Stress Awareness Month took place this April, along with Mental Health Awareness Week in May, and now more than ever students will need support to manage feelings of stress and anxiety. Whilst in isolation, students may not be able to reach out to others for help as easily, and could be faced with a new set of challenges for their mental health and wellbeing.
We approached Dr Dominique Thompson to share some advice for students on how to self-manage any feelings of stress and anxiety that they may be experiencing whilst isolating. Dominique is a highly regarded Student Wellness Consultant, the former Director of the University of Bristol Students’ Health Service, and a retired GP, who is currently returning to practice to help out on the frontline of the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dominique is also the Lead Advisor for our upcoming online wellbeing toolkit for students, Being Well, Living Well, which will be publishing in May.
Adapted from the ‘Stress, Anxiety, and Depression’ module of the Being Well, Living Well toolkit, these tips from Dominique will give students some ideas for how to manage any feelings of stress and anxiety whilst at home – from maintaining healthy study habits, to practicing mindfulness and journaling:
- Remember you’re human! A healthy daily routine can help keep you on track and functioning well. Don’t forget to eat balanced meals, sleep, rest, and talk with other people regularly. You can still stay socially connected during the lockdown… try setting up a virtual dinner party, share a movie night, or join an online pub quiz!
- Keep healthy study habits. Plan when you are going to study and don’t leave it all to the last minute. Take regular breaks, and don’t work overnight – your brain needs sleep to process your learning, and a lack of sleep will affect your memory. Sensible studying means better academic outcomes, and less stress! If you are struggling, find out what online study support is available at your university.
- Be active. The key here is to work off some of the stress and anxiety, as well as boosting your happy hormones (endorphins). It may mean going out for a walk, cycle, or run (remember to stay physically distanced!), or doing some yoga or muscle toning at home. There are plenty of online exercise classes you can join, from bootcamps to ballet, and many of these are free to access during the Coronavirus outbreak.
- Try positive activities. Mindfulness (a form of meditation and relaxation), gratitude (feeling thankful for the good things in life) and savouring (actively appreciating enjoyable activities) are all positive activities that may help you to feel calm. You can read more about mindfulness on the NHS website, and there are also meditation and mindfulness apps to guide you. You could also try writing positive feelings and activities down each day – a similar activity to journaling.
- Distract yourself with positive techniques. This is useful if you feel yourself getting increasingly anxious or worried. One popular technique uses the five senses. To distract yourself from the source of your anxiety or panic, focus instead on one thing you can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch or feel. You can repeat this if you need to. It is a quick and memorable way to look after yourself at a difficult moment.
Use the link below to download a PDF version of Dominique’s wellbeing tips, which you are welcome to share via your institution’s social media channels, on your website and Virtual Learning Environment, and in any other communications with your students.
Ensure that every student has access to a baseline of wellbeing support
Being Well, Living Well is an interactive, online toolkit that will provide students with practical tips and tools for managing their mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. Developed with a panel of mental health experts, healthcare professionals, and university students and staff, the toolkit will help students to have the confidence to manage issues in their academic and personal lives, whilst also signposting when are where to seek further support if needed.