University Mental Health Day
Top Ten Feel Good Tips
University Mental Health Day is possibly one of the most important dates on the student calendar and so we were delighted to be able to contribute to this year’s events.
Until recent years mental health was rarely discussed, or even considered in the University setting. Students were finding themselves suffering in silence, too embarrassed to seek help and not really knowing where to turn even if they plucked up the courage to ask.
Despite its many positive elements, student life doesn’t come without it’s own stresses and stains. Homesickness, the enormity of coursework, money worries or even difficulties with making new friends can be enough to trigger feelings of anxiety or depression.
Thanks to University Mental Health Day – an initiative created by the Student Minds charity – mental health is no longer a silent subject. Not only are students encouraged to speak out and voice their worries and concerns, peers and teachers are also more aware of what to look out for.
We were keen to offer practical support to the event so we decided to host a series of yoga, meditation and mindfulness workshops in the student halls. The day was a great success and we received some really positive feedback from the students that attended our workshops. Several of the students were surprised at how easy it was to switch off for a few minutes and ‘rebalance’ using mindfulness techniques, and vowed to try to implement them into day-to-day life.
Taking time out to focus purely on your own wellbeing can sometimes feel impossible, especially when you are already juggling a busy schedule. The good news is there are lots of simple techniques that don’t take much time or effort but can actively help improve low mood and feelings of stress and anxiety. Here are our top ten feel good tips:
1. Integrate mindfulness into your day
Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years, not least because it is so easy to squeeze into even the busiest of schedules. The best way to get started is to download a mindfulness app ¬¬– there are loads to choose from and many of the free ones are really effective. Then, simply find a space where you will be undisturbed for ten minutes or so, switch on the app, close your eyes and just breathe….
2. Get moving
Although exercise is often the last thing that you feel like doing when you are feeling a bit blue it is actually one of the best things that you can do. Not only does aerobic exercise release endorphins and help block stress hormones, it also produces serotonin that works to combat depression.
There is no need to join an expensive gym, a quick jog around the block is enough to get your blood pumping. If you feel lacking in motivation you could give an exercise class a try, there will be a variety of classes on offer around campus so you are bound to find something to suit your exercise style. Swimming is also good for reducing feelings of panic and sadness due to the combination of breathing and the repetitive nature of the strokes.
3. Discover your inner zen
If leaping around getting sweaty is not your idea of fun, why not try yoga? There are many different practices to suit different tastes and abilities – from fast paced Vinyasa to the more meditative Hatha. The one similarity between the practices is that the main focus is on your breathing – a welcome break when you have been directing all of your attention on stressful thoughts.
4. Step outside
A stroll in the fresh air is a great way to clear your mind and blow away the cobwebs – it has also been reported that a ten-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The great outdoors is also the perfect setting for taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness, so take along your headphones and select a meditation suitable for being on the go.
5. Eat and drink well
A full on social life and limited finances can often result in students compromising on the recommended five-a-day. A poor diet can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, which in turn could accelerate feelings of low mood. Where possible try to include some healthy options into your diet, vitamin supplements are also a good way to ensure that you are getting the required nutrients. Vitamin D and B Complex in particular are known to be especially beneficial for supporting mental health.
Alcohol is undeniably a big part of student life, and when consumed in moderation it can undoubtedly enhance an evening. It is important to remember, however, that alcohol itself is a depressant, and while there may be the temptation to combat feelings of stress and anxiety with a few drinks, the reality it that is only likely to amplify negative feelings in the long run.
6. Invest in your own interests
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the daily timetable it is important to take time for yourself doing something that interests and stimulates you. If you have a particular hobby there are bound to be opportunities around campus to meet likeminded people who share your passions. It could be anything from a low-key activity such as a book club or crochet group to a more extreme activity like rock climbing or canoeing. The list is endless and spending time indulging in your own interests will certainly help balance the stress of uni life.
7. Create a ‘get happy’ playlist
Music is the perfect way to lift your mood and can be accessed wherever you are. Build a few playlists of your favourite feel good tunes and give them a blast whenever you need a boost.
8. Recognise the positives
When you are feeling low it is almost impossible to think of any positive thoughts, this is where keeping a diary helps. Jotting down lists of accomplishments and positive events ¬– no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – will help reinforce your own self worth.
Diarising your feelings will also help you recognise just how regularly you are experiencing feelings of low mood and help keep your feelings in perspective.
One of the best ways to boost your own mood is to offer help or support to someone else. There is nothing like focusing on improving the lives of those less fortunate to help put your own worries into perspective. Community projects are always looking for willing volunteers, as are homeless shelters and care homes. No one is expecting you to change the world, but making a positive difference to someone else’s life will undoubtedly make you feel a bit better about your own.
10. A problem shared
It may sound like a cliché but airing your problems really will help. If you don’t feel like opening up to friends and family why not speak to your student support team (often found in the student union office). Your university should also have a designated mental health or wellbeing support service who are trained (and well used to) dealing with students suffering from stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. They will be able to offer practical as well as emotional support, sometimes in the form of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). If necessary they can also refer you to receive more specific external support. Your GP is also available to help – request a longer appointment so that you don’t feel rushed. If you wish to attain completely anonymous help you could always give the Samaritans a ring.
One last piece of advice…
If there is one thing that should be taken out of University Mental Health Day it is the knowledge that you are not alone. University is a community and communities are ultimately there to support each other. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, and just as you would be more than willing to help a friend in need, remember that support goes both ways.
Contact us to find out when our next free yoga, mindfulness and meditation workshop will take place.