The Wardley Wellbeing Hub is the central area for the ACTNow campaign.
“The biggest change I’ve had to make is to my mindset.”
Vivien Yu is currently in her 4th and final year at Robert Gordon University. In summer 2020, she joined in the ACTNow Student Chat, telling us how she adapted to the changes the Covid-19 pandemic brought, and also gave her review and tips for language learning using the DuoLingo app. We caught up with Vivien to see how things are going a few months down the line.
What motivated you to study pharmacy?
If I am being honest, when I first applied through clearing, I didn’t know the difference between pharmacology and pharmacy nor the vast roles of a pharmacist. Despite this I can say that I have fallen in love with my degree and I cannot think of a more exciting future ahead for me. I can see myself in lot of different roles and hopefully in the future I will work in a hospital,a GP surgery and with organisations such as the RPS and Pharmacist Support. I am delighted to kick start my career by carrying out my pre-registration year in a local community pharmacy close to my home.
How has studying changed since the COVID-19 outbreak and how are you coping with the changes?
Sooooo much screen time is the first thing that pops up in my head, as well as not socialising in between classes, at night and at the weekend. I have found it difficult to ‘switch off’ from university because it feels like the work never ends and there is not an end in sight. There are often whole days and evenings filled with back-back meetings, lectures and calls, making it difficult to stop thinking about university, which seems to have taken over my life. I’ll admit I had been struggling a lot with headaches from the screen time, balancing my time and feeling stressed thinking about nothing and everything.
Having said that, I would say that this year has been one of my best years at university. I have been fortunate to move in with my best friends this year, who have been able to face most challenges with me and we get to spend so much more time together. It makes me feel I am not alone in anything I go through.
You told us that you had been struggling with your sleep pattern and motivation during the first lockdown. Have you taken any steps since to manage these?
During the first lockdown I was shielding at home with nowhere to go and not being able to speak to anyone in real life. I also had to motivate myself to find new things to do and not get myself into a slump. Whereas now I am sometimes working up to 50 hours 6 or 7 days a week, along with balancing university work and leading different university societies. My sleep and motivation did falter as I was constantly stressed, and my mind never stopped thinking. I also felt like I had so much to do and so little time, that I would have to force myself to gather some motivation and ‘tick off’ the tasks.
In order to manage this, I decided to prioritise myself and my wellbeing. Doing home workouts, hiking, cooking and baking, watching TV and connecting with friends have all contributed to a better mindset and wellbeing. I have also tried to say no to extra shifts in all of my jobs (although I am still working on this one!).
What has been the most unique challenge you’ve faced this year and how did you overcome it?
Having to adapt all of my ideas and ways of working to online and still deliver the same or even better quality of learning and support for our student members. As co-president of the pharmacy society and president of the inter-professional education society, it’s been important to ask for lots of feedback so I can learn and adapt. However, the biggest change I’ve had to make is to my mindset, to not be so hard on myself and count every small win.
What has been your biggest learning curve this year?
The biggest lesson I have learnt this year is awareness of how incredibly lucky I am. I’ve had 3 (nearly!) ‘normal’ years at university, allowing me to build a supportive network of friends for life. To have the support of those who are going through the same thing has undeniably made my experience so much less exhausting. I know that when I am feeling this new student life is tough, I remember that it is a lot worse for someone else. This feeling reminds me to check on those who I know may not be so lucky to have the same university support network.
Do you have any tips to help others who may be in a similar situation to yourself?
I think a big step in helping yourself is acknowledging that you are struggling. Reach out to someone – anyone – they could also be needing someone to rant/cry/chat to and you could potentially help each other. If you are worried about adding an extra burden onto your friends or family, but would still like to talk it out, there are university listening services, Night Line and Pharmacist Support. Make sure to take time to think about and look after yourself, even if it’s something small like opening the window and breathing in some fresh air. Make a list with all of the big tasks you have to do and break them down as far as you can into manageable small bites. It makes me feel better when I have ticked lots of boxes, even if the task is to eat food!
In the lead up to Christmas, we’re running a 12 Days of Pharmacy Thanks campaign to recognise all the positives that have happened amongst the uncertainties and chaos of this year. Please tell us who you would like to say ‘thank you’ to and why…
There are so many people I would like to say thank you to! My friends for keeping me motivated, the pharmacy teams at work for making my shifts so enjoyable and my mum for listening to me cry over the phone every so often and knowing what to say!