In celebration of World Mental Health Day for 2020, we take a look back at the tips provided by Janet Lallysmith at our recent “Looking after your Mental Health” workshop – and how our students have benefited from the event.
As part of our Welcome (back) programme of events, we were excited to offer a special “Looking after your Mental Health” workshop, delivered by Janet Lallysmith, a qualified mental health practitioner. The workshop aimed to increase awareness and knowledge about student mental health, including the additional challenges facing students who start this year. She also discussed self-care and helped students identify when and how to access additional support to help you have a positive student experience at Kent. You can view the event here.
As part of the event, students were able to ask questions – here we share the responses from Janet, along with some mental health resources and tips and feedback from our students following the event to help you look after your Mental Health.
Q&A from the event
What do we do if we have trouble sleeping and clearing our mind?
Finding it hard to ‘switch off’ is such a common problem in modern life. Establishing regular sleeping patterns of going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day seems to be important. Getting out in day light and exercise are also vital, especially as we head towards winter. It’s pretty well known that the light from screens stimulates our brains into staying awake – doing something stimulating online like gaming or getting irate over social media makes it even harder to switch off! Try to get into the habit of turning devices off a couple of hours before you intend to go to sleep or, if you must use them, choose calming activities and consider wearing specially designed orange tinted glasses or adjusting your screen colour to filter out some of the blue light.
How can we deal with headaches from stress other than medicine?
If you’re experiencing regular headaches, it’s important to see your GP to check if there is an underlying cause that needs treatment. If you’re certain that your headaches are purely stress induced, some of the suggestions above about prioritising sleep and reducing screen time might be of use. Eating well and staying hydrated are also important. Regular breaks from books and screens to move around and let out eyes change their focus also help. Yoga or stretching exercises can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders – worth a try to see if it helps?
The Stress Management Society has lots of information and useful tips about managing stress.
How do you manage depression?
Depression is common and has unfortunately become more prevalent during the global pandemic. If you feel like you’re not coping or that you’re not safe, it’s vital that you seek medical help from your GP, 111 or A&E. Anti-depressants are useful drugs for many people – they don’t help everyone but sometimes they can help people feel a bit more able to cope with the everyday. Even if you don’t feel like it, ensuring that you eat nutritious food, setting aside time for plentiful sleep, getting outside, moving around and talking to people who make you feel good will make each day feel more manageable. Counselling or therapy is beneficial to many people – your GP or student services will be able to point you in the direction of what’s available. Talking to people around you about what’s on your mind and what help you need is often useful – you might find yourself feeling less alone and more able to problem-solve.
Students Against Depression set up and run by the Charlie Walker Memorial Trust has lots of information, support and advice for young people experiencing mental distress.
Men may want to consider contacting CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, if they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Free help lines (all staffed 7 days a week 5pm – midnight) London – 0808 802 58 58; Nationwide – 0800 58 58; webchat and advice and guidance on website.
MOODZONE Free, online NHS resource with information and practical tips
How can you best spot and aid mental health difficulties in housemates?
I expect that this question is on a lot of students minds this year especially as housemates are spending more time with each other than they usually would. It’s very difficult if you don’t know people to spot if they’re acting ‘out of character’ or are, for example, depressed. For lots of people, being included in things going on and having people taking an interest in them will often be enough them feel more connected to those around them. If you’re concerned about someone and feel out of your depth in how to help them, you can always contact student services for advice.
How can I cope with living with panic attacks?
Panic attacks are tough and scary, and you’ve identified a great approach about learning to live with them rather than trying to stop them altogether which, of course, will make you feel more panicky as you can’t just turn off how your body reacts to things. We all know that good sleep, eating well and exercising are really obvious, but they’re not so obvious that we all do them every day… they truly are the foundation of good mental and physical health though. If we’re low on sleep, our body produces more adrenaline to keep us awake which leads to us feeling anxious and on edge. Exercise helps get rid of stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisone and so reduces the likelihood of panic attacks. Avoiding situations that you know make you panicky and being confident enough in your own judgement to remove yourself when you can feel your anxiety level rising also helps. As you probably know, breathing – getting oxygen to the brain – is the key thing that reduces panic. Mindfulness practices, singing or chanting can help do this.
If you’re feeling panicky and in need of immediate support, the Samaritans (Free phone line 24/7 – 116 123; E-mail support – firstname.lastname@example.org) and Giveusashout (free, confidential text service to help people get from a ‘hot’ space to a ‘cool’ one. Text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258) are available 24/7
If we are worried about our mental health where can we go to be checked? Especially if we aren’t from the local area?
These are tough, tough times for so many students. Do ensure that you’re registered with a local GP so that you can access support for any health problem promptly. Although there’s nowhere to go to be checked, there is help and support available as outlined above. Mind (Info line Mon-Fri 9am-6pm: 0300 123 3393) and the Mental Health Foundation also have lots of information, advice and downloadable resources on their websites.
I am a third year student and have previously struggled with juggling with a long term relationship and commitments/work load at uni what can I do to split my time, or feel less stressed?
It’s so hard isn’t it? Even if we’ve built up good habits and ways of managing our time by the third year, everything’s been thrown up in the air by managing covid. It’s important to keep talking to the people around you about where you are with everything and what you need – do you need your friends and family to lean on you less for a while for example? Have a look at the Stress Management Society website – some of their tried-and-tested, practical suggestions may help you put things in place to make daily life feel a bit less overwhelming.
How could you stop doing bad habits just because the stress?
We’d all like to know how to do this! We watched this Stress Bucket video clip during the session on 23rd September (which is all still available to watch online if you’re interested). It shows how ‘quick fix’ ways to cope with stress often end up causing us more stress in the long run. Actively making a decision to replace bad habits with less harmful ones takes time, but if you take it a day at a time, you might surprise yourself with what you do have the power to change.
Outside of just dropping hints, is there an easy way to tell people that you are more sensitive to things and may perceive situations differently?
The easiest way to tell people something personal about ourselves is often what initially seems the hardest – which is to just simply and directly say it. Hints may not be picked up on, which can make us feeling even less heard. Giving specific examples can help the other person understand your perspective. It’s not easy to change habits though – you might need to do a bit of practising with a trusted friend. It does seem that emotional or complex situations are rarely sorted out via text messages, email or social media – speaking either face-to-face or on the phone tends to be more effective (and involve less time waiting and checking, checking, checking for a response!).
Mental Health Resources and Tips
- Student Minds offers web-based resources specifically for students – check out it out at https://www.studentminds.org.uk. As well as tips and support for yourself, Student Minds also has info about how to start a conversation with a friend and what to do if you’re concerned that another student is struggling with their mental health.
- Student Space has been created by Student Minds specifically to help students with the unique challenges of studying in a time of Covid19. Personalised support via text or email is available 24/7, while you can speak with a trained volunteer on the phone or to others via an online forum from 4-11pm every day. All the info is here https://studentspace.org.uk/
- Resilience is about adapting to adverse and changing circumstances – looking after yourself physically and emotionally, building social connections and developing coping strategies are its foundations. Prioritise sleep, exercise and good food, make contact with those around you and do what makes you feel good!
- Check out how the University of Kent will be helping students to socialise safely during Welcome Week and beyond https://www.kent.ac.uk/safe-study-social/lets-be-social
- What’s filling up your stress bucket? Although we might not be able to reduce stresses building up, we can make sure that we turn on our self-care taps to ensure that our bucket doesn’t overflow. Check out this video by Braive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KYC5SsJjx8
Feedback from our students
Following the event, we asked attendees to fill in a short survey.
They told us that, thanks to the workshop they will try something to help improve their mental health – why not give their tips and ideas a go?
- Talk to my housemates
- Check up regularly with my friends to see how they are
- Try to get exercise
- Create and maintain some structure in my day so that I can keep on top of things that are important
- Stay away my computer when I can
- Sleep better – to improve my mental performance
- When the pressure of anxiety kicks in, I will try to address it calmly and use breathing techniques.
And remember, if you have any worries about your own – or others – mental health, please do reach out to us. You can contact the SPS Support team for more help.