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Mental health and Coping during COVID-19
Tips and advice

First things first; everybody responds differently to the current circumstances. Whilst some people are doing fine, or even feel more relaxed than usual, others feel more restless, stressed or anxious. Also, it might be hard for you to keep on being focused on your study. If you feel like you are very stressed or anxious, or if you struggle to concentrate, it is good to do something about it. Below, you can find some practical tips and advice about how to cope with your feeling and current situation in a healthy way.
Download FACE COVID ebook.

Watch the video
This animated video, by dr. Russ Harris, summarizes how to deal with Covid-19 and the stress and anxiousness that goes with it.
Practical tips
  • Follow the usual structure of your day: under current circumstances, it is tempting to sleep in and stay up late. However, structure and routines give the day shape and make the day predictable. This provides stability and security, which is exactly what you need in times of uncertainty. Following your usual structure means; wake up and go to sleep at your regular times, have meals at regular times, etc.
  • Stay active. Do not stay in bed for a whole day, but get up, shower and try to find ways to keep yourself busy. Even though it is more difficult to be physically active, there are a lot of things you could do at home. Take a look at online workouts.
  • Social contact is really important. Social media allows you to connect with others. Make sure this is a fixed point in your daily schedule. You could propose friends, colleagues or family members to have a drink or meal over Skype or Facetime. You could even do a work-out together on Skype. Or, watch movies together on Netflix.  
  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) leads to many questions about the consequences. Please take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions about Corona to inform yourself.
How to deal with worrying thoughts
  • Share with others. Sharing your concerns with others can help you. It often gives relieve and allows you to look for solutions together. You don’t have to go through this alone.
  • Limit your news intake. There is a lot of news available about Covid-19. It is important to stay informed, but the intake of information should be limited to a healthy amount. When you are anxious, you might feel like looking up a lot of information might comfort you. It is actually the other way around. Research shows that for people who experience tragedy, spending too much time watching or reading news afterwards affects them negatively. Try to shield yourself from constantly checking the media for news about the virus, so it is easier to remain calm.
  • Gain perspective by analyzing events without overthinking. The University of Berkeley shared a very useful 5-minute exercise on how to break the cycle of rumination.
  • Use mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is about focusing on what is going on right here, right now. You practice being aware of what you’re thinking, sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practising mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other techniques to relax the body and mind to help reduce stress. You can use apps like InsightTimer or the short guided exercise from the University of Berkeley.
    We can also recommend using the online course ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’, which is available on FutureLearn.    
  • Try the 15-minutes-of-worrying-technique (The pink elephant, 39 kB). This technique helps you to deal with your worries in a more helpful, constructive way. Instead of avoiding your worries, you learn to approach them and this helps you to feel less stressed about things. 
  • Focus on positive things and opportunities. To feel more balanced and focus less on negative thoughts, try to find something positive in each and every day. You can use Happify to find simple daily exercises that are based on positive psychology and aim towards developing positive habits.
  • Use the technique ‘defusion’ from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). This can help you to see thoughts for what they really are: just thoughts. Not truths. Read more about this technique.
  • Master your worries. Use the free online workbook that provides you with information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.
  • There are helpful models to be found at the online learning platform Goodhabitz, such as ‘Oh Yes, it’s Stress’, ‘Mindfulness’. Access to GoodHabitz via the link: Choose University of Twente and login with your UT-student account.   

Please note: If you are struggling with an urgent issue and you feel like you can not wait for an appointment, these are your options:

  • During office hours: contact your general practitioner.
  • Outside of office hours: contact the outside-of-office hours GP service by calling +31 88 555 1188 (if you live in Enschede) or +31 88 555 1155 (if you live in Hengelo).
  • If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact 113 suicide prevention  immediately via the website or by calling 0900-0113. If you are not in the Netherlands, you can check Suicide Stop to find information about local resources.
  • In case of an emergency: call 112.
How to stay focused on my study/work
  • Structure is key. Like described below ‘Practical tips’, following the usual structure of the day is very important. Watch the clip to find out how to structure your day to be more productive. You can also use online tools, such as Microsoft To-Do to work in a more structured way.
  • Separate your private time and working time. For most people, it is comfortable to work in an office (or another place that’s not home) to complete the work there and then return home. This helps us to separate our work from our private life. Try to implement this into your current situation. If possible, create a healthy workplace in your home and only work from here. Don’t do any other activities at this ‘home-office’ and prevent RSI/CANS complaints. Besides this, try to check work-related messages and emails only during working times and your private messages and emails in your private time.   
  • Use time-management techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique, to work more efficiently and stay more focused on your tasks.
  • Get rid of distractions. To do this, you first of all have to find out what distracts you most. If it is your phone or if you have the tendency to check other websites, while working on your laptop, try to restrict yourself from doing so. You can use tools like Cold Turkey to block social media and other websites for a set amount of time, so you can not be distracted by them. Besides this, make sure your desk and the room you are working in are cleaned up. Use noise-cancelling headphones when you are working. Use full-screen when you are working.
  • Overcoming procrastination. Procrastinating certain tasks is quite normal human behaviour, everyone procrastinates. Sometimes, procrastinating can become problematic and can have negative consequences. You can use the online workbook about overcoming procrastination.
  • There are helpful modules to be found on the online learning platform GoodHabitz such as ‘Time Management’, ‘Stick to the Plan’ and ‘Get a Grip, Clear Your Mind’. Access to GoodHabitz via the link: Choose University of Twente and login with your UT-student account. 
  • Accept the fact that for most people it is not possible to function as effectively as usual. For many of us, circumstances are far from ideal and of course, this influences your daily life and therefore your study or work as well. Don’t set the bar too high for yourself, but be realistic about the amount of work you can do.  
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