxious or overwhelmed, remember to talk to someone who can help you manage your anxiety, whether it is a family member, your GP, your personal tutor, or someone else that you trust.

By Professor Viren Swami

Looking to the future

Although our University campuses are closed at the moment, we're supporting all our students to continue their studies, complete assessments and gain awards.

We're also accepting and processing applications for courses starting in September 2020.

If you're concerned about the impact of coronavirus on your studies, exams or university application, check our information and guidance for students. We're here to help


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.