5. Well/Being?

Well Being Context


The archives exhibited in this gallery reflect on the impact of the pandemic on participants’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing across an extended period. This is a national issue (Sport England 2021; YouGov 2021, inter alia) and its manifestation among university students (Blackall and Mistlin 2021; House of Commons 2020, inter alia). These archives have been challenging to curate, just as the diary and interview material they are drawn from was challenging to collect. Participants were frank – often painfully so – about the ways in which lockdown, remote working, homeschooling, additional care responsibilities and workloads resulted in ill-health, anxiety and fatigue in the short and longer term. Their accounts were hard to read and listen to; nevertheless, I was privileged to witness them. They not only raise questions of the place and value of emotion in research, but bear witness to the origins of what may well be a coming storm:

The post-pandemic academy will be staffed and managed by people who are exhausted and emotionally drained. If we don’t want universities to be full of victims and victimisers, it is time for an audit of emotional labour and to ensure this is reciprocal and focussed on the needs, feelings and intentions of all involved in the very human chains of relations that are inherent to higher education contexts.  (Morrish, 2021)

Four of the archives attempt a somewhat artificial division of physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. The fifth: ‘Considering Alternatives’ provides a dim light at the end of this particular tunnel. The experience of living and working through the pandemic led some participants to genuinely consider alternative ways of living and working, for example: retiring earlier, focusing on passions not income and being more assertive about their needs.

Blackall, M. and Mistlin, A. (2021). ‘Broken and defeated’: UK university students on the impact of Covid rules. The Guardian. 11 Jan.
Dinic, M. (2021). The impact of coronavirus on mental health and relationships. YouGov.  [online] Available from https://yougov.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2021/02/04/impact-coronavirus-mental-health-and-relationships
House of Commons (2020). Petitions Committee The impact of COVID-19 on university students. Second Report of Session 2019-21. [online] Available at https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/1851/documents/18140/default/
Morrish, L. (2021). Emotional Labour in the Post-Pandemic University.  Blog. 31 October. [online].  Available from https://postpandemicuniversity.net/2021/10/31/emotional-labour-in-the-post-pandemic-academy/  Accessed 12 April 2022.
Sport England (2021). The impact of coronavirus on activity levels revealed. 29 April. [online]. Available from https://www.sportengland.org/news/impact-coronavirus-activity-levels-revealed