Living in the confines of one room while at halls of residence or a shared flat can feel a challenge when you first arrive. Your family home may have different areas to study, eat, sleep and chill out, you now need to create boundaries within a small space to keep yourself mentally well. We can talk you through how to get the most out of your desk set-up to stay focused and motivated, and how to shut everything away when downtime is needed – all within the same four walls.
Keeping a good posture will help protect against muscle aches and strain on the neck and spine. It’s also been proven to keep you positive, energised and feeling in control. Think of right angles: your feet should be flat on the ground and slightly apart, your knees straight downwards, and your thighs just slightly higher than your hips. To keep your back and neck straight, you may wish to raise your screen (or have books on an adjustable book holder), so that they meet eye level straight in front of you. There’s a natural arch in your lower back. Forearms and wrists should sit squarely on the desk without strain, especially if typing, using the mouse or writing. A good chair can be a worthwhile investment and last a long time, but you can also achieve this position with firm cushions on the seat and in the small of your back, and a box under your feet. Avoid the temptation to work on your laptop in bed, it’s the worst thing for your posture and bad for keeping boundaries of study and sleep.
There’s no need for a strict timetable, you don’t live with your parents now! But have a loose plan of the day, and whatever you’re doing – writing an essay, reading, trawling through YouTube videos or messaging – make sure you take a break every hour or so. Get up and stretch, or switch tasks. It will keep you feeling refreshed. Make sure you get outside every day, whatever the weather – it can change your perspective and keep you connected with nature and other people. This is particularly important if lots of your lectures are online. It can be tempting to spend lots of time on social media, especially if you’re away from friends and family for the first time. Try to limit this as it’s yet more screen time and it can magnify what you perceive as others leading more perfect lives. Pop outside your bedroom door and speak to other students or have a coffee in a local cafe instead, it’ll be much more rewarding.
If the set-up allows, it’s a good idea to eat in a communal area outside your room. This avoids crumbs that can attract insects and vermin, and we’re also social animals that have evolved to enjoy eating together. Chatting about food can be a good ice-breaker to get to know other students, too.
Even if small, make sure you can shift your stuff back so you have a space to move and stretch. This will get some oxygen flowing to your mind and body, making your feel more energised and avoiding muscles seizing up from hours at the desk.