Finding strategies to cope with continual changes

'This pandemic has affected countless aspects of life and forced so many of us to pause, think and adapt.

Esther Adikpe is a BSc student at Cardiff University and is the Wales officer for the CSP Student Reference Group.

She is a student athlete, competing in the 200 and 400 meters at national level. 

Strategies to cope

I  have changed; as a student, as an athlete and as a person in general. Like so many others, I have had to find strategies to cope and stay healthy, both physically and mentally, discovering along the way that the two sometimes go hand in hand.

Esther Adikpe
Esther Adikpe after running for the GB junior's 4x400m team at the Loughborough international athletics competition

Due to the way the course runs at my university, I started my first placement as a second-year student, in early March. Covid cases were just beginning to rise, and conversations about lockdown were surfacing. This was a time of constant change and uncertainty for everyone. While things have been somewhat more settled since returning to placement, there are still continual changes. This has not just been at university; I have found that my method of training has also had to be adaptable - to lockdowns, limited facilities, and last-minute announcements of athletics competitions.

New routines

Admittedly, in the beginning, the lack of usual routine was difficult, moving from being consistently busy, to having almost everything put on pause. In addition to the new circumstances, I was training alone, accountable to myself and motivation was dwindling.  However, I have found that creating, and adjusting to new routines has been very important in coping with these times.

Establishing a routine was pivotal to maintaining motivation, it made it feel as though training or studying wasn’t down to choice, but rather a part of every day. In addition, thinking forward to the future and what I was working towards, kept things in perspective and pushed me to carry on as I had purpose and something to aim for. The role of my athletics training as a steady part of my routine throughout this period has been so vital for me mentally, more than anything else. Training has been a real exercise of mental resilience and a method of offloading stress, while giving my mind something to focus on.

Study strategies

This whole experience reminded me that principles of training in sport are not so different to study strategies.

For example, goal setting, progressive overload, pacing, “mind over matter” and rest and recovery all demonstrate this.

These are some of the principles that I have carried over from my sport, into my university work, that you may also find useful:

  1. Goal setting: having a plan for what I wanted to achieve was not only a source of motivation but a way of tracking my progress.
  2. Progressive overload: this principle revolves around the idea that to improve, the process cannot be rushed but requires steady progression.
  3. Pacing: taking things at a steady pace to prevent burn-out, slowing down/ taking time out if needed, to come back better when ready.
  4. Rest and recovery: similar to pacing, I found that taking time to rest was so necessary to make progress because I could return with clarity.
  5. Mind over matter: I am very familiar with feeling like I have reached my limit at training, but then choosing to let my mind “override” my body, to carry on. In a similar way, with my university work, it has been important to understand that I am capable of more than I may think.

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