Professor Arnold Schoonwinkel, Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Vice-Rector of Learning and Teaching, recently announced that learning facilitation and assessments will remain mostly online for the rest of the academic year. It must be acknowledged that everyone individuals are experiencing the global pandemic differently as they are all exposed to varying circumstances. The final term is typically extremely busy, therefore it can be expected for this one to be particularly demanding considering our unusual circumstances. Here are five simple, yet effective, tips to assist you in keeping sane for what is left of the academic year.

1. Keep calm and be grateful

To put things into perspective, it is useful to recall how overwhelming this pandemic was when it first broke out; the media reports, daily updates on confirmed cases, lockdown restrictions, etc. It was tough but here we are now, slowly surviving COVID-19 and its repercussions and coming out on top. To stay sane, it helps to be grateful that things have started to calm down. As I went around and asked people for general suggestions, I found that the two most popular answers were having gratitude and thankfulness. This includes focusing on the small moments of joy and pleasure found in each day, as well as larger things like health, studies and family. Mindfulness can also help to keep one calm. It comes in many forms: meditation, self-affirmations, self-love, breathing techniques, sleeping and more.

2. Stay active and healthy

Keeping busy and healthy can be made fun with the use of hobbies. Examples of such are sporting activities such as hiking, cycling, jogging or yoga. A group of students have been playing soccer on the Coetzenburg sports fields twice a week in the evening. According to one of the students, Ikechukwu Opara, it has been engaging and thrilling. Also, you may as well embrace sending and sharing the many funny memes and jokes that are doing the rounds. As a suggestion, there is a thread on twitter, #IKeepMyselfSaneBy, where people post hilarious things that they do to keep sane. You can find a lot of jokes there and even get real tips that work for you. Another source of entertainment is the Instagram account @stellies.justkidding, that shares relatable content.

3. Stay connected with friends and family

For a lot of people, family comes first. Family and friends are our go-to place of recourse and it can be greatly beneficial to stay in close contact with them, whether in person or virtually. There are so many platforms to connect on, such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix Party and Houseparty. George Teke, a post-graduate student, says that he actually hosts virtual dinners with his friends, to help keep them connected.

4. Seek professional assistance

The new normal brings both familiar and new mental health challenges. It is important to normalize seeking professional help in order to maintain mental health, as counsellors and psychologists can assess our mental state and determine the type of support we may require. SU has such support systems in place, namely the Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD). They are offering free online sessions to help students prepare for the exams. You can contact them at to book an appointment.

5. Maintain healthy boundaries

With exams fast approaching we must keep in mind that as students, studies are still a main priority. To avoid being distracted during online classes or study time, put off notifications on phones or laptops and schedule times to check on your messages and alerts after you are done with academic activities. Avoid procrastinating as this will cause work to pile up and become difficult to catch up.

To conclude, let me borrow words from the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, who said, 

“The silver lining to the cloud of this challenging year is that Team SU has never been more united and appreciative of one another, which is something I am very pleased about. Let’s keep it up. Hang in there – there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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