young man hanging posters on a white wall
Image of a young man wearing a long sleeved black top and glasses putting posters up on a white wall

Welfare advice: self care in self isolation

The University Counselling Service has produced a series of articles and podcasts to support students during the coronavirus pandemic. In this blog, we offer some thoughts to help students who are in self-isolation. 

Some international students travelling to Oxford this Michaelmas Term will start the academic year with two weeks’ self-isolation, while UK students may need to self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19. For some, this may present significant practical and psychological challenges.

  • A small space which would be sufficiently comfortable and liveable in normal circumstances may feel confining and claustrophobic when you are not free to come and go, or to balance time indoors with time outdoors.  
  • It can feel hard to be dependent on others for food and other needs.
  • Although communication remains possible when self-isolating, physical isolation from others can nonetheless be distressing.
  • A two-week period that would fly by all-too-swiftly if you were active and busy could seem an eternity when spent in enforced isolation.
  • You may have too much time inside the echo chamber of your own thoughts, where any worries or uncertainties you may have can all too easily be amplified and multiplied.

Self-isolation may be especially difficult for those arriving in Oxford for the first time.

  • Whilst in transition you may feel especially vulnerable. Time in self-isolation may seem to extend the most vulnerable stage of your journey, and delay your sense of arriving in a place you can call home.
  • Self-isolation slows the process of making friends and establishing connections—activities that are a vital to create a sense of safety in a new place.
  • Arriving full of excitement to see and explore a new place, it may be frustrating to be confined within four white walls.
  • The gap between what you were expecting and hoping for, and the reality you are experiencing at the moment, can feel unsettling.  You may wonder: is this the Oxford I worked so hard to get to?

Here are some suggestions that may help you to navigate this time:

  1. Ensure you have everything you need to feel physically safe, secure and well. Don’t let anything get in the way of reaching out and accessing any help you need. Don’t be shy or worry about burdening others. They will be glad to help in any way possible.
  2. Use everything you know about what makes you feel good, safe and cared for and do your best to create these conditions in your temporary situation. For example, if exercise is important to you, find a way to exercise in your temporary space.  If you thrive when you have some structure and routine, create some structure to guide you through these two weeks.
  3. Remind yourself why you are here, and what excites you about the year ahead
  4. If there are difficult feelings around for you, find a way to express them: talk to a friend or family member, or write in a journal.
  5. … but don’t get stuck ruminating on difficult feelings. Accept the things you can’t change, and be purposeful about taking the positive steps you can. Form a clear, positive intention for how you will use these two weeks and take some action.
  6. Try to make use of available opportunities to connect with your Oxford community on-line. After all, for humans, feeling seen, heard and understood by other humans does more than anything else to help us feel safe and secure.
  7. Be proud of yourself for coping as well as you can in difficult circumstances, and compassionate with yourself when you find it hard.

Some resources that may help:

The University Counselling Service has produced a series of blogs and podcasts to support students during the coronavirus pandemic

The Student Space website features a collection of resources to support university students during the coronavirus pandemic. These may help you to manage at present, and to anticipate and prepare yourself to meet some of the challenges ahead

Oxford SU has produced a series of tips and tricks for students in self-isolation

All Oxford students can now also access free online support 24/7 through Togetherall - a free service giving you access to a global welfare community.