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The new normal: adapting to COVID-19

As we all know, COVID-19 has undoubtedly created a spin to a major duration of 2020. Unfortunately, for the time being, our plans to travel, explore and socialise have been placed on hold. It has also shifted forms of learning at university, making Zoom sessions an everyday communication tool.

It’s hard to understand how something so small and intangible has stopped what seems like 99 per cent of the world’s functions and activities. With these drastic changes, we have consciously and subconsciously changed our lifestyle around this invisible enemy.

Together, we are suggested to accept that some things will never be the same, post-March of 2020. The NSW Health Department has advised us to stay cautious of our surroundings. Many of us have become cautious over handshakes, hugs and kisses. In day-to-day activities that we wouldn’t think twice about, we now have to be extremely vigilant.

Figure 1: Representation of how quickly COVID-19 can spread (Source: Marcel Salthe and Nicky Case, Foter.com)

As far as we know it, this is becoming the “new normal”.

From face-to-face learning to accessing classes via Zoom, many students find it challenging to adapt to the online system. This forces them to become increasingly independent and focused on their studies, as well as advance their technological skills.

Sandra, a third-year speech, hearing and language science student at a South West Sydney University shares her version of the new normal. Living in NSW, she finds online university studies challenging and different to accommodate to, in comparison to university studies on her home campus.

“I’ve had to shift my old ideas about productivity and success as a result of the situation,” says Sandra.

“The stress and uncertainty that this pandemic has brought with it has forced me to do so much. I’m a lot kinder to myself and tell myself to just take it one day at a time,” she adds.

A business analytics student at WSU, Shivang Panchal, did not expect his first year of university to be in isolation and front of a screen. Although he is adjusting to tertiary education, he prioritises his mental wellbeing along with his studies.

“I go for walks to clear my mind,” says Shivang. “The new normal can be sad and empty.”

An article published by Business Insider says that Generation Z often doesn’t like taking on the phone and prefer to communicate electronically via text, email or instant messaging.

Research conducted by Zipwhip showed that 77 per cent of people experience some degree of anxiety talking on the phone. In Shivang’s case, this is how he met his teachers and class peers for the first time.

Figure 2: Student studying online during COVID-19 Pandemic
(Source: Study.com)

Senior clinical psychologist of Black Dog Institute, Professor Vijaya Manicavasagar, notes on the spread of the virus in Australia and its inevitable impacts on mental health.

“The fact that we’ve had a pandemic in our lifetime, for a lot of people that would shake their beliefs in the world, the stability of the world, that nothing bad can happen. It’s a shock,” says Professor Manicavasagar.

The fact that we’re doing so well (in terms of flattening the curse of infection) indicates that we’re all trying to do the right thing for each other,” she said.

The NSW Health Department has recognized this unique concept of the “new normal”. On its website, they have suggested several ways to adapt to this momentary phase. This includes things like setting new routines and focusing on the things that are within your control to change.

With another online semester ahead for tertiary students, UNSW has recommended points on how to adapt to the new virtual world.

  • Mental and physical wellbeing

Staying indoors and not getting enough sun may take a toll on both mental and physical health. Setting a few minutes in your day aside for meditation and physical exercises can work wonders to help keep sane.

  • Socialise

Although it may sound daunting to virtually meet a bunch of strangers, socializing is a great way to overcome your isolation blues. The university campus groups organize regular ongoing social events – pick ones that interest you and you may end up connecting with like-minded people.

  • Practice gratitude

Every morning, list down 3 things you’re grateful for, however small they might seem. A 2006 study published in Behaviour Research shows that practising gratitude has proven to lower stress levels.

  • Ask for help

We understand that you may be going through a difficult time but there is support available. The university has numerous support systems for both financial and emotional hardships that you may be going through. Reach out for a hand. There’s more than one out there to help you!

 

Figure 3: Student studying online during COVID-19 Pandemic (Source: pxfuel.com)

 

Reflecting on the recent support given to tertiary students due to COVID-19, Professor Manicavasagar believes there is a glimpse of hope throughout this outbreak.

“The world might actually be a different place when we get out of this,” says Professor Manicavasagar.

Western Sydney University is offering multiple services for those who are adjusting to the “new normal” throughout this pandemic. These services are open for all WSU students (international and domestic) and staff members. You can find a range of these services on our website.

** Sandra is a name given for a person to remain anonymous.