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


To recap the previous two days, you may now be more aware of looking after your brain’s physiological and safety needs, and the importance of exercise, sleep, sunshine, nutrition, hydration and relaxation.

Turn off the news and turn on some positive music. I’m listening to “I Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who, it’s my power song. You’ve got one too, I know you do, but if it’s Pink, don’t admit it in public as it will irreparably damage your reputation.

Today we are looking at the third big need of the brain: the need for control. Tom Cruise in Top Gun felt the need for speed – well, we are all feeling our need for control a little challenged right now. 

I think of the need for control like taking a long road trip. We need to know where we are going, why we are going, how are we going to get there, and whether we have enough resources (food, money, toilet paper) for the journey. We are all on a journey of life, and we all have plans, but due to an untimely pandemic, those plans may need to change.

Our control over what we do has been restricted in many ways, from going to uni, work, the gym, cafes, entertainment, holidays… the list goes on. There are many things we cannot control, but now more than ever we need to focus our efforts on what we can control.

There are two things we can always control – our behaviour and our attitude. Here are three suggestions:

· Set a daily schedule and do your best to stick to it. The Pomodoro Technique** can really help here. Remember to include outdoor exercise in the schedule.

· Talk to someone about your worries, don’t just ruminate on them. Find someone who is a good listener and not just an advice giver, and use them as a sounding board. You can always talk to a student support adviser, uni counsellor, or call the UON crisis line. (Tip: You don’t have to be in a crisis, a bit worried is enough.)

· Adopt three key attitudes.

  • Gratitude: Make a list of three things every day that you appreciate.
  • Kindness: Both to yourself and others. I always think to myself, “What would the Dalai Lama do in this situation?” It helps me to choose the kinder option.
  • Determination and Optimism: Commit daily to achieve your goals no matter what, but focus on process goals instead of outcome goals. Measure effort, not results. Effort is in your control, results are not. 

I’m going to end with two quotes from Victor Frankl. Frankl was a Psychiatrist and Neurologist in Austria who endured the Holocaust, losing most of his family in the concentration camps. He wrote a great book, Man’s Search For Meaning, about his experiences in the camps.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Kick ass kindly, my friends. I’ll be back soon with Day 4 : Connection. Stay tuned.

Rich Thorpe


** The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time management (developed by a PhD student, appropriately enough) for completing longer, more exhaustive tasks – primarily writing. A pomodoro (from the Italian word for ‘tomato’) is a 25-minute block of uninterrupted work time, followed by a 5-minute break.

Doing several in a row – alternating blocks of work with short, regular breaks – can help keep you refreshed and focused on your task, and dramatically improve your productivity. It also helps you overcome procrastination, by breaking a seemingly unsurmountable challenge into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular work strategy among postgrads and academics, and it works even better when you do it with a group! If you’re curious, why not come along to one of NUPSA’s regular Shut Up and Write Daily sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 10am in the Online Clubhouse? We run four pomodoros back-to-back each time (a full ‘cycle’, according to the method); it’s a chance to structure your day, get some serious work done and socialise with other students during the breaks.

Come along and give it a try!

Share This