Richard Thorpe is a PhD candidate in the School of Creative Industries, a practicing psychologist and NUPSA’s Satellite Representative.


COVID-19 :  From Surviving to Thriving
A Guide for Students

It’s been a rocky start to 2020. We’d just started to enjoy breathing fresh air again after the bushfires, and a sense of normality was returning. Then COVID-19, and in a matter of weeks we went from watching events unfold in China, to panic buying, and a gradual shutdown of large portions of society.

My name is Rich Thorpe. I’m a PhD candidate in my first year in the School of Creative Industries, researching the design of Virtual Reality interventions for student well-being. I’m also a practising Psychologist, and I’m finding out that knuckling down to do a PhD is hard enough, but with the added uncertainties and constant change, it is now so much harder.

With this in mind, I will be releasing a series of posts this week – one each day – to offer some insight into the challenges we collectively face, and some practical strategies to go from surviving to thriving.


Day 1 : Understanding the Needs of Your Brain

The brain has certain needs that it likes to be met to be fully optimised. The more needs that aren’t being met, the more psychological problems can result. The five needs are: physiological, safety, control, connection and pleasure (or the avoidance of pain). I’ll be addressing one need per day, so stay tuned all week.

Our physiological needs include sleep (8 – 9 hours), fresh air, sunlight, exercise, hydration and nutrition. These are all the things we know we should be doing, but somehow other things get in the way.


  • Set a bedtime and a wake up alarm, and be strict. Give yourself an hour’s wind down time away from a screen to allow your brain waves to slow down. Reading a book is good, or listening to an audio book.
  • Aim to get five minutes of outdoor sunshine several times a day during breaks, and maybe do some stretching too.
  • Plan exercise into your daily routine. I do yoga in the morning, and cycle in the afternoon. Start small; even if it’s just a walk around the block, tomorrow walk two blocks. Exercise time isn’t worry time. Use it as PhD thinking time, or listen to an interesting podcast.
  • Ensure you are eating good quality food, and minimise alcohol consumption during the week.


So right now, I’d challenge you to pick one physiological need that may be being neglected presently, and commit to doing something to nurture that need. When you have implemented the strategy, post it below, along with another strategy which you feel is going well.  Let’s start to look after our brain’s needs, and support each other along the way.

See you tomorrow for Day 2!

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