Your April Feel Good Focus

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by the Feel Good Team

April is national stress awareness month, and with exam season on the horizon, we want to encourage you to take a moment to breathe and look after your mental and physical wellbeing.

And whether you celebrate Easter or not, the Easter break is a great opportunity to do this, so take some time for yourself and eat all the chocolate you want to!

Here are top tips for reducing stress to help you to enter the assessment period with a clear mind.

Do something you love

Ensuring balance is key and whilst it’s great that you might work hard within your course, taking time for yourself each day to do something you love, whether it’s a hobby, crafting or watching a film, will help you to feel more positive and support your academic performance by reducing stress.

Get some sleep

Getting the required amount of sleep will reduce chances of developing poor mental health and will leave you feeling more energised to face the day.

Step outside

Spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and help with mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Make sure you take that time away from your screen to engage with the natural world and breath in some fresh air!

Accept the things you can’t change

We often get stressed about things that are beyond our control. Try to focus on the things you can control and don’t let the things you can’t, get under your skin!

Avoid unhealthy habits

We often turn to unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking and caffeine as a coping mechanism for stress. In the long term, these vices don’t help to solve the problem and often create new ones. Try to develop healthy habits to help support you instead.

Take control

The feeling of losing control can often cause us to feel stressed and effect our wellbeing. Whilst you can’t control everything, trying to take control of your feelings by implementing healthy habits can help you to feel empowered and improve your mood.

For more information on how to manage stress and stress awareness month visit the Stress Management Society to find out more.

And If you’re 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.

Our April recommendations

Book: A Monk’s Guide to Happiness: Meditation in the 21st Century by Gelong Thubten

In our never-ending search for happiness, we often find ourselves looking to external things for fulfilment such as buying material things or getting the next promotion. In this profound and inspiring book, Gelong Thubten shares a practical and sustainable approach to happiness. It’ll will help you to develop compassion for yourself and others and teach you great techniques to help implement meditation techniques throughout the day.

Podcast: Venetia la Manna’s All the small things

In this episode Venetia La Manna chats to Gelong Thubten, (he/him) a Buddhist monk, meditation teacher and author of this month’s book recommendation. During the episode Gelong discusses interconnectivity, daily practise and self-forgiveness.

Recipe: Vegan hot cross buns

Try out this Easter classic, these are so easy to make, and you can be sure that they will impress your family and friends!

Activity: Yoga

Yoga can be a great way to help you get moving whilst releasing the stress and tension that might be held in your body. UWE Bristol Sport have some great online yoga classes you can try!

Your February Feel Good Focus

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by the Feel Good Team

We’re excited to announce our annual programme for Feel Good February, here to help you start the year in a healthy way. And with the ongoing UK lockdown, we believe that this might be the most important Feel Good February to date.

February is also LGBT+ History Month, an annual observance and celebration of the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement. This year’s theme is ‘Mind, Body and Soul’ and there will be opportunities for everyone within the UWE community to get involved. We hope that you can attend some of the events and show your support!

Feel Good February

Over the month we will be bringing you a series of free activities and events designed to inspire and empower you to ‘feel good’ and look after your health and wellbeing!

This year will look a little different, with all our events running virtually. However, this means that all the events are accessible from wherever you are in the world, with a hope that you can feel part of the UWE community and perhaps even meet some new faces!

Inspired by the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ designed by the World Health Organisation, the Feel Good team will be running four themed weeks over February focusing on relaxing, eating well, getting active and trying something new.

So why are these themes important? Here are some reasons why relaxing, eating well, getting active, and trying something new, can have a huge positive impact on your wellbeing!

Relax

  • Managing stress is vital for your mental health and wellbeing.
  • It’s a positive thing to talk, seek help, or engage in activities that benefit your mental health.
  • Everybody deserves a break and taking time out can re-energise you.
  • Manage your stress levels with self-care strategies that work for you.

Everyone has their own ways to relax and we’ll empower you to find yours!

Eat Well

  • How energised and healthy you feel is down to how you fuel your body.
  • Eating a balanced diet is good for mental and physical health.
  • Try going veggie or vegan to help the environment.
  • Stay hydrated for a healthy body and a clear mind.

We’ll be sharing healthy recipes and tips to help you eat well!

Get Active

  • Exercise boosts your mood by releasing ‘feel good’ endorphins.
  • Regular activity is a great way to manage stress and let off some steam.
  • Getting outdoors is proven to be really beneficial for your mental health.
  • Its also great for connecting with others at an exercise class, sports club or walk (socially distanced of course).

Get involved with some of the virtual activities taking place or just grab some shoes and go for a walk.

Try something new

  • Challenge yourself with a new activity -you’ll leave feeling accomplished.
  • Connect with new people who share your interests.
  • Get involved in your community, not only can you gain valuable skills but it’ll also improve your sense of wellbeing.

We have a huge range of exciting activities you can get involved in.

Our February recommendations

Podcast: Venetia la Manna’s Talking Tastebuds

In this episode Venetia La Manna chats to a special guest Kenny Ethan Jones. As an activist and model, Kenny was the first trans man to front a period campaign and in the episode he discusses body politics, mental health and intimacy.

Film: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Filmmakers re-examine the 1992 death of black, gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson.

An introduction to mindfulness

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by Happy Mind Collective

Who are Happy Mind Collective?

Our aim is to make mindfulness more accessible. Starting with school children and then their teachers and parents, we realised that simple, everyday mindfulness techniques could have a big affect on people’s productivity and wellbeing.

An introduction to mindfulness

Designed for busy students, our introductory mindfulness course has been written as a practical ‘how to guide’. It’s designed for students of all ages and levels, 15 minute videos, tackling the the most persistent problems in your day such as focus, planning, prioritisation and workload.

Divided into 10 concise modules, the techniques are designed to be easily applied to daily work tasks to integrate mindfulness into your work life, giving immediate benefits to your productivity and performance.

As a UWE Bristol student you get free access to the modules from now until Sunday 28 February.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  • Helps to replace negative thought patterns and rewire your brain by creating positive mind qualities.
  • Teaches you to respond mindfully to unforeseen problems that crop up in your day rather than reverting to negative unhelpful habits.
  • Develops a more balanced and high performing mind by increasing focus and effective prioritisation.
  • Decreases in unproductive multitasking and mental tiredness and stress.
  • Studies have also shown that it improves memory and sleep quality.

We aim for helpful, prescriptive information without theory and mysticism. So we give you the most immediate practical information straight away. Once you have seen the benefits you will look for its broader application in your life and work.

To get started simply create an account and start working your way through the modules.

This course acts as an introduction to mindfulness, if you want to take the practice further we have more in depth programs that develop a daily practice.

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!

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.