Extra-Curricular Activities During Covid-19

As a response to the developing Covid-19 pandemic on the 23rd March 2020 the United Kingdom government introduced lockdown legislation across society, instigating some of the most restrictive measures of social control since the second world war (HM Cabinet Office, 2021).  Laws restricting movement and urging households to stay at home, only going out for food shopping and exercise for one hour daily.  Businesses, schools and retail outlets were closed with few exceptions.  Whilst feeling significant amounts of anxiety and worry the general population had to adapt to new ways of socialising, learning and working.  Such was the UK Governments concern much research was commissioned to understand in detail how they were coping (Vizard, 2020).  With much time spent at home new experiences were forged creating new ways of doing previously familiar things, reviving family and community experiences in a wide variety of new and often exciting ways.  At the same time some were left isolated and alone, struggling to cope.  Additionally, people had more time to reflect on their lives and what was important to them.  This exhibition attempts to capture some of those thoughts, reflections and experiences, even as lockdown continues……..

Exhibit 1.  Walking Boots

“You don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it” was a slightly cryptic phrase my mother would sometimes use.  With lockdown urging just one hour of exercise a day the simple act of walking became suddenly valuable beyond any previous consideration.  An entire population now had to think about how they would use that hour. Walk, run, skate plus any number of alternatives.  For me the boots now meant a practical freedom, but they were also a link to better times.  Walks cursed when lost, revelled in when at their best. But also, a promise of better times ahead, maps spread across the dining table, future adventures to be planned.  Seeing the boots so worn, I realised that replacement would have to wait until lockdown was lifted if I was to avoid buying online.  That sparked the interesting thought, “what would have happened if the pandemic had arrived prior to the internet”?

Exhibit 2.  Teacup

Unable to find new experiences outside the search for novelty at home began to take increasingly strange turns.  Some started to bake and focus in the kitchen, family mealtimes returning to regular events that had previously been lost to fast food and tv dinners.  Others took up knitting, sewing and a variety of creative home crafts.  For me the simple act of making tea developed into an increasingly varied and complex custom.  Different types of tea, bag or loose leaves, variety of cups and pots all became increasingly fun and significant to me for reasons I couldn’t begin to understand.  It was almost a desperation to find some fulfilment in even the most everyday tasks as the world had become reduced to such a small and narrow footprint.  It was also an act of community, coming together every now and then for some tea and a chat in ways that had been taken for granted previously.

Exhibit 3.  Silver Pen

A strange phenomenon of life under Covid was the way routine actions could become more ritualised and take on a significance previously unrealised.  Whilst writing daily for study I took to writing poetry for the first time in years, exploring thoughts and feelings almost in meditation.  Unable to go out freely my mind increasingly turned inwards, and writing provided a positive outlet.  Unsure of the motivation the act of writing became a ritual.  At the same time of day, using a silver pen my father had given to me, feeling closer to him as I explored my experiences of the day or fumed against some perceived frustrations or injustices.  Almost feeling that with the pen in my hand I was holding his hand and facing the realities of the day together.  Beyond the words on the page the ritual itself became important, time with my father rather than simply missing him.

Exhibit 4.  Books

Unable to venture out books became the road to other worlds.  Whether factual, explaining the workings of politics or DIY or fiction, or providing escape to more exciting lands.  Books became the tickets to alternative realities, beyond the fears and uncertainties of the Covid pandemic.  However, the experience was bitter-sweet.  Just as they provided the means of escape books also served to remind just what was being missed in the wider world.  Where the books contained pictures, all were captured in a world before Covid, forcing the realisation that the very same pictures would now be pock marked with facemasks or socially distanced.  Almost regardless of time or place the world had quickly come to share a common fate in the most visible of ways.  This begged the important question; “when would the world return to normality”?

Exhibit 5.  Chess Set

The search for entertainment quickly extended beyond Television.  Interestingly, game consoles were ever popular, but lockdown sparked a renaissance in home entertainment with alternate forms of leisure being reawakened. Online Zoom quizzes became a weekly occurrence for many, whilst the price and availability of jigsaws briefly matched that of a housing boom.  Board games were dug out of lofts as families returned to an almost Victorian enjoyment of pastimes.  In some ways this seemed to capture the experience of the pandemic, a return to family traditions providing some degree of warmth and certainty in what had become a scary and rapidly changing world. Personally, a return to chess provided a wonderful balance between competition and socialising.  Gentle conversation sometimes developing into argument, while trying to focus on the board and the detail of different moves, regardless of the outcome, a chance to get lost in thoughts and forget the outside world.

Visitor Challenge:  If you could contribute one exhibit from your own life, to reflect your own experience of the pandemic, what would it be?  What thoughts and feelings does it raise and why? Please do feel free to leave your comments.


HM Cabinet Office (2021) National lockdown: Stay at Home.

Vizard, T. (2020) Coronavirus and the Social Impacts on Great Britain.

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Mental Health During COVID-19


Mental health has become the topic of conversation not only nationally, but worldwide during this pandemic due to many factors: people have been forced to stay inside to stay safe from the virus and have been isolated from many of their friends and family. The sudden and drastic changes in the day to day lives of neurodivergent individuals during this pandemic has had an obvious and tangible negative effect on their lives; this is a topic that I believe must be taken seriously, and it is one that I feel is being neglected and left behind by universities, neurotypical people and the government as a whole. The fact that people within the UK have been in some state of quarantine or lockdown for almost a year has meant that people’s routines have been flipped on their heads and that they have had to adjust to a wholly new way of learning that may not fit with how their mind works. I can attest to this myself, as the work and studying from home does not meld well with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression, both of which have been consistent struggles during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.


Surrealism Art:

Credit: @the_elijah_files on Instagram

Elijah Ashton’s piece of surrealist art represents his mental state during the second long-term lockdown in the UK. This artwork made with inks and a quill was described by the artist as “a visual description of how social media has superseded physical interpersonal relationships and social interaction within the age of Coronavirus and how it has affected my own mental state” in an interview with me. This feeling of loneliness and isolation from friends and family despite the use of social media and how this leads to relationships and friendships feeling less real or meaningful due to them being experienced only through the lens of a screen. There is a contrast between the medium of the piece and the piece itself, as the use of a quill and ink harkens back to a more traditional method of artwork and brings focus to the beauty of that which is physical and personal, whereas the artwork itself shows how the online space and social media can be viewed as invasive, like the fungi that have taken over the brain in this artwork.


credits: own photo

This photo is a representation of how the pandemic has affected my own mental health and the consequences of that mental health deterioration. I have been on and off of antidepressants for almost four years, but this past year and a half has been one of the hardest periods of that. We have seen a large increase in the prescription of antidepressants during the pandemic, with the Pharmaceutical journal finding that “23% more patients received an antidepressant item in the third quarter of 2020–2021 compared to the same quarter in 2015–2016”. This can even be seen as a conservative estimate of the number of people who may actually need these prescriptions as the lockdowns and coronavirus as a whole has slowed down their potential prescription.

Social Media: 

Credit: Forbes

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an influx of people who have been struggling mentally. Many of these people have not been able to get the support that they need for their mental health issues or concerns due to the resources of the NHS being thinly spread and mainly focussing on stopping the spread of and treating those who have been infected with COVID-19. Due to this many people turn to the internet for an outlet: a study/survey put out by Global Web Index showed that escapism is one of the main reasons for social media usage, but also that 42% of people surveyed said that there was less pressure to represent themselves unrealistically on social media during the pandemic, which may lead to more awareness about and understanding of certain mental health conditions within the general public.

Anxiety and Depression:

Credit: Kaiser Family Foundation

This chart is from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which provides statistical information on medical and health policy and it shows the stark difference and upward trend of adults who report symptoms that would be categorised as part of an anxiety disorder or as part of a depressive disorder. We can see a large increase in these reports of symptoms of depression and anxiety within the pandemic, due to many of the factors that have been previously discussed in this exhibition. We can see an increase of 30.1% in symptoms of anxiety and depression within adults.

Executive Dysfunction:

The repetition of each day during the COVID-19 pandemic makes it hard for many people to find the motivation to do basic tasks, like doing the washing up, managing time and deadlines and other things; this is called Executive dysfunction and it is something that many people have issues with, and that has only gotten worse during COVID. With rates of depression and anxiety on the rise (as has been shown earlier within this exhibition), we see a rise in people with executive dysfunction issues; this can lead to people feeling overwhelmed with deadlines, feeling like they cannot get out of bed, and thus doing worse in school, university or in the workforce. There have also been findings stating that “in a significant number of cases COVID-19 infection may be associated with an executive dysfunction syndrome”; because of this, we must look more into ways to help people who struggle with executive dysfunction, rather than simply calling them lazy or disorganised.


Interactive Activity:

Describe your feelings and how your mental health has been during COVID on this interactive word cloud and see what others have been feeling.

This word cloud is live, with new words showing up on the screen as soon as they are added by a user, and words that are submitted more frequently show up as larger on the word cloud. This can show how others are feeling within this pandemic, as well as how frequent these feelings are among those viewing this exhibition.







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Home During the Pandemic

When lockdown was first announced, most people panicked and began to bulk buy household items such as toilet roll and bread – essentially emptying stores nationwide. On the other hand, a great deal of people took this quarantine as a form of holiday and began planning all the activities they could do with this new break. After all, most people believed that this pandemic would only last a few weeks, perhaps a few months at the most. However, things quickly took a turn with high rises in Covid-19 cases, unfortunately leaving the UK in a lockdown for the majority of a year.

It can be concluded that many people have suffered as a result of the pandemic, those who have lost their lives, jobs and have faced financial issues which may leave damage for years to come. One group of people who felt some of the worst repercussions of the pandemic were the children of lower income families. Last year a campaign was put forward by footballer Marcus Rashford after he heard about the government’s plans to remove free school meals for children after 322 Conservatives voted against the funding. Thankfully, with public favour and reasoning, he was able to appeal this and 1.3 million children were promised free school meals during the summer.

However, despite this promise, the food bundles they provided to replace the money vouchers were far less than adequate.

[A food parcel received by one parent during lockdown (Twitter/Roadside Mum)]

Above shows the food parcels which were handed out to families instead of the £30 voucher allocated to families, a rather poor amount which averages around £5.22; just shy of £25 less than they were promised. It has been speculated that that the private company that was hired by the Conservatives in order to hand out these food hampers may have been pocketing the profit, quite literally taking food directly from a child’s mouth.

Growing up, I was able to benefit from free school meals during my whole education, even through my A-levels, which is why I felt even more personally hurt by this stunt pulled by the Conservative party. It really put into perspective how little the government care for the lower and working class, however, while this news is not exactly new to me or other people from working class backgrounds, it felt more shocking to see innocent children being directly targeted and ignored.

People suffered a great deal while remaining at home during the pandemic, especially in terms of mental health, although, there were also some positive impacts that I personally experienced which brought a new perspective to my life.


Returning Home

Returning home during the pandemic was an experience which I hold mixed feelings for. As the youngest of my family, my household was quick to treat me like a child again which felt rather demeaning as an adult who had already moved out and started work. However, I also see that experience as somewhat positive. I found myself quickly delving back into the interests I so deeply loved when I was young, such as anime and plushies, which I had turned away from when I first came to university as society make me believe that these interests were somewhat childish and ‘cringey’. The pandemic truly had a positive impact on my mindset and reminded me that I shouldn’t care what people think if they don’t agree with my interests, as long as they make me happy in the moment, that is essentially all that matters; especially during such a depressing and isolating period of the pandemic.


Old Hobbies

With all the new extra time that I had on my hands, I was finally able to take a break from my work and university studies. This allowed me creative freedom and time and I was able to draw again for the first time in over a year, something that I used to enjoy considerably but had mostly given up after high school due to its time-consuming nature. I was also able to pick up new hobbies that I had been wanting to try for a long time, such as needle felting and sculpting clay. I will admit, both were quickly dropped once the work piled up again, however, I am still immeasurably glad that I was able to at least practise and use mediums which I had been dying to try for years. It also taught me to use my time well in order to keep my hobbies alive, and perhaps practise more this summer even after the pandemic has lifted most of its restrictions.


Online Learning

Doing my university work from home was a far greater challenge than I could have ever predicted. With unstable Wi-Fi, family interrupting my lectures and barely having the motivation to attend at all constantly disturbing my education. Combined with the overbearing reminder that I was paying £9k for an online education also didn’t sit right with me, and I felt my work negatively impacted by the lack of in-person lessons. I also felt my anxiety rising horribly with every online lesson I had to attend, with the lack of social interaction outside, I quickly became uncomfortable turning my camera on during lectures. This was an experience that not only impacted me, but also affected most of the population as it has been reported that since the beginning of the lockdown, 49.6% of people reported higher anxiety, averaging at 5.2 out of 10, a large increase from the 3.0 before Covid-19.


Mental Health

[The Secret World of Arrietty 2010]

It would be fair to admit that while my mental health has never been the best to start with, the pandemic definitely took a rather damaging blow to my depression. Without the constant distraction of going out to work or meeting up with friends, my mind was quick to turn to alarming places. On those days when I was unable to take care of my basic needs, I resorted to nostalgic movies by Studio Ghibli in order to distract myself mentally, allowing time for me to calm my thoughts enough to do as little as moving out of bed or brushing my hair for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, due to my negligence of my hair, it became so knotted and matted that I had no choice but to cut a large majority of it off; a very difficult choice for me considering that for many years, my long hair had acted as a safety blanket of some sorts.



Keeping in contact with my friends was something I also struggled with due to my depleting mental health, however, through the power of the internet, I was able to keep my sanity and spend my nights on video calls with them. Sometimes even just mindlessly sending random pictures to each other as we had nothing to say but still needed the company. Some of my fondest memories that I made while at home during the pandemic were playing games with my friends, in particular Stardew Valley. However, on days when we felt unmotivated to even play a game as simple and wholesome as Stardew Valley, we opted to watching childhood comforts like Adventure Time together on Teleparty, a site where we could comment and react on the scenes together. It was almost as if we were watching and talking about it in person like we used to pre-pandemic.



As an activity, I would like to encourage everyone to experience any online museum from their homes, one in particular that I love was created by Studio Ghibli, the same company that made the nostalgic movies which helped my mental health during my time at home during the pandemic.

Below is a link to their YouTube channel where you can find a virtual tour of their museum.




Websites accessed:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53065806 [04.05.21]

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/free-school-meals-parcels-marcus-rashford-b1785877.html [04.05.21]

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusandanxietygreatbritain/3april2020to10may2020 [04.05.21]

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/23/how-out-of-touch-are-the-tories-the-free-school-meals-row-tells-you-everything-you-need-to-know [04.05.21]



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Christmas 2020 and the Pandemic

Retrospectively it is hard to recollect the events of Christmas 2020, which begin to merge into the grey-tinted months of the pandemic. As we slowly ease out of this pandemic, this blog aims to preserve my personal experiences of Christmas 2020, an experience many others can relate to. On December 25th, 2020, there were 39,036 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, with 574 deaths on the same day (WHO, The United Kingdom: WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard | WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard , 2020). As a contributor to this statistic, I found Christmas a time of fluctuating emotions, the usual festivities of Christmas had been extremely dampened. For university students returning home at Christmas, this period is usually spent reconnecting with friends and family; therefore it is no surprise that with the knowledge of possible lockdown, and definite restrictions over Christmas, 57% of university students surveyed by the Office for National Statistics claimed to have worse mental health at the end of the autumn term, compared to at the beginning (Office for National Statistics, Coronavirus and the impact on students in higher education in England: September to December 2020 – Office for National Statistics, December 2020).

Activity: As the exhibition progresses re-write one Christmas song, using lyrics related to the exhibition theme, and your own experience of Christmas 2020 and the pandemic


In the context of a global pandemic, attempting to celebrate what is often referred to as “the happiest time of the year”, proved challenging for my family. Living in “tier 4” Norwich, meant we were not permitted to meet any other households on Christmas day; additionally, in the week building up to Christmas, we all tested positive for the virus. Emotionally and physically this was difficult, creating a contrast between the joys of the Christmas period, and the mental/physical strain of the virus. Physically my parents were the most impacted by the virus, spending multiple days in bed, while me and my brother only suffered from mild flu symptoms. Mentally we all admitted to feeling frustrated, and drained, with a mutual understanding that Christmas would not be near what we’ve come to expect. Once we had accepted this, however, and removed any expectations it became easier to enjoy and appreciate the smaller aspects of Christmas and family.

Coronavirus, CDC Newsroom, Image Library | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC


In the early Roman Empire, salt was considered a valuable material, salt was even used to pay the soldiers of the Roman army. On Christmas day, this became a relatable scenario for my family. Having lost almost all taste, salt became the one gem that gave any sensation to food. The great effort my mother went through to cook Christmas dinner (although appreciated) would have been completely in vain if it wasn’t for the additional salt. My mum did understand the situation, however, this of course, caused slight tension, after the fifth and sixth pinches of salt were added to the meal she spent hours preparing. These unspoken tensions became quite familiar during our isolation period, and I can assume worldwide also, due to the Christmas lockdown forcing families into close proximity. Additional salt continued to be added to our meals for the following two months until our taste slowly returned.


Picking up my guitar again over Christmas, gave me an escape from the stir-crazy result of lockdown. Giving me, and my family, a healthy separation from each other. At first, I pushed myself to learn more complex songs and riffs; however, eventually gave up and resulted back to songs I was familiar with. This represents a wider theme of the pandemic. The cycle in which many of us found ourselves in, starting with an optimistic motivation to conquer a goal, whether it be to learn an instrument, or to exercise, and stay healthy. Eventually, for many of us, we became worn down by the pressures of the pandemic and reverting to our comfortable, less active state. After a while, for me, the motivation came back, and the cycle repeated itself. Many new activities and hobbies were taken up during the lockdown period, they acted as a way to take our minds off the pandemic.

Christmas Tree

As the most iconic symbol of Christmas, the Christmas tree, in my house felt like the last hope for any sense of Christmas cheer. Decorating the tree was the same as it has been since I can remember, my Mum, agreeing to let me and my brother help but eventually removing everything we’ve contributed, telling us the colours don’t match, and our tinsel placement looks messy. For that brief moment we all forgot about the wider situation, and just enjoyed a family tradition, that even a global pandemic could not prevent. Personally, the tree became a representation of this, every time I passed it in the living room, it gave me a sense of normality, and tradition, that had been lost in such an unstable year. Being forced to avoid the wider world, made me appreciate these smaller family traditions, as an important part of my life.

Christmas tree, The Denver Post, Craigslist post for free artificial tree leads couple to give away hundreds of Christmas trees – The Denver Post

“The Interpretation of Dreams”- Sigmund Freud

When given Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” on Christmas, as a gift that related to one of my university modules, I would be lying if I said I felt thrilled or excited. Eventually, I picked it up and read through the first chapter, the book aimed to understand the unconscious/subconscious meaning of dreams. This was a refreshing turn of events for me, for months the pandemic, and lockdown had forced me inside my head, bringing all my conscious anxieties to the forefront. It was comforting to explore the ideas of the unconscious mind, providing an escape from the feeling of being trapped. As a university student in the UK, the feeling of being trapped at Christmas was widely shared, many of my friends were uncertain when, or if, they could return to university, or home. Therefore escapism was necessary, whether it be a book, a game, alcohol, etc.


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Campus and COVID 19

Campus and Covid-19:

By Maya Younger


The campus is at the heart of many universities across the country.  In normal times, thousands of students pass through their respective campuses every day, learning in lectures, studying in the libraries, or living in accommodation. As such, a good campus can be a key factor in which university a person chooses to study at. Walking across campus can make you feel like you are surrounded by like-minded people, doing exactly what you are meant to be doing now.

However, as is the case with so many things, everything on university campuses shut down incredibly suddenly in March 2020. Since then, the status of these campuses has been ambiguous, from uncertainty during the summer and the first lockdown of when we could return to living there, to the somewhat empty promises of blended learning in the autumn term. By September, thousands of students across the country found themselves trapped in isolation in their accommodations, with people who were strangers just a few weeks before. With a lack of access to in-person lectures, and to the campus itself, many students are calling for a refund in their university fees.

The heart of universities suddenly stopped beating last year. There have been many arguably futile attempts to make sure university is the same during Covid-19 as it always was before, but without access to a normal campus, this may not be possible.

Exhibit 1 – A Home on Campus

The last time I was at a normal event on campus, I was wearing a bedsheet toga.  I was in a production of Aristophanes’ Frogs with the Kent Classical and Archaeological society which we had rehearsed for months in seminar rooms, and which was planned to take place in a lecture theatre in late March 2020.  We decided to film and upload the play early due to new restrictions.  I left my on-campus accommodation, pictured above, a home I was meant to keep until June, for the last time the next day.

Earlier that week the only thing I had been worried about was a presentation I was doing in a lecture.  As “young and reckless” students, the threat of the pandemic just did not seem real to us– we were worried about other things.  I do not think anyone realised just how bad it was until campus suddenly closed, due to new restrictions and the fear of this unknown virus.  There were online lectures after that, but all students were given a no-detriment policy to prevent their grades from being worsened by the stress of a pandemic and lack of access to resources on campus.

Photo Credit: Maya Younger

Exhibit 2 – Students Isolating in their Accommodation

In the lead up to the start of term in September 2020, first-year students were encouraged by universities across the country to still come to their campuses and not defer their place.  Students were told that they would have a first-year experience as similar to normal as possible.  However, as hundreds of students in halls were testing positive for Covid-19, thousands of them, many of whom had just moved out for the first time, found themselves in isolation with complete strangers. Isolating students were entirely dependent on university staff to bring them food and supplies, which often were not sufficient.  In one case at the University of Nottingham, students in on-campus accommodation were given no food except one ready meal in an entire day (Bevis, 2020).  The pictures of post-it notes on the windows of student accommodation exemplify the struggles of students confined to their halls, and the lack of normality there has been on campuses across the country.

It can be expected that universities are unwilling to refund their students; they had already lost around £790 million by May 2020 (Burkhi, 2020, 758).  However, as indicated by the words ‘9k well spent’ on the picture above, many students are frustrated and disappointed in having to pay £9,250 for resources and an experienced they are not receiving. Nearly 600,000 students, I included, signed a government petition earlier this year in a plea to reduce fees: the response was that we should be grateful they did not increase them.

Photo Credit: Paul Ellis via Getty Images

Exhibit 3 – What Campus has Looked Like this Year

On a more personal note, this is what campus has looked like for me this year.  I have been living in private, off-campus accommodation, and this is my desk in the chaos of writing an assignment.  This desk has become my lecture theatre, library, dining table for breakfast and lunch, and storage for what I could not fit in the small kitchen cupboards.  My bed is less than 2 metres behind it, and the kitchen and living room, where I spend the rest of my time are just a few paces away.  The dozens of friends and acquaintances I would usually see at lectures are now only silent initials on a zoom call.  The entirety of campus has been reduced to just a few cluttered rooms.

With Universities across the country being largely closed or restricted, this condensed, cramped version of what a campus should be is the reality for so many students.  While many online lectures, societies, and assistance have been offered online, they are still less accessible than in normal times.  It is no wonder that mental health among students has been declining from the start of lockdown (Savage et al. 2020, 1-5), and students’ quality of sleep has declined as they have the entirety of their university campuses in their bedrooms (Wright et al, 2020, 797-798).

Photo Credit: Maya Younger

Exhibit 4 – Fences Around Halls in Manchester

Perhaps one of the most shocking and definitive stories of campus during COVID 19 is the putting up of metal barriers around halls at the University of Manchester in November 2020.  Students who already felt isolated in their campus accommodation now were being fenced in by the university. Pictures of these fences shocked people across the country.  Here, students are being treated as untrustworthy people that need to be controlled rather than vulnerable people who are in an unfamiliar city, many of them far from home, who are just trying to access the place they are living in and make the most of their first year of university.  The university itself maintains that these fences were put up not to keep students from entering or exiting their accommodation, but instead prevent passers by from entering.  However, students were not informed of these measures before they were put into place, and report feeling trapped.

University campuses are meant to be a place to comfortably live in, learn in, and have fun.  Instead, students found themselves treated with very little respect in halls they were trapped and fenced into.

Photo Credit: Ewan at BBC News: New lockdown: Manchester University students pull down campus fences – BBC News

Exhibit 5 – What next?

This is a picture from the last time I have been to my university campus, at the start of December 2020.  My housemates and I had walked up to get a Covid-19 test so we could go home safely for the Christmas break.  The campus which had just earlier that year been buzzing with activity was eerily quiet and has stayed that way for months.

So, what comes next for university campuses? Recently, it was announced that they are reopening on the 17th May.  Unfortunately, many students, I included, do not have lectures next term anyway, meaning that we have lost a whole year of in-person teaching.  Any students who do have on campus lectures or other meetings after the 17th May will not be able to enjoy them for long because the end of term is less than a month after that.  However, the reopening of University campuses brings hope that next academic year, students may be able to return to them and enjoy their time at university.

Photo Credit: Maya Younger

Visitor Challenge:

What is your opinion on university campuses during Covid-19?  Do you think they should be open or closed? Do you think students should still be paying for their upkeep?  Please feel free to leave your comments.


Bevis, G. “Coronavirus: Nottingham Students ‘Question Logic’ of University Return” BBC News, East Midlands (2020)

Burki, T. K. “COVID-19: Consequences for higher education”, The Lancet: Oncology, 26.6 (2020) p. 758

Savage, M. J. et al. “Mental health and movement behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in UK university students: Prospective cohort study”, Elsevier: Mental Health and Physical Activity 19 (2020) pp. 1-5

Wright jr. et al. “Sleep in University Students Prior to and During Stay-at-Home Orders”, Current Biology, 20.14 (2020) pp.797-798

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Extra-curriculars in COVID-19

Extra-curriculars in COVID-19

(To experience an audial exhibition, please press play above.)

This exhibition regards extra-curriculars under COVID-19. It explores how people spent their time outside of their professional or academic commitments from March 2020 as announced by the government on 23rd March 2020 up until the present day (Prime Minister’s Office, 2020). I have asked a variety of people from different backgrounds at different times to fill in an anonymous survey, to gauge how they spent their time and gain as representative of an image as possible (Thomas 2021). As a result, this exhibition will use all 65 responses. Whilst ‘extra-curriculars under COVID-19’ does explore the experiences of others to help create the most representative picture possible of the situation between these dates, I also used some of my personal experiences as well to create a more personal picture of our recent experiences, and I hope this will resonate with the visitors who attend my exhibition by giving them a personal dimension to my own experience with extra-curriculars under COVID-19. Zaccoletti, Camacho, Correia, Aguiar, Mason, Alves and Daniel state that ‘extracurricular activities are optional activities, physically or mentally stimulating, encompassing structure’ (Zaccoletti S, Camacho A, Correia N, et al 2020), and this definition certainly influences my object choices, as well as the activities put forth in my survey by those who responded, but this exhibition is also influenced by the personal experiences of myself as aforementioned.

Artifact 1- Weights and Bikes

A personal experience of my extracurriculars can be noted in this entry depicting weights and a bike, representing exercise. At a time where the only direction to look was forward, I found that it was crucial to take this time to improve my health in my spare time. I remember vividly many of my peers spending much of their free time developing fitness routines to leave lockdown much healthier. This is something that I wanted to emulate. Interestingly, extra-curriculars are known to be fun activities to take part in when away from professional and academic commitments, but COVID-19 modified the definition of an extra-curricular activity for me and my peers into that can be done on the side of your commitments to help your future as well. This demonstrates the importance of COVID-19 not only in changing the opportunities for extra-curricular activities, but the definition of an extra-curricular activity.

Artifact 2- Roman Tiles

Pilkington de Whalley (2020) Roman Tiles

Next in my exhibition are pieces of Roman tile that me and my group discovered on an archaeology dig, which ended up being one of my favourite extra-curricular activities that I undertook. I very much enjoyed volunteering my time to support other causes, one of which being archaeology. These pieces of tile represent the many hours that I spent finding archaeological remains whilst supporting the digging teams in sorting out their findings. These are some of our proudest finds and these represent the pinnacle of my happiness in a world so consumed by chaos. These tiles represent the release that I felt from being constrained in my home as the rule of six for educational purposes became reinforced temporarily. Thus, one of my deepest interests throughout COVID-19 was to develop my archaeological knowledge, and this led to some extremely interesting discoveries.

Artifact 3- Diary

This image depicts my personal diary that I used thoroughly throughout COVID-19. Much of my experiences on a day-to-day basis are kept in here, and I would enjoy writing down my thoughts and experiences of what my life was like in lockdown. Whilst this was certainly a way to regulate my brain’s health, I would certainly use it for my enjoyment as well. For example, there are a variety of doodles and diagrams in here that I would jot down when there was not much else to do. However, this activity was able to take me away from a time that seemed so bleak. Inside here are plans for the future such as plans including my career, something which I enjoyed thinking about and wrote down in this diary. Thus, this diary serves as a portal to a different, much better time.

Artifact 4- Books

67% of the people whom I surveyed stated that they began to read thoroughly throughout lockdown as an extracurricular activity as a way to escape from their responsibilities and the world. Many of those I surveyed began to see their life comprising two things, work, and lockdown, and this dichotomy was escaped by implementing habits such as this extracurricular. Some began reading for enjoyment and read thrillers. Some began reading to learn and read books that helped them learn a foreign language such as French, as observed on the laptop above. However, some would read more to their children and began to implement more adventure stories to take their children away from the repetitive nature of life, helping the parents as well. It is clear to see how books served a different purpose for everybody, making it an extremely popular, yet varied extracurricular activity implemented by many during the lockdown.

Artifact 5- Trainers 

From those I surveyed, 72% stated that they began to walk more often as an extracurricular activity. One of these people sent a photo of their trainers that eventually became irreversibly dirty from daily hikes and outdoor exercises. These trainers certainly depict how COVID-19 led people to become more proactive. These trainers likely would have been used for other experiences if COVID-19 had not occurred, such as being worn to pubs or restaurants. Instead, COVID-19 made people look for alternatives to life and walking more often is representative of this. This extracurricular activity was so common in so many different ways. Some developed a habit to make this a part of their day to have a break from lockdown pressures, whilst some adopted this habit to develop their fitness habits. Nonetheless, these trainers show how people had to adapt to the changing situation of COVID-19.


This activity allows visitors of my exhibition to interact with its key themes. These themes are represented by words in a word search referring to extracurricular activities adopted by me and others. It also includes words associated with these activities. It is aimed at those who seek to develop their understanding of the changes imposed on society. This can be discovered by creating sentences to help us gauge a representative understanding of the variety of extracurriculars. Those who interact are strongly encouraged to include their own key words to develop upon a constantly changing conversation.

Wordsearch Link-


/Or for an image form without clicking the link-

/Or for audial access-


Please upload your sentences to this google docs form using this link-



Primary Sources-

Pilkington de Whalley. (2020). Roman Tiles.

Prime Minister’s Office. (2020). Prime Minister’s Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thomas, Ben. (2021). ‘extra-curriculars in COVID-19’. Survey Monkey. Available From: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DLN58F6.

Secondary Sources-

Zaccoletti S, Camacho A, Correia N, et al. (2020) Parents’ Perceptions of Student Academic Motivation During the COVID-19 Lockdown: A Cross-Country Comparison. Front Psychol. Vol. 11. Available From: <doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.592670>.

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Friendship During COVID-19

If you would prefer to here an audio version of ‘Friendship During COVID-19’, please click play above.


Shut all retail. Shut all hospitality. Stop travel. Shut schools. Stay at Home. But don’t forget to check in on your friends?

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the strength of friendships has been tested. With the majority of places closed and unable to physically meet each other, a mental health crisis was becoming even more prevalent (Young Minds 2021). Research suggests that depression and anxiety grew to be highest among young people (Nuffield Foundation 2020) with more than a quarter of people, in one study alone, classing themselves as lonely (Watson 2021). This emphasised the value placed upon friendship. As a 20-year-old student, my experience of friendship during COVID-19 was a struggle. Moving from in-person teaching to online, no more girls nights out more zoom calls in, and no more coffee trips. The effects the pandemic has had will last beyond its end, with its full impact not yet seen. This exhibition reflects my personal experience of friendship under COVID-19.

Photograph of a Friends Catch-Up in Lockdown:

Zoom Call

Photograph taken by Author

“What makes Captain America hot?” “Which Disney princess am I?” “Which dog would I be?” “What is the cross between a donkey and zebra known as?” These are a few of the questions that came up during weekly quizzes with my friends. Having to search for new ways to communicate during lockdown the online platform Zoom became the new place for ‘coffee catch-ups,’ ‘girls’ nights’, and more. Reaching 300 million users a day and offering free calls, its popularity peaked during the pandemic. These calls not only kept me close with my friends, who were spread across the country, but they helped me feel less isolated. As an escape to the uncertain world outside, online call platforms supported mental health by boosting our moods (Young Minds 2021). The most memorable part of these calls was the laughter and the joy that came from this. That is what I shall remember; that is what I shall always cherish.

Thank You NHS Homemade Posters:

Set of Photographs taken by the Author

Throughout lockdown, one type of friendship that strengthened was the friendship between neighbours. The Clap for Carers, started by Annmarie Plas, saw everyone on their doorstops cheering and clapping to thank our NHS every Thursday at 8pm (Siddique 2021). The event created a greater feeling of community and togetherness. For me, I saw myself speaking to my neighbours more than ever before. Having never really fully interacted with many of my neighbours previously, it was a nice change. Next door’s daughter, only six years old, had struggled with not being able to see her friends. So, I tried to speak to her daily, whether it be about her toys, her puppy, or her trampoline. This unlikely friendship would not have happened had it not been for lockdown. But I am happy it did happen. If anything, I am now closer to my neighbours.

Birthday Cards:

Photograph taken by the Author

Birthdays in lockdown, what an experience! Unable to celebrate birthdays together, the way we celebrated with friends changed dramatically. Birthday cards seemed more important than ever, with messages being extra special, personalised, and unique to me. If anything, the messages I received on my birthday made me feel comforted and less alone. Small actions, such as photo-covered cards, really made my birthday feel more memorable. A photo card from a close friend was covered with memories from our weekly Zumba sessions, clubbing, and dinner outings. The moments, we shared that I miss and all that we would be able to do again in the future, it caused me to reflect on our friendship. In a time when our birthdays were not quite how we expected them to be, personalised birthday cards became more cherished than a gift.

Phone Messages:

Image Taken by the Author

Over the last year I have lost friends as I am sure others have too; maybe we simply grew apart, maybe other friendships have become more prominent or maybe coronavirus has taken them from us. But thank goodness for technology! Without it, staying in touch with others would have been all the more difficult. Yes, some group chats stopped. One that did not slow but grew was my university friends’ WhatsApp group. Messages per hour went from 10 to almost 300 during the lockdown. We found that we were talking more than we used to in person. The way I messaged also changed with some of my closest friends, I started to communicate through simply emojis, mainly the laughing emoji and GIFS. Without phones, cameras, social media or the internet how would friendships have survived? I am sure that lockdown would have been a lot more difficult and placed great strain on friends than it already did.

Themed Saturday Evenings:

Left Image: https://www.joblo.com/movie-posters/2008/mamma- mia/image-20054/ Right Image: Photograph taken by Author

Social isolation and student life during lockdown has not been a good mix. Life has been difficult. That does not mean that my university house has not made the most of it. Themed Saturday evenings became our new nights out. The first night was Greek night. ‘Mamma Mia’ played on the projector and together we prepared a Greek feast. Although it was just a few of us, singing to ‘Dancing Queen’ in the living room, it did not sound like it. I am sure our neighbours appreciated our rendition of ‘Take a Chance on Me,’ luckily, we are in a detached house. These nights helped us cope with the isolation, being separated from our family, they boosted our moods, and brought us closer together as a house. If we had lived alone, our Saturday nights would have looked vastly different.

Visitor Activity: I would like to ask you all the question “What did you miss most about your friends during lockdown?”

Below offers some ideas:

Example Ideas. Created by author.

If you wish, go to the website mentioned, enter the code and see your experience appear in the ‘word cloud.’


Haroon Siddique. “Woman behind UK ‘clap for carers’ announces its return.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/06/woman-behind-uk-clap-for-carers-announces-resume-thursday-annemarie-plas. (Accessed April 20, 2021).

Nuffield Foundation. 2020. “Friendships and relationships worsen during covid-19 lockdown.” Nuffield Foundation. https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/friendships-and-relationships-worsen-during-covid-19-lockdown. (Accessed April 10, 2021).

Rebecca Watson. 2021. “Alone together: friendship in a pandemic.” Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/16f8495e-ca5e-4c47-add6-b69bf1b2fe36. (Accessed April 21, 2021).

Young Minds. 2021. “Coronavirus: Impact upon Young People with Mental Health Needs.” Young Minds. https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/. (Accessed April 10, 2021).

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The Post-Pandemic World

Rewind 15 months to February 2020, where ‘Covid-19 Pandemic’ headlines were read, heard, and seen worldwide. Confusion brought a sense of familiarity, as society continually questioned why was our freedom being minimised?

15 months ago, the why was unanswerable. Now it is simple. Coronavirus. 11 letters, but with the capability to cause millions of deaths. It spread globally, holding no sympathy for the locations it claimed. With no other choice, communities were placed into lockdown in a bid to stop the spread—our most basic freedoms in turmoil.

Although separated by distance, the world never felt more connected. We all faced the same threats. The same adversity. All grieving. We learnt togetherness, even when pushed apart. How to stand united from afar. Which made me question, will we be capable of reverting to pre-covid methods? Or have we become so comfortable with life behind doors, behind screens, that humanity will face failure in physical connection.

The appreciation of what we once had was a growing emotion, as the pandemic limited what was deemed endless. Even the encounters with our outside environment were numbered. When all seemed hopeless, the trying winter of 2021 brought optimism when over 34 million people had a first dose of the vaccine and more than 14 million had the second dose (BBC News, 2021).

Normality was now far greater than an idealised notion. What we missed the most now touchable. This exhibition will explore the privileges grieved by most and the emotions evoked.

Exhibit 1: Holidays 

Photo taken from: Myself.

Holidays are the prime beginnings of the greatest stories. As the months went by, I realised this with vacations seemingly impossible and an empty cache of tales to tell.

Vacations, by popular opinion, are thought to be a form of escapism, where people attempt to outrun the realms of reality. But in the absence of travel, I realised this was untrue. Holidays serve as the greatest passageway to connect with the deepest realities. To become aware of the earth’s beauty, we forget to appreciate each morning, afternoon, and night.

With home now, nothing but a forced comfort, the simple complexity of nature emphasised the liberties I once took for granted. The simple smell of sun cream. The traffic of suitcases. Monotone “please fasten your seatbelts,” followed by “please prepare for landing. The endless silence and repeating house walls served as a stark reminder of the missing cultural diversity, unable to fulfil my growing desire for a life outside of “stay home, save lives.”

Sitting inside, freedom removed and plane tickets on hold, I couldn’t help but wonder when the next tale will be ready to tell?

Exhibit 2: Partying

Photo taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightclub 

“Mum, two shots of tequila” I say as she pours another glass of water. She added a slice of lime for good measure and pointed to the salt should I want it. Not quite comparable to previous tequila encounters, but options are increasingly limited.

Nine months of lockdown and the anticipation for crowded dance floors, slow bar service, and a long Uber home grows uncontrollably. It is laughable that the bitter headaches and gnawing guilt started to feel like nothing but a privilege.

Flashing lights were now replaced by flickering TV screens. Club bouncers morphed into police officers, stalking the roads. Dresses switched for dressing gowns. Heels for socks. Club entry costs replaced by fines, should you not conform to “2 meters distance please.”

Parties are now experienced through 60-second TikTok videos, as society strives to find any sense of thrill, reminiscing on days where a single or double shot was our biggest concern. As headaches stemmed from growing screen times, rather than one drink too many, the craving for an event outside of 65 Belmount Avenue was intensifying.

Exhibit 3: Gyms

Photo taken from: https://complete-physio.co.uk/returning-to-gym-after-lockdown-tips/

Gyms are a place where everyone becomes an architect. To craft and design your own body. To push your physical ability and mental capacity. Successful day? Gym. Busy day? Gym hard. Bad day? Gym harder. A place where weights become the best therapist and sweat becomes a trophy of achievement.

Weight was no longer the dumbbells sitting in a line but what was sitting upon my shoulders as freedom diminished and restriction flourished. Constantly pulling me down, drowning any ounce of motivation. But with so much weight on my shoulders, why did they remain so small?

The feeling of failure was growing, and the main remedy? Gyms. As gyms became symbolic of strength, and strength endures. If I were to endure the pandemic, I strove to come out stronger. How? Exercise, as it eliminates weakness. It drives pain, and pain is critical to transformation.

Perhaps it was my longing for gyms that allowed me to realise the importance of adaptability for humans. After all, how did the chimpanzee become the human? The pavements outside becoming my treadmill. Water bottles as dumbbells. The once rejected pink mat on my hardwood floors became a sign of hope, that if I can grow and develop, there are brighter times waiting ahead.

Exhibit 4: Museums

Photo taken from: https://www.greece-is.com/as-it-reopens-why-the-acropolis-museum-is-better-than-ever/

Pieces on the wall, statues standing tall, weapons feeling faint. The cries of pain, the shout of triumph, the silence of love. Each piece stoic, but the emotion fluid. Artefacts screaming their stories, shouting to be heard among the still silence of the museum walls. Some stories listened to; others ignored. Parts of the past remembered; others forgotten.

With times uncertain, normality appearing realms away, desperation to cling on to our roots heightens. I am looking for a sanctuary to communicate with the unreachable. To perhaps find comfort in their stories. Searching for reassurance on our future. A reminder of humanities strength. If those before me can survive and succeed, the generation of today will overcome the battles we face.

Museums are a point of mutual understanding. Where cultures, ethnicities and social classes come together. A place of human equality, as they are a sanctuary to pay homage to the challenges of the past. Where human interactions are none, and country disparity is painfully clear, I yearn for a place of understanding. For the beauty of a museum.

Exhibit 5: Friends

Photo taken by: Myself.

3 missed calls. 7 unread messages. 5 unopened snapchats. 2 WhatsApps. How many days since seeing my friends?

Like, comment, save. Three words to digital communication. Incomparable to the beautiful complexities seen in human emotion. A wave, a wink, a hug. To greet, to joke, and to comfort. Three of my favourite components of physical communication. Having the ability to give out neither of the listed three, the absence of friends grew deafening.

We are sprinting towards a digital era. But what if we all took a minute to stop and breath? To appreciate the power of a touch, kind words and an honest compliment. The familiar embrace of my closest friends. A Friday movie night. Late-night drives. None of which can be experienced via an electronic screen.

The days were moving fast, but I remained stagnant—an empty diary proving more haunting than the echoing BBC headlines. I longed for drinks at 8, and a picnic in the park, rather than FaceTime calls, and 40 minutes on Zoom. A doorbell rather than my ringtone. Technology had become our only redemption of friendship. Choice is nothing but a distant memory.

Lockdown supported the flourishing of virtual connection but neglected the importance of physical interaction. With unopened notifications growing, loneliness filled the mundane days.


Activity: Find the words below relating to COVID-19 and the Post-Pandemic World.



The Visual and Data Journalism Team, 2021. Covid vaccine: How many people in the UK have been vaccinated so far? Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55274833 [Accessed April 30, 2021].


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Mental Health Under Covid-19

Life in Lockdown: Mental Health Under Covid-19

The impact of Coronavirus within the UK has caused one of the most challenging situations that many people will have faced in their lifetime. The continuous stress and uncertainty of the virus, the increase of social isolation in every demographic, and the growing general dissatisfaction with life have taken an incredible toll on the UK’s collective mental health. As noted by Public Health England[1], there has been a significant rise in anxiety, depression and dissatisfaction with life in the general public since the beginning of the pandemic. As seen in Figure 1, there has been a significant spike in anxiety levels the public experience, with levels spiking with each lockdown (as seen in April 2020, November 2020 and January 2021). Figure 2 shows similar findings, with levels of depression rising during the first lockdown period and remaining steady from September 2020 onwards. Finally, there has been a dramatic drop in the life satisfaction of the general public, with a steady decline in levels of satisfaction from September 2020 onwards.

Diagram showing the rising levels of anxiety in the UK during the pandemic. (April 2020-March 2021)Figure 1: A chart detailing the increase of anxiety in the general public during the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK 2020-2021, credit to Public Health England

Diagram showing the rising levels of depression in the UK during the pandemic. (April 2020-March 2021)Figure 2: A chart detailing the increase of depression in the general public during the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK 2020-2021, credit to Public Health England

Diagram showing the decrease in life satisfaction in the UK during the pandemic (April 2020-March 2021).Figure 3: A chart detailing the decrease of life satisfaction in the general public during the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK 2020-2021, credit to Public Health England

These figures demonstrate the wholly negative impact upon the collective mental health of the UK.
On a personal level, the pandemic period has been tough on my mental and physical health. The inability to see my doctor and my family face-to-face impacted me significantly. Through this exhibition, ‘Mental Health Under Covid-19’, I hope to demonstrate the extent to which the pandemic has affected me, not only on an individual basis but also as someone who is clinically vulnerable. Through images and artefacts of my daily life, I hope to look into my mental health, the mental health of the general public, and the toll that Covid-19 has taken upon us all.

My Daily Life

Picture shows a wide selection of medication and several medical letters, demonstrating the poor health of the subject.My worries about covid are another set of anxieties to be added to my growing list of medical fears. As a chronically ill person, one who is so very vulnerable to the virus, I have pretty much constant fear that someone will give it to me accidentally. During the first lockdown, I found myself dreading going outside, any more than ten people, and I feel like I’d panic; it is a horrible feeling. This fear of going outside and potentially getting the virus is shared amongst the chronically ill and disabled community, especially when figures from The Health Foundation suggest that out of every ten who die of covid, six of them are disabled[2]. That’s a staggering number. We, as a group, have been let down, forgotten by the government, by our doctors, and the numbers show this. Those that can stay inside must do so, but what about those who can’t? What do we do? We can’t all stay inside 24/7; it is unsustainable and damaging to our mental health. I wear a mask. I scrub my hands constantly, so much so I have cracked knuckles and red, irritated skin. And yet, seeing people outside without masks, not taking things seriously, all while knowing if I got Covid, I’d most likely not recover, hurts. It was easier being “just” chronically ill when you weren’t worrying that someone you know might accidentally kill you.

Emotionally Exhausted; No Point In…

A dirty, stained black shirt with the phrase "emotionally exhausted" written across the front. A dirty, stained black shirt with the phrase "emotionally exhausted" written across the front.

I wore this shirt for eight days and seven nights straight, and I saw no point in getting dressed. My “what’s the point?” attitude was incredibly damaging to my already strained mental state and only ended up making me feel so much worse. During this period, everyone’s mental health has suffered. An ongoing study from The Mental Health Foundation found that the mental health of UK citizens has been gradually deteriorating over the year-long period of the pandemic[3]. While their most recent study (February 2021) demonstrates a reduction of anxiety, depression in those with mental illnesses and chronic illnesses, “54% in June 2020 to 45%, and those with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis 67% in June 2020 to 58%”, it doesn’t change the hopelessness so many of us felt previously. It has and will continue to have long-running effects on our mental health. I’m not proud of how low I was. However, it was a direct result of the pandemic, and it felt entirely inevitable.

Nowhere to Go, Nowhere to Be

Picture B: The storefront of Lush Canterbury, with the letters on the sign falling off and the shop entirely empty. Picture A: a chalkboard showing covid rules for being in a bar, The Lady Luck, during tier 2.

Picture C: Canterbury city centre, which is normally busy, entirely empty during the middle of the day. Some people are pictured, all wearing masks. The rules enforced by the government when Canterbury was in tier 2 are still on display outside of The Lady Luck. All the rules about not mixing households, keeping at least 1+ metre apart, really made socialising freely incredibly difficult. There is a constant reminder that you need to be careful, follow the rules, and be wary of even your friends if they are carriers of the virus. It is entirely correct to do so. However, I miss how things used to be. While it is incredible that shops are opening again as lockdown restrictions ease, that sense of being carefree has vanished. I’m so weary of going out that it takes away the fun of mindlessly browsing the shops or going to grab a coffee. These activities used to be one of my favourite ways to meet friends, and now they fill me with underlying anxiety: what if it all goes wrong? These worries are not individual to me. In a recent poll from IPSOS Mori[4], approximately 67% of Britons would be uncomfortable in large public gatherings, and 61% feeling uncomfortable with returning to bars and clubs straight away. Covid-19 has killed the vibe.


A collection of notes written over lockdown, with various pieces of advice and notes regarding mental health. These are a collection of notes I’ve made during the lockdown. They show the advice I was given from helplines, reminders from my boyfriend, and why I should stay here. Coping methods, a mix of ones I knew previously and one’s volunteers from mental health helplines have given me. I’m not the only one who has sought help in this manner. According to The British Journal of Psychiatry’s research paper, ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing During the Covid-19 Pandemic[5]’, there has been a significant rise in mental health crises as a direct result of the pandemic. For example, in wave 1 of the pandemic (March 2020 – mid-August 2020), an average of 0.1% reported attempting suicide. However, in wave 3 (January 2021 onwards), the average has jumped to 0.7%, a noticeable jump. In regard to self-harm, during wave 1, there was an average of 0.7%, whereas wave 3 saw an average of 1.4%. These statistics reflected the heightened number of calls and emails received by The Samaritans over the lockdown period[6], with a 35% increase in call volume. Furthermore, 47% of those have discussed ill mental health due to the pandemic, with 3% more calls for emotional support than the previous year (2019/ early 2020). This lockdown has impacted us significantly, and the long-term effects are the next thing to worry about when this is all over.

Heightened Anxiety

A picture of fingers with the skin picked and bloody, due to Dermatillomania - a representation of anxiety.

Dermatillomania is a behaviour that I have struggled with my whole life. In many cases, it is directly linked to anxiety and stress and almost acts as an indicator of how worried I am – the more I pick, the worse I am. During covid, my skin picking has become more noticeable, the constant use of sanitiser cracking my already damaged skin and making healing painful. Going outside during lockdown causes me so much panic that I always come back with shredded fingers. The increasing presence of people as lockdown eases only makes my condition worse. This increase in anxiety is a shared problem within the UK. The 2020 paper from Nikolett Arato et al., ‘On the Nature of Fear and Anxiety Triggered by Covid-19[7]’, states that our usual mechanisms for fear and anxiety[8] are not applicable in a pandemic. We need “prolonged coping mechanisms” that take months of development to properly handle our stress during this period, which many do not have. The study further states Covid-19 comprises many fears and triggers new anxieties. The development or exacerbation of phobias, such as agoraphobia, nosophobia[9], and germaphobia, will likely have long-term negative impacts. This, paired with the ONS findings seen previously, paint a grim picture of the UK’s mental health. For me, Covid-19 has only made my mental health harder to handle, and I hope to recover at some point.

Mental Health Under Covid-19: Your Experiences

Follow the link to write on the “exhibit wall” – tell us about your experiences of the pandemic, how was your mental health? How did you cope? What did you do? Have your say!


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-report/3-triangulation-comparison-across-surveys

[2] https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/news/6-out-of-10-people-who-have-died-from-covid-19-are-disabled

[3] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/research-and-policies/wave-10-late-february-2021

[4] https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/majority-britons-uncomfortable-sport-music-bars-coronavirus

[5] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-covid19-pandemic-longitudinal-analyses-of-adults-in-the-uk-covid19-mental-health-wellbeing-study/F7321CBF45C749C788256CFE6964B00C

[6] https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/understanding-our-callers-during-covid-19-pandemic/how-has-coronavirus-affected-our-callers/

[7] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.581314/full

[8] Usual coping mechanisms: fight, flight or freeze

[9] Fear of disease/getting sick.

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Home During COVID-19

Humans beings are, by nature, social creatures. Our biology functions through homeostasis: “[the] drive towards stability, security and adaptation to change” (Matias et al. 2020). From March 2020 onwards however, the “zoonotic disease” COVID-19 spread rapidly across the world and demanded an adaptation to a new kind of life (Suppawittaya et al. 17. 2020).

School children remained inside; adults worked from home, thousands were furloughed, and education went online. Around 4 billion people are said to have been living in social isolation at home during COVID-19 (Matias et al. 2020). When our behavioral homeostasis is disrupted, our “Reset Equilibrium Function” helps us adjust to social changes like isolation, and yet by-produces “feelings of distress, boredom, loneliness and instability” (Matias et al. 2020). Unsurprisingly, the sheer change that lockdown and the pandemic brought, led to a mass mental health decline (Renzo et al. 2020). The home confinement alone inflated the psychological toll within individuals, resulting in poor sleep; physical and social inactivity, and poor dieting (Ammar et al. 2020). A number of people reported feeling depressed (regarding the study run by Renzo et al: 61.3% reported feeling depressed), anxious (70.4%), and having an increased sense of hypochondria (46.2%) and insomnia (52.2%) (Renzo et al. 2020).

The cessation of social contact in favor of social isolation and staying home during COVID-19, ultimately led to individuals struggling to “regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and remain resilient” (Matias et al. 2020), highlighting the difficulties surrounding the ‘home’ during COVID-19.

Within this exhibit, and with the theme of ‘Home During COVID-19’, I wanted to focus on the feelings elevated by social isolation, and the experiences I had with Lockdown in tandem.


Ammar, A, et al. 2020. “Effects of home confinement on mental health and lifestyle behaviors during the COVID-19 outbreak: Insight from the “ECLB-COVID19” multi countries survey”. Biology of Sport.

Matias, T, et al. 2020. “Human Needs in COVID-19 Isolation”. Journal of Health Psychology. Vol 25.7. pg 871-882.

Renzo, D, et al. 2020. “Psychological Aspects and Eating Habits during COVID-19 Home Confinement: Results of EHLC-COVID-19 Italian Online Survey”. Nutrients. MDPI AG, 12(7), p. 2152.

Suppawittaya, P, et al. 2020. “Effects of Social Distancing, Self-Quarantine and Self-Isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic on People’s Well Being, and How to Cope with It”. International Journal of Science and Healthcare Research. Vol 5.2. April-June 2020. pg 1-9.




Exhibit I: Textbooks and Teddy-bears

As a University Student back home during lockdown, it was difficult not to feel trapped. Most of the time during term I had a sense of independence – I lived away from home and was able to leave my proverbial childhood behind and grow into the adult of my future. COVID-19 ultimately brought that same independence and ability for growth crashing down.

For the ongoing months, a stifling co-existence developed between my adult university lifestyle versus having that same lifestyle reduced to the backdrop of my childhood bedroom; toys and all.

I found my textbooks intertwined with storybooks, and passports; bus passes, utility bills and tenancy agreements sat alongside mementos and teddy bears. It was jarring to say the least. One thing lockdown and social isolation led to was this permanent state of introspection. A constant feeling that my growth and move into adulthood was stunned formed.

As Dr Suess notoriously writes, “Oh the places you’ll go” – isolation, social regression, the kitchen, the bed, and an inability to progress from the past seem to have been the only places available alas.



Exhibit II: Dollhouse

When I thought about ‘Home during COVID-19’, the first image that came to mind was that of a doll house. From an external perspective, you can see into every room and quite literally know them inside and out – your sole focus becomes reduced to the house. As such, it seemed an apt metaphor. As aforementioned, home confinement during the pandemic was much like that for me. The home became the only world I had access to. Much like the popular phrase: “life imitates art”, the art of the doll house itself imitated the life I knew. But perhaps what is most transparent about the dollhouse in question, is that it is empty. For me, the symbolic dollhouse does not merely allude to home confinement, but also loneliness.

One thing I found about home during COVID-19, was the ever-present detachment from humanity and society. Little things I took for granted were suddenly things I missed; I longed for the bus commute, for busy highstreets, for that awkward dance you do with a stranger when neither of you seem capable of moving successfully out of the other’s path. And whilst I was incredibly lucky and fortunate to have been able to socially isolate with my family, the comforting presence they brought highlighted what I was missing. There is after all, a vast difference to ‘hanging out’ with your middle-aged, working-from-home-parents who for some reason massively got into all the boardgames you hate over lockdown, and peers your own age.

I think it is safe to say that if I ever set eyes on the boardgame ‘Catan’ again, I’m going to fit myself into a parcel box and ship myself away.




Exhibit III: Salman Toor

Salman Toor, “Dancing to Whitney” (https://www.ecosia.org/images/?q=salman%20toor%20dancing%20to%20whitney#id=A1390B3D6A1B8F21FEE8CEEFA654389A9C28369A)

Over Lockdown, with the exception of work/school, one typically had nothing to do but think, and think, and think. Like many others, I found myself turning to art and literature for a reprieve, and ultimately, I found myself inexplicably falling in love with the Pakistani artist Salman Toor.

For this exhibit entry, I wanted to showcase the two paintings: Dancing to Whitney, and The Confession. For me, Toor’s work highlighted the act of searching for human connection. And whilst I am not one to believe the foolish expression of the wealthy and popular of “we’re all in this together”, I do believe that almost everyone was simultaneously alone and yet searching for a greater connection to society and others. Toor’s paintings ultimately reminded me of that. It reminded me that although things are bleak, humanity is, and always has been, interconnected.

Salman Toor, “The Confession” (https://www.ecosia.org/images/?q=salman%20toor%20the%20confession#id=7153C7BE32D5094403A6B8871D674E8751FF1045)

Where before COVID, this could be seen through helping a stranger move their car up a hill, or, hypothetically in a very stereotypical ‘drunk-girl’ fashion, hugging a stranger at 1am on the High-street and telling them you loved them, and handfeeding them a chicken nugget for inexplainable reasons (unfortunately I am a very clingy and affectionate drunk). During COVID, humanity presented itself in different ways. For me, I found entire streets leaving books outside of their houses for strangers to collect, with notes of thanks left. When it snowed, I had strangers shouting encouragements and advice on my snowman as I built it in the High-street. In parks, I found strangers releasing their dogs briefly off their leads so people could stroke said dogs whilst socially distanced. I also, actually, finally met my neighbours after living in my house for close to five years.

As mentioned prior, lockdown was – and still to a point – remains a lonely and difficult endeavour. But as much as I hate the phrase, I suppose it is fairly apt to say that we are, in fact, at least all lonely together.




Exhibit IV:  Mirrors and Me

Miss Piggy looking into a mirror (https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=muppet%20looking%20into%20a%20mirror#id=E5C44E1EF5A9F98416A8C0C5D63D13AECE1D2263)

In the 2011 comedy film, “The Muppets”, Jason Segal and Peter Linz sung the song “Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet”, written by singer-songwriter Bret McKenzie. In it, Segal states, “I reflect on my reflection / And I ask myself the question …/… Am I a Man or am I Muppet?”. And whilst the debate into the nature of a Muppet or Man is not something I can personally relate to, the act of self-reflection is.

When one suddenly has a lot of time on their hands and cannot go anywhere or do anything to distract themselves, a lot of thinking ultimately takes place. You start to question things about yourself; and who you are, and what you like versus dislike, and who your friends are, and your relationship with your family and so on and so forth. With all the displacement in the world and society, you start to crave understanding and solidarity with what you can control; ultimately, yourself. And whilst this may not have been the experience for everyone, I did in fact, much like Miss Piggy, personally find myself looking into many metaphorical mirrors and “ask[ing] myself…question[s]”. All that being said, I suppose I should at least be thankful that I never once got to the point where I looked in the mirror and had to ask myself whether I was a “Man or a Muppet”.




Exhibit V: Online lessons

Throughout the entirety of second year and the tail end of first year, like many others my University experience was comprised of online lessons/lectures, and it feels remiss to end this exhibit without talking about such a prominent aspect of my experience with ‘Home During COVID-19’. In the attached photo, my dog Pippin rests alongside my laptop. With the amount of times she slept next to me or jumped onto my lap during lectures, I personally believe she could get us a First and probably knows more about course content than I do at this point.

To put it simply, I found online learning an incredibly difficult experience. Whilst I understood the move towards it, and will never begrudge the shift, I don’t know how to forgive paying full tuition for such a limited and lonely experience. I found it challenging to no longer have that prior separation between ‘work/school’ and ‘home’. It became difficult to concentrate, and increasingly demanding to study. There were classes where my attendance dropped significantly, and I just did not see the point in participating. Essays and assignments became more demanding, and the few tests I did have were strenuous to revise for. Home during COVID-19, ultimately became a constant place of work. And whilst I’ve always understood ‘home’ to be the people you love and not a place, with the increased feelings of loneliness and separation, alongside the inescapable nature of having your place of work be where you live, to a point, ‘home’, almost didn’t exist.




Visitor Activity: As mentioned in ‘Exhibit IV’, I used the song “Am I a Man or Am I A Muppet” to showcase my own feelings of ‘Home During COVID-19’. What song best represents your own experience with Lockdown?

Key hit singles from various friends and family whom I asked include: “That song Donkey sang in Shrek where it was ‘I’m all alone there’s no one here besides me! But you gotta have friends’ and then Shrek shuts him up”; The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, I Want to Break Free by Queen, and What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.

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