I have been the Mental Health Advisor, part of student support services, at the university for the past 14 years. My role is to support students with managing their mental health and study. I see students with mental health conditions and those who may be worried about their mental wellbeing.
I provide Mental Health Matters training to staff and some workshops through the Recovery College, a joint partnership between the university and mental health services. Outside of work my passion is canals and canal boats.
The word exam can cause considerable anxiety for many people. It can send some into a negative spiral, “I’m going to fail the exam”,” I’m not good enough”, “I don’t know enough about the subject”. When you find these thoughts are going round in you head it is important know how to counter them. Think about all the times that you have passed previous exams. Remember the good grades that you got and how you revised so that you knew how to answer the questions. Study hub has a lot of useful resources to help you prepare for exams. You can also book a one to one session with a study hub tutor.
Student Minds have some good tips to manage exam stress.
A tip I always give to students just before they sit an exam is to focus on a calming breathing activity. Try out this 7/11 breathing technique.
Wishing you all success in your exams this January.
StudentSpace has some great resources to help you manage your mental health during the festive period.
These resources can help you think about, plan for and manage the end of term.
Above all, it’s important to stay connected to others.
Looking for inspiration?
We know that acts of kindness don’t just benefit the recipient. Daily acts of kindness support our wellbeing too.
The Do Good December: Kindness calendar from Action for Happiness gives some ideas of things we can do each day to benefit ourselves and others. It can be downloaded here and is available in 20+ languages. It’s also available as an app.
With Festive Best Wishes from the Health & Wellbeing Team.
November is Men’s Mental Health Month. Historically men have been socialised into believing that they should be strong and ‘man up’. They are not expected to show emotions or talk about their feelings.
Research shows that there is a silent crisis in men’s mental health. This is based on robust evidence that men have high rates of various mental health issues. These include elevated rates of suicide and substance abuse, as well as low rates of mental health service use.
What can we do to change attitudes and ensure that men get the help they need? The Mental Health Foundation has some good ideas on how we can help.
CALM is an organisation dedicated to men’s mental health.
If you are looking for a space to talk in confidence the University Counselling Service can help. They are currently offering telephone and online video appointments. Contact them: email@example.com
The Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College runs men’s group for any man in Luton and Bedfordshire. They have a week of activities focusing on men’s health from 16th November. You can find them on Facebook.
To all you men out there, don’t suffer in silence. You are entitled to seek help.
Feel like life is getting you down? Don’t know where to turn?
The University Counselling Team is open for business as usual. We’re here to support you if you are finding the current situation challenging.
Many people did not seek help during the first lockdown as they did not think their problem was serious enough. If something is troubling you, it is always serious! It’s best to tackle problems before they overwhelm you. They are currently offering telephone and online video appointments.
Contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a couple of useful organisations that offer a listening ear at all times of the day and night.
Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, text Shout to 85258.They can help with urgent issues such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying and relationship challenges. https://www.giveusashout.org/
Samaritans are a listening service that provide support 24/7 via phone, text and email. www.samaritans.org
Samaritans have recently launched Samaritans Self-Help: a new web app available to use online or download to a smartphone for free. It can be accessed here.
Samaritans Self-Help has been created to provide an alternative source of support for people who find it difficult to reach out for help or discuss emotions with another person and will complement their existing services. It has a mood tracker and a range of evidence-based resources and techniques; the app has been designed to help people find practical ways to cope and plan ways to stay safe if they're going through a difficult time.
If your life is in imminent danger, please call 999.
On World Mental Health Day, 10 October, the World Health Organization will, for the first time ever, host a global online advocacy event on mental health. At this event—the Big Event for Mental Health—world leaders, mental health experts and celebrity guests will join WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to tell the world what we can all do to improve our mental health and how we can help make sure that quality mental health care is available to everyone who needs it.
You can find more about what is happening here.
The 10th October is World Mental Health day. Why don’t you do one thing on 10th that has a positive impact on your or someone else’s mental wellbeing.
There are many opportunities to make changes, go for a walk, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Be open about your mental health or have a conversation with someone about how they are feeling.
Get involved in a local or national campaign. Let us know what you have done at email@example.com and I will post your one thing on the blog next week. For further ideas see www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day-2020/
Change can bring anxiety and increase worries. It can cause us to find it hard to stay focussed on what we need to do. Your individual situation will have its own challenges. Think about your living arrangements, your current commitments and all the responsibilities you may have:
Having a routine is important to help us take control of lives when events are changing. However, trying to stick to a routine rigidly can create its own pressure. It can take a while to establish a new routine when you return to university so be kind to yourself.
These two sheets can help you plan your routine. You can make it flexible so that you change the weekly routine depending on your commitments. A written routine provides a framework to help you manage you studies alongside the rest of your life.
You could include:
Starting or returning to universe is going to mean a change to your routine. It can be a stressful time as you find out about your new timetable and learn how to access online study. It is important not to forget to look after yourself. I have found that students who manage their mental health and access support when they need it do well at university.
As you start the new academic year remember to:
Student Minds has resources specifically for the university community: https://www.studentminds.org.uk
Every Mind Matters: A NHS website – coronavirus and mental wellbeing: www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
MIND has advice about looking after yourself during the pandemic: www.mind.org.uk/inf.../coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Mental Health Foundation has tips that are updated regularly: mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus
CALM: Helpline especially for men but useful for everyone: tips on coping with social isolation www.thecalmzone.net/
The Samaritans: Listening service: by telephone and online; www.samaritans.org
Anxiety OCD-UK: OCD and Coronavirus Top Tips www.ocduk.org/ocd-and-coronavirus-survival-tips/
Anxiety UK: self-help resources for anxiety related conditions: www.anxietyuk.org.uk/coronanxiety-support-resources
Eating Disorders Beat Eating Disorders www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/coronavirus
The Sanctuary is a chat room and safe space for people with an eating disorder to share concerns and advice on how they are coping with the pandemic: www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/sanctuary
Bipolar Disorder Bipolar UK: Bipolar disorder and coronavirus: www.bipolaruk.org
Suicidal thoughts Papyrus, (prevention of young suicide): helpline and supporting resources papyrus-uk.org/
The Stay Alive App: An app for those at risk of suicide and those worried about someone www.prevent-suicide.org.uk/
What are your hopes for the coming year?
You may be wondering what this year will be like when we have all had to make changes to the way we live, study and work.
It is important to have hope for the future to maintain good mental health.
Do you have goals that you want to achieve in your life? Take some time to reflect on what these are, write them down and display them where you can see them every day. This will help when you are facing assignment deadlines, exam stress or personal difficulties and need motivation to keep going.
It can be helpful to visualise what you will be doing in a few years’ time. Are you working in the job you dreamt of? Create that future in your mind so you can come back to it when things are tough.
Sometimes we find it easier to focus on the negatives in our life. This can take us into a negative spiral when it can be hard to believe we can succeed. Positive self-statements can increase self-esteem, confidence and a belief in ourselves.
Write down 3 positive self-statements about you. They don’t have to be true just yet but are statements that you would like to be true. Use the present tense, as if they were already true.
Here are some examples of positive self-statements:
I choose to be strong
I can achieve my goals
I am grateful for my good health
I choose to be kind
I accept myself
I can deal with anything thrown into my life
I make the most out of every day
I am a beautiful person
Write down your positive statements and put them somewhere that you will see them every day.
Many people have experienced higher levels of anxiety during the pandemic. It can leave us feeling exhausted and challenges our ability to cope with the multiple changes to our lives.
There’s lots of good information online about how best to keep ourselves physically and emotionally well. Try something that meets your needs and fits your personality.
You may find this approach helpful. Some of these will take practice to achieve. Be kind to yourself!
BE IN CONTROL
FACE FACTS AND PLAN
IDENTIFY YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
STAY IN THE PRESENT
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA
Self-help for anxiety
If you need extra help coping with anxiety, there are some great self-help materials here: www.anxietyuk.org.uk/coronanxiety-support-resources.
There’s also a chat line if you need to speak to someone.
Positive Psychology: Action for Happiness
This organisation promotes positive psychology as a way of building personal resilience. Their monthly themed calendars support daily actions to build resilience. Try out Self-care September here: www.actionforhappiness.org/self-care-september
The Charlie Waller website has produced a booklet on staring university with resources to help you through your first year at universe. charliewaller.org/resources/starting-university/
Are you worried about your mental health during lockdown? There has been a lot of discussion recently in the media about the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. I will be posting about resources that can help you with mental health and studies during this uncertain time.
I have just come across a new service, Clic. It is a new online support community run by Mental Health UK. It can be accessed 24/7 by anyone in the UK for free mental health support. It includes an online forum where you can chat about how you’re feeling and connect with others, as well as accessing mental health information tools, tips and resources. To ensure everyone's safety and security the site is moderated 24 hours a day. You can sign up to the service here.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, we are excited to tell you about a new partnership between the University and the mental fitness app Fika.
In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Fika has created a dedicated series of programmes allowing you to learn from expert psychologists, other students and academic staff in five-minute video, audio and text presentations.
These programmes are specifically designed to help combat the challenges of remote study and the mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Topics covered include managing distractions and uncertainty, maintaining motivation and positivity, staying connected, self-care and healthy habits.
I would like to encourage you to make use of this app during this period of remote study.
There’s also a daily community mental fitness workout. Share your experiences, learn from other members of the community and cheer each other on.
Access to Fika’s COVID-19 package is free for all University of Bedfordshire students.
Give it a go! We all need help in these challenging times to stay mentally fit, connected, motivated and focused.
1. Download Fika: Student Skills app from the Appstore / Google Play store - Click here!
2. Open the app and tap ‘Get started for Free’
4. Search for your institution in the institution list and select
5. Enter your institution email address and a desired password
6. Check your inbox for a verification email and click link within the email
7. Complete registration and enjoy Fika.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK (18 -24 May): KINDNESS
Kindness during the coronavirus outbreak
During this time of uncertainty, there is community, support and hope.
The added benefit of helping others is that it’s good for our own mental health. It can help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing – doing good, does you good!
There are lots of things we can do for others to inspire kindness in these exceptional times. Have a look here for some ideas!
What can you do?
1. Pick an idea
2. Take action 3. Let us know what you’ve been doing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mental Wellbeing Team will post your acts of kindness on the blog we’ll be running during Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May).
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Now more than ever, we need to re-discover kindness in our daily lives.
“We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health.
“One thing we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times, helping people to connect and communities to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The research clearly supports this – it shows that acts of kindness can help improve emotional wellbeing. This is true whether we are giving or receiving it.”
There has been a lot of discussion about how we can look after our mental health especially at this time when we are feeling more isolated and unable to be with others that we care about. I have been looking at the 5 ways to wellbeing. They are one way in which we can improve and maintain good mental health.
Make sure to keep in touch with friends and family by phone and social media. You could even think about writing a letter or sending a card to someone you have lost touch with.
2. Be Active
You may not be able to exercise at a gym or play sport, but you can still walk or run. Have a look to see what exercise videos are online. Active Luton are doing regular sessions. For those of us who can only do limited exercise it is still possible to find some gentle exercise to try.
3. Learn new skills
Is there something you have always wanted to try but didn’t have the time. Maybe a new craft, play an instrument, learn about other cultures and countries. My son recently did a virtual tour of Vegas.
Are you able to volunteer? There are a lot of voluntary group that need help currently such as the Food Bank. Is there someone in our neighbourhood who needs help to get shopping?
5. Take Notice.
Take time to look at the world around you. Notice the flowers that you may find in the cracks on the pavement. Try to be present in the now rather than worrying about the past of the future.
You may have realised some of these actives fit in well with the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, acts of kindness. Have a look at this great video from the Mental Health Foundation about why kindness matters.
We all know that being kind is the right thing to do but did you know that kindness is good for you? A little act of kindness can boost your mental health, reduce stress and it can cheer you up to think of some else – not forgetting, of course, to be kind to yourself. It is a path to a society that better protects our mental health. (Mental Health Foundation)
Why don't you send a short message about an act of kindness you have shown to someone, to our email address: email@example.com
I will post it on my blog to inspire others. Rest assured it will be anonymous.
This fun animation demonstrates how kindness is good for our mental health.
Exam stress. It’s that time of year when it feels like your ability to pass or fail a course is dependent on recall of information and understanding of your subject. It seems like you are cramming all the knowledge you have gained into one final test. Many of us worry about the possibility of failure. However, this does not help us to manage exam stress. How do we turn a negative into a positive?
It is important to recognise when we are having these negative thoughts. For example, the first thoughts may be ‘I will fail’. We must question ourselves and say why do we believe this? Have we passed previous exams? If the answer is yes this helps us to see that we have succeeded before. Worry and stress are designed to make us do something to change the situation. There are actions we can take. Have we revised, looked at previous exam papers? These actions can help us to change our mind set from negative to positive. Have a look at this useful resource by study hub about managing exam stress. Click here.
Study hub also has some tips to prepare for exams in their resource library. So, it is the day of the exam and you are starting to feel a little anxious. What can you do? I have found that students have benefited from a simple breathing exercise which I call 7/11 breathing. You may have noticed that sometimes when you are frustrated or trying to calm yourself that you tend to sigh. This technique is based on this, as the purpose is to breathe out for longer that you breathe in.
Try this for a few cycles. If you are asthmatic or having difficulty with your breathing, you may want to shorten the count but remember to breathe out for longer. The counting can also take your mind off your worries. For more information about managing exam stress have a look at the Student Minds website.
I have just come across The Mix, a support service for young people. They support under 25s with issues from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs. You can talk to them via their online community, on social, through a free, confidential helpline or their counselling service. It looks like a really good place to get some online support.
What are you plans for this weekend? You may be busy working, revising for exams or trying to complete your assignment in time for the deadline. Make sure you give yourself time, call a friend, listen to music, watch a film, go out for a walk. Be kind to yourself. Study breaks are important to maintain good mental health.
It can help to make a study plan that fits in with the time that you find is best for you to study. Are you a morning person or do you prefer to study late? Organise you day around a routine that suits you. Take care of your mental health.
Kindness matters every day, not just for Mental Health Awareness week. One of our staff tell us about what she has been doing.
"In response to Mental Health week’s “Be kind” program, I thought I would let you know what I have been doing whilst on lockdown…
I have been sewing…..and sewing…. And sewing…..in total I have made 92 Face masks 97 Headbands with buttons 28 Scrub bags Some have been sold to cover costs but the majority have been donated to charities and hospitals….anyone who works the frontline (so to speak) will have theirs donated free of charge. It’s a small thing in this ever changing world but I felt I could not just sit at home wasting my free time when so many others are putting themselves at risk daily."
A big thanks to all of you who have been kind during mental health awareness week.
How are managing with studying at home? Have you been able to create a study area? It can be difficult to motivate yourself to study when the area you relax in is also the place you have to study. I know many students like to study in the library or on campus, but this is not an a option now. Have a look at this helpful video from a mentor which gives some practical advice on how to study effectively at home.
I have just come across The Wellbeing Thesis. This is an all-inclusive website to support post graduate students with wellbeing, learning and research. The website provides information on improving mental health and helping to navigate the ups and downs of postgraduate research.
Areas covered include:
Our Student Support services are also available to support post graduate students as well as undergraduates so don't hesitate to make contact if you are struggling.
Not everyone feels the same way about the easing of the lockdown. Many people have established a routine at home that feels safe and secure. Now we’re being asked to return to a noisy crowded world and that may be difficult for some.
You may be worried about what is going to happen next; worried about yourself and others you are close to. You may be worried about returning to University.
There is no ‘normal’ way to feel. MIND have published this guidance to help support you manage these complex feelings, read here.
The University is preparing to open its campuses again in September. This is what you can do to help prepare yourself and give you confidence about returning to study:
You may be wondering what the future holds? Will there be an end to this pandemic so that we can get on with our lives? These thoughts can leave us feeling low and unmotivated. We may be frustrated with the technology that helps us to keep in touch with others and miss nights out with friends and family holidays.
During this time it is important to hold on to the positives. Research shows that experiencing more positive than negative emotions helps us become more resilient to adversity and better motivated. So how do we achieve this? One tip that I give to students is to think of three positives that have happened each day. It can be a small thing, like receiving a complement or managing to finish a task on a to do list. It is important to write these down as it helps to imprint positive thoughts into our minds. We can still live our lives in these challenging times, we just need to accept that this may be in new and different ways.
Action for Happiness is a great website that explains more about the impact of positive thoughts on our mental health. Read more here.
I am sure you are wondering what it is going to like to come to university this year when everything seems to have changed. You may have had a longer break from school or college and not be in the right mindset to get back into study. It is important to remember that everyone is in the same situation, we are all learning together.
The university is aware that you may need additional support with acclimatising to blended learning, managing lectures online. You will be able to access study hub which has guides on all aspects of study and offers one to one appointments to improve your study skills. Click here.
The Student Room has a lot of good advice to help you prepare.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Our student support teams offer a variety of services to enable you to succeed at university. Meet them here.
Are you wondering what it will be like to start university during uncertain times? This is your journey and we want to you to be as prepared as possible to benefit from the university experience. So, what are the main things to consider about life on campus and teaching and learning if you are thinking about coming to university in the autumn?
The Aspire Higher Virtual University Experience will give you an idea of how to prepare and what to expect.
It includes helpful videos by students and staff. They give a picture of what the last few months have been like for students, the main things to consider about life on campus and teaching and learning next academic year. It is important to be prepared for new ways of learning and find out about some of the tools you might use when studying at university such as virtual learning environments, lecture capture and online classrooms.
Make sure you check out how to access university support services before you start so you know where to get help if you need it. Have a look at the video on motivation and wellbeing and experience the virtual university tour.
We look forward to meeting you soon.
Student Space, a new website to support students during the pandemic, is now live. It has been developed in conjunction with Student Minds, the UKs student mental health charity. You may have some reservations about starting university or returning to studies this year. Student Space can offer
There are lot of useful resources that help you to deal with learning online, managing uncertainly and stress and give guidance for ongoing students. The support provided by Student Space is safe, confidential and developed with students and experts in student wellbeing and mental health.
if you need any support from our university support services you can find the link to these here.
Well, it has certainly been a rocky ride this year for university applicants with all the changing decisions about grades. We hope that you are glad you have made the decision to come to university. I understand our clearing lines have been busy.
We appreciate that you will be apprehensive about university life. It will feel strange to start university in this way. Don’t forget, you are not alone, other applicants will be having similar thought. How will I make friends? What will it be like on Campus? Will there be any Freshers events? When will I meet my tutors?
It is important to take this journey one step at time. You are not expected to know everything at the start. It is ok to ask and ask again if necessary and soon your confidence will grow. Find ways to make connections with other students on your course, perhaps have a What’s App group. This will help you to feel part of the university community.
I have added a short mindfulness exercise that you might want to try if you have a moment when everything becomes overwhelming. This can help to bring some calm and refocus you on the present rather than worry about the future.
Sit in a comfortable position where there are no distractions and follow the instructions.
5 Things you can see
What can you see around you, outside the window? Name each object.
4 Things you feel
What can you feel? Touch your clothing and skin and consider the textures. Are things smooth or rough, soft or hard? Can you feel the ground under your feet?
3 Things you hear
What are the sounds nearby? Can you hear traffic, birdsong, the noise of the fridge or trees rustling in the wind?
2 Things you smell
What can you smell? Perfume, food, coffee, flowers? If you can’t find a smell think of two of your favourites.
1 Thing you can taste
Can you still taste something you have recently eaten or perhaps the toothpaste from when you brushed your teeth?
Take a few deep breaths and you are ready for the day.
Let’s be kind to ourselves this month. Self-care increases our resilience and helps us get more out of life. It also helps us accept others as they are too. Have a look at this month's Calendar from Action for Happiness for ideas on how to take care of yourself. Click here.