The Mind is its own Place

As a Melbournian, I am currently in the midst of Lockdown 6. We’ve been through more than two hundred days of lockdown and you’d think that we’re getting better at it. Haha, nope. The isolation, the cancellation of plans and the stress of trying to work without a study, desk, or even a quiet corner of the house, has taken its toll on me. I persist because what else am I going to do? I’ll keep plodding along for the time being.

So, what lessons have I learned from the last two years?

1. Don’t leave things in your office. Any time that I take my books in to uni to work there is a very good chance that it might be eight months before I see them again. The majority of my texts are currently trapped on the bookshelf next to my desk.

2. Stay connected. I am active on a couple of social networks and try to keep tabs on what others at my uni and others in the field are doing. I’ve haphazardly attended Shut Up and Write sessions and dropped in to social zoom sessions. One of the (very few) positives of the pandemic is the increased accessibility of conferences and I’ve gone to quite a few in different time zones around the world. 4am isn’t the best time to absorb information though.

3. Have a hobby. I knit, sew, draw, keep my hands busy where I can. Making your research your whole life can work for some people but most of us need something that we can do because it is fun and not because we are good at it. Make some gross-tasting bread if you want, you can let yourself fail at something low-stakes. I’m a big fan of gardening and have been growing heirloom veggies from the Diggers Club for years.

4. Embrace the wonderful resources of the Interlibrary Loan team at your uni. Mine have tracked me down some extra-obscure articles and have been a lifeline for my research while my books are trapped.

5. Help others. This is part two of the hobby suggestion. Proofread for others, discuss their research with them, support your research community. We’re all struggling to get work done and although you can’t expect the same in return, it might happen. You’ll maintain connections with your peers and get a nice buzz from being helpful too.

6. Know that your value as a person and as a researcher is not linked to your productivity. If I get one more email about ‘resilience’ I may scream. I am doing the best work that I can in a really shitty time and I am not going to waste time and energy feeling bad about that.

7. Finally, find out the provisions for Leave of Absence, Extensions, Sick Leave, etc. at your Uni. Use them. If you are unwell due to mental illness you might be eligible for paid sick leave. If you need a bit more time to meet that milestone because you can’t access a resource, then there is no shame in seeking extra time.

These are my tips, you may have some of your own. Here’s hoping that we won’t need tips and advice for enduring lockdowns in the near future.

– Lauren