How to look after your wellbeing during the festive period

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by the Feel Good Team

Despite the endless glitzy adverts showing everybody enjoying the festive season, this often isn’t the case for many of us. Whilst it can be a great occasion for joy and spending time with loved ones, it can also be stressful, emotional and lonely.

Here are some of our top tips on how to look after your wellbeing during the festive period.

Talk about your feelings

It can seem difficult to admit that you’re not feeling great, when you feel like everybody else is enjoying such the festive time of year, but talking about your feelings can be really therapeutic, and help you to manage them. You might also realise that your friends and family members have experienced similar feelings.

Sometimes keeping a journal, or writing things down, can help if you are feeling anxious. Try and make time to speak to somebody you trust about how you are feeling.

Do a random act of kindness

If you feel a bit daunted by the idea of volunteering, then why not start by doing a few random acts of kindness over the holidays? Christmas can be lonely for many people but a small act of kindness might make it that little bit easier. You could send a letter to elderly relative or neighbour or if you know a friend is feeling lonely you could organise to watch a Christmas film together via a video call.

Check out our recent blog article on random acts of kindness for more ideas!

Keep active

Light exercise is a brilliant tool for lifting your mood, especially when you might have been stuck at home for most of the day and can take your mind off any festive stress, and it’s free! It’s also a good counterbalance if you are enjoying some festive food over the holidays. It doesn’t mean hours of sweating, but a bracing winter walk or a short body-weight workout at home can get those endorphins pumping.

If you’re stuck for what to do, the Centre for Sport have organised a Movement Advent Calendar, designed to get you moving every day in December. Updates will be posted on their Instagram.

Enjoy the small things and practice mindfulness

Focusing on what you’re grateful for, and the small things that can brighten up your day, can help refocus your mind to think positively, and take your mind off stress. You could perhaps think of 3 things you are grateful for every day, take 10 minutes to practice a short meditation on the free Headspace app, or take the time to do something small for your own wellbeing every day.

Activities like making a festive craft, watching an old favourite movie, or taking a relaxing bath, are all great ways to self-care that can all contribute to you feeling good over the festive period. Mindfulness is a great way to unwind and clear the mind, check out Bemindful, the Headspace app, or the Calm app.

Remember there are always people there to help you

If you are struggling and you feel like you can’t cope, then it is important to speak to somebody. Visit our wellbeing support options for more information on the support available to you through the University.

Feel Good festive countdown

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by the Feel Good Team

The Feel Good festive countdown has been created for you to enjoy the countdown to the Christmas break virtually, with friends and coursemates.

Many of you might have felt anxious and isolated during lockdown, due to spending more time at home and not being able to get involved in our regular social activities, so this year, self-care and finding ways to connect is more important than ever.

That’s why we’ve put together some virtual events to help you connect with others and look after your own wellbeing in the lead up to Christmas and during the festive period. Whether you are heading home for the Christmas break or are staying on campus, there are plenty of activities to get involved with. Some will be hosted by The Students’ Union, and others by the University.

Here are just a few of the events you can take part in:

Movement advent calendar

Want to get active in December? Check out the Centre for Sport Instagram for a new activity every day.

Global Cafe gifts and giving

In this Global Cafe session, the topic of discussion will be gifts and giving. Join the event for a friendly chat and to learn about what gifts are given in different countries as well as why we choose and give gifts.

Throughout December the Global Cafe will be hosting a number of events for international students who might be celebrating Christmas in the UK.

Financial Capability module

Do you find the financial pressures of Christmas or everyday finances stressful? Sign up to our Financial Capability module to learn essential money skills, for now and the future.

Let’s Get Quizzical

Join The Students’ Union for their last Let’s Get Quizzical of 2020! Details of whether the event will be hosted at the SU or online will be announced soon.

HallsLife Christmas Window Competition

HallsLife want to see your best, festive Christmas window displays and decorations, so grab your flatmates and get decorating.

Not all The Students’ Union events have been published yet so keep checking their events diary to stay up to date!

Complete our Mental Wealth Strategy survey

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The Mental Wealth Strategy was our sector-leading approach to putting mental wealth first. It ran from April 2018 to August 2020 and if you studied with us for some or all of this time, now is your chance to share your views and be entered into a prize draw to win one of ten £50 Amazon Vouchers.

In relation to mental health, the survey seeks to understand the culture at UWE Bristol along with the extent to which you engaged with mental wealth communications, activities and interventions. Even if you didn’t engage with mental wealth initiatives, your views are still important.

Your responses will remain anonymous and will help to influence the development of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2030.

Complete the survey online by Sunday 13 December.

How to keep moving in self-isolation

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As humans, we are not designed to sit or lay down all day, and in fact, studies have shown that a sedentary life (too much time sitting or lying) can be the trigger for physical health problems, and mental health problems too. However, at the moment, for those of us that may be self-isolating in small student flats, staying active can be far from easy, and may not even feel that appealing to you.

Have you found yourself spending most of your time in bed, or slumped on the sofa, hunching over your laptop? Trust me, we get it. It can be incredibly difficult to stay motivated and moving when you are staring at the same four walls.

Luckily though, there are actually plenty of ways you can add movement into your day, that you may not have considered before. With just a little bit of effort, you can see big differences in how you are feeling, both physically and mentally.

Physical activity is much more than just high intensity workouts, lifting heavy weights or bending into all sorts of strange positions. Scientifically speaking, regular movement of the body (in whichever form you choose) is one of the key ingredients to a healthy body and mind. Moving our bodies releases ‘feel good’ chemicals within the brain to help us do just that – FEEL GOOD! It can boost our self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing our risk of stress and depression.

What does this mean?

Essentially, what this means is, as long as you are doing around 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day (anything that raises your heart rate, such as taking a walk, riding a bike or playing active games with your flatmates), reducing the amount that you are sedentary (sitting or lying), and doing strengthening exercises at least twice per week (following a body weight exercise class, or taking the bins out), you are meeting the guidelines set by the NHS.

Do what’s right for you!

You do not need to push yourself to complete crazy workouts every day. Activities like getting outside in the fresh air for even 10 minutes can be amazing for your physical as well as your mental health, and I would highly recommend it, if you can. But even if you can’t do that, just focusing on trying to move, or finding time to focus on doing something to help you feel good can work wonders to support your health and your wellbeing.

Five ways to stay active whilst self isolating:

Make a routine and stick to it

You may not be able to stick to your normal routine, but you can create a new one which includes alternative ways to stay active. As tempting as it may be to stay in bed all day, in the long run this is bound to make you feel much worse.

So keep your alarm set for a normal time and do what you would normally do in the morning like have a shower and a good breakfast. And if you can get your body moving in the morning, even better!

Set yourself reminders to take regular breaks throughout the day and MOVE. You can find lots of ideas on the @UWEBristolSport Instagram and other social media pages.

Join a virtual exercise class

Throughout lockdown, hundreds of online exercise classes have emerged to help you keep active whilst spending more time at home. UWE Bristol Sport are delivering FREE live workout classes. Click here for a full list of classes available to you.

Never tried one of our exercise classes before? Well now is the perfect time to give them a go from the comfort of your own home!

Sport England have also collated lots of resources from around the UK to help you stay active and Join the Movement.

Maintain your hobbies or start a new one

Just as it is important to keep your body active, it’s important to keep your brain active too! Learning something new, or maintaining an activity that challenges your mind is a great way to keep your brain healthy and one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Get creative with your friends, family or housemates

Fancy getting your housemates involved in your new hobby? Why not video call a friend whilst completing the same virtual workout? Or show your family your new skill during a family video call?

Staying connected in any way that you can is another important way to look after your wellbeing. Plus, if you can teach someone else a new skill, you could be helping them support their wellbeing too – bonus!

Complete the household chores you’ve been putting off

This one is probably quite self-explanatory. Is it time to do the washing up after all that baking?

Visit our how to stay well in self-isolation page for more ideas on how to keep learning, keep well, keep connecting and of course, keep active!

Kindness is key

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by the Feel Good Team

Moving away from home to University can be a daunting time, especially at the moment. And whilst you might be really excited, some new students might be struggling with nerves and worries.

Here we really care about your wellbeing and happiness – and it starts with all of us being nice and looking out for each other. And with it being World Kindness Day what better time to share some little acts of kindness which might make a difference to someone’s day!

And whilst we know that the pandemic has restricted how we can interact with each other and limited how much contact you can have with another person, there are still lots of ways you can be kind to others.

Why not try out some of these random acts of kindness?

  • Organise a virtual catch up or phone call with a friend or family member, especially if you think they are lonely or are self-isolating.
  • If you’ve got a course mate who’s a bit quieter than everyone else, reach out to them. It costs nothing to say ‘hi’ or give them a wave if you’re on campus– you could be the first person who’s been friendly to them.
  • Make a cup of tea for one of your flatmates.
  • If you see somebody looking lost on campus, ask them where they’re going. You might not be able to direct them, but you can always see if you’re headed to the same place.
  • Reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • If a friend is having to self-isolate, arrange to watch a film or TV programme with them at the same time and video call.
  • Tell someone you know, why you are thankful for them.

And most importantly remember that everyone is going through a difficult time at the moment, so have patience with other people and be kind to yourself as well!

Want to know more about Feel Good? Check out our webpage!

A message from Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Council

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by Sara, South Gloucestershire Council and Christina, Bristol City Council

We’d like to offer you a very warm welcome to South Gloucestershire, home to UWE Bristol and our wonderful city of Bristol where many of you will choose to live and spend your free time. We hope that the start of this academic year at UWE Bristol goes well for you.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a global challenge and we will only beat it if we work together. We need to behave differently and we need to be flexible, adapting to the safety measures as we move around the campus and across our city area. There is still so much to enjoy as a student here, as long as you do this responsibly and in line with national and local safety guidelines.

Making the most of Bristol

You’ve chosen a fantastic city to study in and will play a hugely important role here. You can still enjoy a social life as long as you keep COVID-19 compliant. Our pubs, cafés and restaurants want you to experience what Bristol has to offer, but they need your help to do this safely. Make sure that you follow the measures put in place to keep everyone safe.

This includes maintaining a safe distance outside our venues if you need to queue, wearing face coverings in shops at all times, and in restaurants, pubs and cafes when not seated at a table, and following social distancing guidelines. It’s also mandatory that you do not to gather in groups of more than six people unless you all live together (or are in the same bubble).

Protecting yourself and others

Make sure you continue to:

  • Wash your HANDS – frequently for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your FACE – in all mandatory settings, including shops and on public transport.
  • Keep SPACE – between you and others not in your household.

If you are feeling unwell and develop any coronavirus related symptoms you should tell the University by calling the COVID Support Team on 0117 32 87000, book a test online and self-isolate until you get your results.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • A high temperature.
  • A new, continuous cough.
  • A loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste.

If you test positive for COVID-19, or need to self-isolate, please let the University know so that they can support you. Find out what you need to do and how to stay well.

Please ensure you register with your local GP here. This not only means you have quick access to healthcare and advice when needed, but also ensures the NHS Test & Trace service have the correct location for your whereabouts if you do test positive for COVID-19.

Visiting home

We know it’s common for students to travel back home in term time, however we urge you to please wait until the end of term to do so, if you can. This reduces the opportunity for the virus to hop from one area to another. If you do need to go home, please think carefully about how you can reduce the risk by limiting who you see and how you travel.

When travelling, try to avoid car sharing with those outside your household and avoid public transport at peak times. Walking or cycling, when it’s possible and safe to do so, is a great way to really get to know Bristol, if you can cope with our hilly terrain! You can find out more about cycling in and around Bristol here.

Asking for help

The University has put a wider range of measures in place to keep students, staff and the wider community safe and well on campus. If you’re worried about your health and wellbeing, please get in touch with the University Wellbeing service and they will provide the support you need.

Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils also have a variety of mental health resources for young people.

Staying up to date

It’s a good idea to keep up to date with the latest health and safety guidance and we recommend you bookmark the following links:

You can also follow Bristol and South Gloucestershire council on social media for the very latest information and guidance on how to stay safe in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Once again, welcome to Bristol, and we wish you every success at the start of this very different new academic year.

Keep safe, stay well.

Drugs and alcohol – reducing the risk

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by Becky Risley, Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner at SPACED

The festivals were cancelled, nightclubs are closed and the pubs are shutting at 10pm.

Despite the rules and regulations in place, using drugs including alcohol in halls and student accommodation is something that is likely to happen. Behind closed doors, without the usual protection from door and bar staff, as well as medical teams, the risk of accidental overdoses has increased for students.

For some, drug use – including alcohol – at universities is a whole new experience while for others it’s something they feel very familiar with. Whatever your previous experience, educating yourself is the best way to ensure you stay safe.

Tragically we have already seen the fatal consequences of drug use at university in the North East over the weekend. In the South West there are local reports of substances being mis-sold and having devastating consequences for those who choose to use them – follow SPACED Instagram for up to date drug warnings and harm reduction advice.

Accidental overdoses are preventable – look after yourselves and look after each other. If you or anyone else on campus may have taken too much, and especially if someone is unresponsive, call 999 and/or UWE Security on 0117 328 9999 to ask for help.

To reduce the risks and ensure you’re making an informed decision you can follow these steps:

Large quantities of alcohol consumed rapidly can cause respiratory depression, coma and death.

  • Avoid shots, doubles and strong spirits to avoid becoming too drunk too quickly.
  • If alcohol is combined with other drugs especially Ketamine and benzodiazepines (eg Xanax) the risks increase greatly.
  • Avoid using alcohol and illicit drugs together.

Mixing drugs can be fatal.

  • Using Drugs+Me can give you factual information about what the risks are when you combine one substance with another.

What are you taking?

  • Lockdown has affected the supply of drugs into the country leading to shortages which results in some drugs being heavily cut.
  • Using a reagent test can identify if a drug that you have brought is what you think it is – although it can’t tell you how strong it is, it’s a way to ensure you aren’t putting dangerous adulterants into your body.
  • But pure doesn’t mean safe – high purity MDMA can be very dangerous when taken in large quantities.

If you would like advice or support related to drug including alcohol use you can contact the UWE Wellbeing Service and ask for a 1:1 appointment or to attend a one-off group harm reduction awareness session with SPACED.

SPACED offer a free, confidential harm reduction advice and information around drugs including alcohol.


Becky Risley is a Senior Drugs and Alcohol Practitioner in the Wellbeing Service here at UWE Bristol. In response to events at universities in the North East over the weekend, she is raising awareness to help you stay safe as you move onto campus.

Take time to educate yourself on the harms that drugs (including alcohol) can cause. Remember, you can never eliminate risk completely, so it’s important to understand your own motivations and risk factors.

UWE Bristol does not endorse the use of drugs including alcohol, but we want our students to be safe. We operate a policy of harm reduction that prioritises the welfare and wellbeing of our community.

However, if there is reason to believe that a student has been dealing drugs we will immediately suspend the student pending internal investigation and/or criminal proceedings.

Staying well in self-isolation

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If you, or someone you have spent time with, shows symptoms of COVID-19 or has a positive test, you may need to self-isolate for up to 14 days. You may find that you feel more stressed or anxious at first, particularly if you haven’t experienced anything like this before.

While self-isolation may be a challenging time, there is a lot you can do to stay healthy and positive while you’re staying at home, so that you’ll feel ready to get back out there safely afterwards.

Be kind to yourself

If you are self-isolating, you are likely to be away from family and friends and will likely have had a significant change to your normal routine.

Remind yourself that it is normal for your mood to have been affected by the current situation. It’s normal to feel a sense of grief for the loss of ‘normal life’. When we are grieving any loss it is normal to experience a range of emotions including sadness, bargaining, denial and anger.

So notice how you are feeling but try not to judge your feelings as good or bad. Try to avoid shaming yourself for experiencing these normal feelings. It might also be helpful to share your feelings with other people.

Remind yourself that anxiety is a completely normal response to this abnormal situation. As humans we are biologically programmed to experience anxiety when we feel we’re under threat but it can be helpful to acknowledge our anxiety when it shows up and normalise this.

If you are self-isolating with other people you may want to discuss each having your own space to retreat where you can go if you feel overwhelmed, want to practice some self-care or need some time to be alone.

And remind yourself that this is temporary. Remember that although the current situation is difficult, this will pass.

If you have previously had difficulties with your mental health, then this may be a more challenging time than normal, and your usual support networks may be less available. Make sure that you keep taking care of your mental health as much as possible, and if you need to seek extra support then don’t put it off – services are able to offer remote support and find ways of helping through these unusual times.

Keep to your usual routine

Having a structure to the day can really help to make things feel more normal. Try and get up at your usual time and keep as much of your usual routine as possible, including meal times and self-care activities. Don’t forget to build in rests and breaks. Eat regular meals, and eat well.

Stay active

While staying indoors you probably won’t move around as much as you normally would, so it’s a good idea to build some exercise into your day. A huge variety of guided exercise videos are available online for free, from gentle stretching all the way up to intense workouts. Even setting an alarm to get up, stretch and walk around a couple of times each hour will help.

If you have safe access to a private garden, getting some fresh air and walking around can boost your mood. If that’s not possible, try opening a window and watching sunrise, sunset, or the trees and birds outside.

Keep in touch

Make use of phone calls and the internet to keep in touch with friends and family. Having some contact with someone else every day, even if just for a few minutes, can help keep loneliness at bay.

Give yourself permission to limit or end conversations with people who are causing you to feel anxious. It can be useful to have phrases in mind to end conversations that are making you feel worse. This might be a statement such as ‘I’m finding that talking about this isn’t helpful for me at the moment, can we talk about something else?’

Avoid drugs including alcohol

Limiting use of substances which can affect your mood will help you to stay safe and keep feeling well throughout your self-isolation. If you need to talk to someone about this, the Wellbeing Service have a dedicated Senior Drugs & Alcohol Practitioner who you can speak to.

Limit your exposure to the news

It’s important to stay informed, but try not to let the news cycle become all-consuming while you’re in self-isolation. Make a plan for how much news you plan to read or watch, and at what times of day which will fit with your routine.

Recognise your strengths and achievements

Make sure you give yourself credit for managing this challenging time. Think about ways to safely celebrate the end of self-isolation and recognise your own resilience.

And if you need support…

If you find you’re struggling in terms of your wellbeing, a range of support options are available through UWE. The Wellbeing service can provide appointments by phone or video call – register with us to get started.

Please also have a look at our guide to self-isolating in accommodation and our University life in self-isolation page for advice and resources to keep you connected to university life.

Disclosing a mental health problem

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by the Wellbeing Service

For some people, the transition to university can be made more daunting by the thought of being surrounded by new people who don’t understand our difficulties.

Opening up

Telling people about your mental health is a personal choice and you should never feel like you have to. However, it can mean that new people around you better understand your experiences, needs and behaviours and can support you more effectively.

Telling people does not have to be ‘all or nothing’ – you can choose who you tell and what you tell them and you only need to share what is relevant. For example, you may want your flatmate to know you get really anxious around new people and ask that they let you know if they’re having people over.

If you choose to tell people about your mental health, be aware that this may be the first time they are hearing about these kind of difficulties. Letting them know where they can access accurate information is really helpful in their understanding. Mind have a great website with particular information for friends and family.

A helping hand

The University’s Wellbeing Service can support you to tell staff and friends about your difficulties if you feel it would be helpful for them to understand what you are experiencing. This could be on-going difficulties or a specific set of circumstances. This would be collaborative and is never done without your consent.

Dealing with diagnosis

If you have a formal diagnosis, our Disability Service can support you with telling relevant people in the university about your needs. They can work with you to prepare what’s called an Impact Statement which informs academic staff about your difficulties and how these affect your studies – for example letting lecturers know you may need to leave for breaks if you become too anxious. The service can also support you to arrange ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make your study experience as accessible as possible.

Access support

If you’re finding it difficult to disclose your mental health difficulties, remember that you can speak to someone at the Wellbeing Service for support. To arrange an appointment, contact us on 0117 32 86268 or email.

How to build emotional resilience

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Life is not without its challenges – but you can navigate through them. Here are our tips on how to build on your resilience.

  1. Build self-empowerment. Learn about yourself! What motivates you? What are your goals?
  2. Build your support network. We all need help sometimes, it’s important to know when and who to ask for help. You can also strengthen this network by supporting others when they need it.
  3. Learn from you past. We can’t be perfect, but make sure you learn from mistakes and use it to keep building on self-empowerment and support so you can be more resilient next time.

How to deal with an unhelpful emotional reaction

When we hear about a challenging situation, like an assignment being due, we can act on instinct and have an emotional reaction which isn’t always helpful. Here are a few examples of negative thoughts which might cause the unhelpful reaction:

  • “I did badly last time, so I’ll do badly again”
  • “I can’t do this”
  • “I’ve never done this before”

All these thoughts can lessen your resilience but are normal. The key to start dealing with these situations is to be C A L M.

Calm down

The key to start dealing with these situations is to be calm, as it will allow you to think more clearly. Here are some examples you might want to try to help calm down:

  • Let time pass
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Use an app such as SAM app or Calm
  • Exercise or go for a walk
  • Speak to friends or family
  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to music

Ask questions

Once you have calmed down and can think properly, question your reasons for the unhelpful reaction. Ask yourself:

What’s going on here? And why am I feeling like this?

Learn

Knowing why you reacted unhelpfully can help you to learn the cause(s) of the issue.

Manage

Work out how you might be able to improve your situation and lessen the impact of the negative thoughts.

  • What can you do yourself?
  • What might you need support with?

We have a range of self-help resources available online as well as one to one appointments for individual support with the Wellbeing Service. You can book these over the phone on 0117 32 86268 or by email.