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Skye is from Hackney, London. Passionate about activism for equality and the importance of a youth voice in politics, she is studying history and politics at Oxford University. Here she reflects on striving to be productive and the importance of mental health while in lockdown and under pressure from work or studies.

“As a student in lockdown, I’ve often had the feeling of being expected to be and do somewhat contradictory things at the same time. We’ve got to take time for ourselves in this harrowing situation, but also got to keep up with all our work. We've got to relax but be just as focused as we would be in an academic environment, with access to libraries and quiet spaces.

With an already stressful world situation, this paradox of looking after yourself but also being productive takes a toll that can magnify into something quite heavy.

I’ve personally found it very difficult to unite my desire to do well with the realities of working at home with five other people (and not a lot of space!). A big part of a solution to this is for employers and educational institutions to take the added difficulty into account. Some do, but even then the fact that we’ve been lifted out of our normality and dropped into an almost alternative dimension has not been entirely negated, nor has the need for at least some things to get done.

young girl's portrait

Skye Fitzgerald McShane

The advice that I've been trying to take to heart to help is to prioritise health and happiness first, before my work. It’s good advice for ‘ordinary’ life as well, but particularly relevant now. This doesn’t mean hiding from the things I have to do, as for me getting stuff finished makes me feel a lot better.

But if it feels like everything is getting too much, I’m taking a step back rather than forcing myself over the edge trying to motivate myself to be ‘perfect’. 

Looking after yourself does not look the same for everyone. Those living with physical and mental health conditions, or in a difficult home environment, may not feel better just by making banana bread, or sitting in their (perhaps non existent) garden. But any action, however small, that means your health, both mental and physical, takes precedence is valuable.

For me, aligning my health and my work involves setting simple tasks for the day, even if it's just getting up in the morning and having a proper breakfast. I always feel better and more motivated to keep going if I take things slowly and just try to start small, rather than attempting to write a 2,000 word essay in one sitting, for example.

It's much easier said than done, but I'm definitely working on it! We're living in exceptional times, they call for exceptional feelings. Keeping up active communication with my professors has also been helpful for me to make sure everything stays balanced.

It’s a strange age to be alive, and I’m sure in 50 years we’ll be reading Samuel Pepys style accounts of the time everyone lost the plot a little stuck at home trying to keep each other safe. For now, the most important thing to try to do is to look after our loved ones and our health as best we can.”

Youth story by Skye Fitzgerald McShane submitted via Eurodesk Partner, British Youth Council (BYC).


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