This is an exceptional time for us all, and looking after your own wellbeing and mental health is more important now than ever. We understand that everyone’s mental health can fluctuate, so keep reading for our self-care tips and mental health advice.
What is self-care?
The term self-care gets thrown around a lot. But what do we actually mean when we talk about self-care?
Self-care is defined as “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress”.
Self-care is more than just behaviour – it is a mindset. It is a mindset of self-compassion and treating yourself like someone you care about. Actually wanting to take care of yourself is the first step.
Self-care then begins by creating the space for you to take care of you. This could be blocking out some time each day to do something that is good for us.
Self-care is always being there for ourselves, treating ourselves like we would someone we love, and making choices that increase our long-term emotional and physical health and sense of wellbeing.
This could be choosing to exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, spending time in nature, taking long walks, and engaging in and enjoying a variety of creative pursuits.
What self-care isn’t
There are myths that surround self-care. Are there any that you believed?
- Self-care is a luxury – Self care isn’t a luxury, it’s something that is essential for our mental health and wellbeing.
- I don’t have time for self-care – Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time, even just giving yourself 10 minutes a day to get outside or breathe can be helpful. You can incorporate self-care into your usual daily routine such as by making healthier food choices or drinking water, without taking up any extra time.
- Self-care is selfish – Self-care isn’t selfish, in fact taking care of ourselves means we’re more able to help those around us and give back to others.
- Self-care is all about yoga and green smoothies – Self-care is different for every person, and is all about what enhances your individual wellbeing.
- I do self-care by attending to my basic needs – Whilst attending to our basic needs is important, self-care is the active pursuit of wanting to look after ourselves, not just giving ourselves the minimum.
- Self-care is all about the actions we take – Self-care is more than this, it is the belief that we all deserve to look after ourselves as a priority.
- Giving in to my wants such as eating junk food, retail therapy, procrastinating work is self-care – Whilst these things may feel good in the short term, self-care relates to things that are helpful to our health and wellbeing in the long term. (A bit of chocolate couldn’t hurt though right?)
Why does self-care matter?
- We generally have an enhanced feeling of wellbeing when you take care of ourselves
- We are better able to cope with life’s stressors when we take care of ourselves, meaning that stressors have less impact, leading to more resilience and improved stress management
- The quality of our life and our relationships can often feel enhanced when we are looking after our own needs first.
- Self-care is positively linked to improved physical health
- Similarly to the benefit of resilience and better stress management, we are less likely to feel burnt out when taking care of ourselves.
- Taking care of ourselves and spending time to meet our needs can actually make us more productive when it comes to working.
- Ultimately, self-care means that we will be closer to our best – and therefore will be able to give more to things in our life
- For more on why self-care is important, check out this page from Students Against Depression
How to self-care
Be Aware of Self-Care
The first step to better self-care is to be aware of your current self-care. Take some time to think about the things you do currently that are good for your wellbeing. Do you eat healthily, try to drink enough water, sleep enough, or is it that you have a hobby or see friends regularly? How do these things help you?
Check In with yourself
Step two is to get into the habit of checking in with yourself. It can be very easy to rush around doing all the things we feel we have to do, finding our own needs on the bottom of the pile time and time again. To change this, firstly just take a bit of time to pause and reflect. This could be something you fit in to your daily routine – your walk from the bus stop, when you’re brushing your teeth. Ask yourself, how are you feeling right now? What do you need?
What needs to improve?
Once you’ve done these things, begin to identify areas that may need improvement. Feeling tired? Maybe more sleep is needed. Feeling stressed? Things of things that might help you to problem solve, or relax.
Typical self-care activities include choosing to exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, spending time in nature, taking long walks, and engaging in and enjoying a variety of creative pursuits.
While there are lots of suggestions out there on how to self-care, it is important to choose activities that are meaningful to yourself and your own goals.
Create a Self-Care Plan
- To create your own self-care plan, select at least one strategy or activity that you can undertake for each category above. It is important to develop a self-care plan that is holistic and individual to you.
- Fill your self-care plan with activities that you enjoy and that support your wellbeing. Here are some suggestions.
- Keep your plan in a place where you can see it every day. Keeping it visible will help you to think about and commit to the strategies in your plan. You can also share it with your supervisor, colleagues, friends and family so they can support you in your actions.
- Stick to your plan and practice the activities regularly. Just like an athlete doesn’t become fit by merely ‘thinking’ about fitness, you can’t expect to perform effectively without putting into practice a holistic plan for your wellbeing.
- Re-assess how you are going at the end of one month and then three months. Plans can take over a month to become habits, so check-in and be realistic about your own self-care plan. After a while, come back and complete the self-care assessment again to find out how you are going with your new habits.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing
Research undertaken by the New Economics Foundation has identified 5 actions that can help to improve personal wellbeing. These are known as the Five Ways to Wellbeing:
- Be active
- Take notice
- Keep learning
The five ways to wellbeing have been designed to help people to maintain and improve their wellbeing through easy and simple activities.
The NHS website has more information about the Five Ways to Wellbeing and suggestions on things you can try to help you improve your wellbeing.
Heading off to university is an exciting time and it is easy to overlook some more practical aspects; like your diet and eating sensibly. The food you eat can have an impact on how your mind and body works, so a basic knowledge of how to eat healthily will help you get the most out of your university experience and create healthy lifetime eating habits.
When your day is packed with classes, assignments, and studying, not to mention a social life and maybe a job, who has time for healthy eating? While sometimes low on the list of your priorities, being smart about food has many benefits. Eating regularly and choosing healthy portions of nutritious foods means having more mental and physical energy, feeling good about yourself and enjoying better health. Here are the basics…
Breakfast: Don’t leave home without it!
If you have been skipping breakfast because you don’t have time or aren’t hungry, you have been missing the day’s most important meal. While it’s tempting to get an extra ten minutes of sleep, not eating breakfast will cost you in other ways. Studies have shown that breakfast skippers have poorer concentration, more fatigue, less healthy weights, and eat less fibre and other needed nutrients. Eating within an hour of waking up jumpstarts your metabolism and provides the fuel you need to get through a busy morning.
No time is no excuse: 10-minute breakfast ideas
- Cold cereal, milk, dried fruit
- Frozen whole wheat waffles, yogurt
- Leftover pizza and an apple
- Whole wheat toast, cheddar cheese, orange juice
- Instant oatmeal with raisins, almonds
- Whole grain bagel, peanut butter, banana
- Bran bar, chocolate milk, grapes
- Yogurt topped with berries and granola
- Sandwich with lean deli meat and cheese
- Try a breakfast smoothie: Put fruit, yogurt, and juice or milk in a blender. Add a spoon or two of oats, bran cereal or ground flaxseed for more fibre. If you’re short on time, take it with you!
OK, you’ve eaten breakfast, now what?
Even if you can’t eat at the same time every day, be sure to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If there will be more than 4 hours between your meals, plan for a snack. Eating regularly keeps your blood sugar levels stable and prevents you from becoming ravenously hungry and filling up on less healthy foods. Carry backpack snacks for healthy eating on the go.
Backpack food stash ideas:
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Raw cut-up veggies
- Whole grain crackers
- High fibre cereal bars
- Trail mix or nuts
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Vegetable or fruit juice
- Refillable bottle of water
Is late night snacking OK?
If you’re up late studying and feel tired and hungry, a nutritious energy-containing snack can be just what you need to perk you up. Be careful, though… late nights are a tempting time to indulge in cravings for salty, sugar or high fat treats that contain few nutrients. Better choices provide lasting brain fuel, like an apple with whole wheat toast and peanut butter or carrot sticks and whole grain crackers with hummus.
What makes a good meal or snack?
Plan your meals around colourful veggies, fruits, and wholesome grains – nutritious energy-containing carbohydrates filled vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals which enhance and protect your health. Add protein- and iron-rich foods: lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu and beans. Milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy drinks contribute protein and bone-building calcium.
Energizing study snacks:
- Fresh fruit
- Veggies and low-fat dip
- Light popcorn
- Frozen or canned fruit
- Individual cans of tuna
- Trail mix
- Baked tortilla chips and salsa
- Peanut butter
- Whole grain crackers
- Cottage cheese
- Low sugar cereals
- Chocolate milk
A balanced diet combines carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat and not only provides you with the nutrients you need to stay healthy but also helps to keep your energy levels up.
The term balance also means complementing a less healthy meal or snack with nutritious choices the rest of the day. If you usually eat lots of fruit and veggies, whole grains, and lower fat protein-rich foods and milk products, then why not enjoy a chocolate bar or a couple of cookies? Go ahead and indulge in your favourite treats – just watch how much and how often!
Include healthy fats
If burgers, fries and deep-fried foods are staples in your diet, choose these foods less often. Eat foods that are grilled, baked, steamed or boiled and use small amounts of heart-healthy fats found in vegetable, olive and sunflower oils, non-hydrogenated margarine, salmon and other fish, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.
What and how much should you eat?
Energy needs depend on many factors including your age, body size, whether you’re male or female, and how active you are. This website can help you develop a personal healthy eating and physical activity pattern.
What about supplements?
Nothing can replace the benefits of eating a variety of healthy foods. You may choose to take a multivitamin supplement, but don’t take a large dose of any single nutrient without first getting advice from a knowledgeable health professional.
What you drink counts, too!
Everyone needs fluids, but drinking too many fancy coffees, a lot of pop or even too much fruit juice can help pack on extra pounds. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories and overindulging may lead to other problems.
Water is always a great choice and it’s free! Taking a refillable bottle with you and using the various water machines around campus is a great way to make sure you’re drinking enough.
Choose a reusable bottle where you know how much water it contains, and therefore how many times you would need to refill this to drink your recommended 2 liters a day!
Don’t like the taste of water? Try adding sliced lemon, cucumber or other fruit to your water for added flavor – the fruit slices can be reused all day and are a low cost, healthy alternative to juices.
More amazing trivia:
- A 600mL bottle of cola contains 266 calories!
- A large double-double coffee: 218 calories!
- A medium (14oz) iced frappe: 350 calories!
Healthy eating doesn’t just happen
Old habits are easier to break when you make small, gradual changes.
- If your diet is low in veggies, start by adding 1 serving each day.
- If you’ve been skipping meals, rearrange your schedule.
- If you’re used to eating most meals out, learn how to cook some simple foods for yourself.
No cookbooks needed…the internet is a great place to find easy, nutritious ideas (look for light or heart-healthy recipes).
If you do dine out, go for healthier meals like wraps, salads, grilled foods and stir fries. Restaurant portions are often big, so think about sharing a meal with a friend or take the leftovers home and refrigerate for tomorrow’s lunch.
When you keep nutritious foods around, you’re more likely to eat them, so shop for groceries regularly. Take a few minutes to make a shopping list to help save time and money. Changing how you eat takes a bit of effort, but you’re worth it!
More questions on healthy eating?
Check out the NHS Eat Well pages for more information!
Food and Drink on Campus
Wondering what food options are available on campus? Catering on campus is provided by our own in-house award-winning catering team, Food at Edge Hill. There are various outlets on campus offering a great variety of fresh and local food. All dining outlets are great social spaces in which to eat and also offer free WiFi access. For more information about on campus food, please visit our website.
The Students’ Union also manage the on-campus branch of SUBWAY.
Reasons to get active
There are many benefits to looking after your physical health.
Some things you might notice after taking up an activity include:
- an improved mood and sense of wellbeing
- a better night’s sleep
- reduced stress or anxiety
- healthier skin
- the opportunity to socialise and meet new people
If you regularly take part in some sort of activity, some of the longer-term benefits can include:
- increased energy and motivation
- improved academic performance
- improved strength and fitness levels
- reduced chances of heart disease, diabetes or a stroke
- increased resilience for dealing with stressful situations
Performing well in your studies
When you’re feeling stressed about your academic work or exams it’s understandable to think that you don’t have the time or energy to for exercise. However, taking some time to be active is a worthwhile investment as it is known to reduce stress levels and boost academic performance and energy.
Mood and Stress Levels:
- Low to moderate intensity exercise reduces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
- Within 30 minutes of beginning exercise endorphins are release, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers.
The beneficial effects of exercise on brain function have been demonstrated in a growing number of clinical studies on humans.
- Exercise increases the blood flow around the body, including the brain. Because more blood means more energy and oxygen, it can help you to think more clearly. Even 20-minute walk can clear the mind and reduce stress levels.
- Exercise activates the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and memory and can even lead to the growth of new brain cells (neurons).
- Exercise increases neurotransmitter levels, enhancing communication between neurons
Research shows that these effects result in improved mental functioning, higher energy and better concentration levels. All these factors can have a positive effect on academic performance.
How to get started
Whether you’ve done much exercise before or not, university is the perfect time to get started with a whole range of ways to get fit and active.
While it can be challenging at first, it will become both rewarding and enjoyable quickly if you stick at it.
Edge Hill Sports
Edge Hill Sport provides a focus for all sports, ﬁtness and leisure activities on campus.
There really is something for everyone regardless of your sporting ability or motivations. Whether you are an elite athlete; want to play in a university sports team; you just wnt to keep ﬁt, try new activities and have an occasional social game with friends; the facilities at Edge Hill will enable you to do just that.
Edge Hill Sports offer students a range of student memberships at a great price, which can include access to the ﬁtness suite, exercise classes and swimming pool. See our membership options.
For most of us, sleep is normal, and something we take for granted. However, sometimes; for a variety of reasons; we cannot sleep which can be distressing. When we are under stress, such as at exam time, we need more sleep but sometimes the anxiety we are feeling can disturb our sleep pattern.
Other things which can disturb our sleep are:
- Too much noise
- Uncomfortable temperature of bed
- irregular routines
- Too little exercise
- Eating too much makes it difficult to get off to sleep
- Eating too little can lead to early waking
- Cigarettes, alcohol, drinks containing caffeine such as tea and coffee will also disturb sleep
We all need a different amount of sleep, traditionally eight hours a night for an adult, decreasing as we get older. Some people can function very well on a little sleep.
If you wake up feeling aware, refreshed and energised you are getting the right amount of sleep for you. Some people can work best during the night, others need to stop early.
You need to become aware of what suits you and try to prevent working beyond your productive limits.
Tips for better sleep:
- Try not to worry about how much sleep you are getting.
- Leave yourself plenty of time to relax before bed. Develop a bedtime routine: a warm bath or shower; a hot milky drink or herbal tea such as camomile; a period of quietness can all help you to relax.
- Eat light meals in the evening and try not to eat for two hours before going to bed.
- Cut down of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
- Exercise regularly but not immediately before going to bed.
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Don’t go to bed if you aren’t tired.
- Make sure your bed and bedroom are warm and quiet.
- If you’ve had a bad night resist the temptation to sleep the next day – it will make it harder to sleep the following night.
- If something is troubling you and there is nothing you can do there and then try writing it down before you go to bed and tell yourself, you will deal with it tomorrow. Try and find someone you can trust to talk over your worries during the day.
- If you can’t sleep get up, read, watch TV or listen to quiet music until you feel tired. Everyone has their own way of clearing their minds of worries prior to sleep.
- Mind clearing – imagining a black velvet theatre curtain coming done and blocking busy thoughts.
- Mentally write out your worries on a whiteboard and then slowly and deliberately wipe them off.
- Lie on your back and count backwards from 100, visualising each number
- Recall the day moment to moment but in reverse: the last thing you did to getting up.
Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. Previously stress has been a useful response to potential danger, activating our flight or fight response by the release of adrenaline, which was essential for survival.
In everyday life, stress is unavoidable. Stress can be positive, motivating us to achieve things, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.
However too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.
Causes of stress
Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person.
The level of stress you are comfortable with may be higher or lower than that of other people around you. Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face.
Pressure at work, university or home, illness, or difficult or sudden life events can all lead to stress.
Signs of stress
If you are stressed, you may:
- Feel overwhelmed
- Have racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
- Be irritable
- Feel constantly worried, anxious or scared
- Feel a lack of self-confidence
- Have trouble sleeping or feel tired all the time
- Avoid things or people you are having problems with
- Be eating more or less than usual
- Drink or smoke more than usual
A good way to think of stress is to imagine there’s a bucket you carry with you which slowly fills up when you experience different types of stress. Sometimes you feel strong enough to carry a lot of stress, and other times, we may feel that even a little stress is too much. Either way, it’s important to find activities which help you lighten the load.
If you have positive ways of coping with stress, such as good self-care, friendships, using relaxation techniques or problem solving, then the tap on your stress bucket will work allowing stress to flow out before your bucket gets too full.
If you don’t have any positive coping mechanisms or use unhelpful coping mechanisms like avoidance, drinking, eating junk food, spending excessive money, then this is like the tap on the stress bucket not working, and so it gradually fills with stress until the bucket overflows and we can no longer cope with the stress.
Therefore it is crucial to be aware of our own stress levels, the things that lead us to feeling stress, and how we can positively cope with stress.
Want to create your own stress bucket? Complete the worksheet here.
Coping with stress
Here are top tips from the NHS on how to cope with stress:
- Split up big tasks – If a task seems overwhelming and difficult to start, try breaking it down into easier chunks and give yourself credit for completing them
- Allow yourself some positivity – Take time to think about the good things in your life. Each day, consider what went well and try to list 3 things you’re thankful for.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts – The way we think affects the way we feel. Watch our video to learn how to challenge unhelpful thoughts.
- Be more active – Being active can help you to burn off nervous energy. It will not make your stress disappear, but it can make it less intense. Take a look at some Home workout videos
- Talk to someone – Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling.
- Plan ahead – Planning out any upcoming stressful days or events – a to-do list, the journey you need to do, things you need to take – can really help.
- Practice self care – At times of stress its crucial to make sure you are taking care of yourself, including trying to eat healthily and regularly, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. Crucially it’s important to be self-compassionate during times of stress and to create some time for you to reflect and unwind.
- Seek support – If you feel you need some support with stress, help is available:
- Register at Togetherall – here you can access peer support and attend online self-help workshops. Togetherall is completely anonymous, available 24/7 and free for all Edge Hill students
- Book an appointment with the Student Wellbeing team – they can offer a range of support including 1:1 wellbeing appointments, counselling and a range of workshops – the first step is to book an Initial Appointment
- Use a mental health helpline
Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.
Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.
What is resilience?
Emotional resilience refers to one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises.More resilient people are able to “roll with the punches” and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor. Resilience can also be seen as a person’s ability to “bounce back” after facing difficulty.
Why is resilience important?
Life can be full of unexpected challenges and that is something that we cannot always control. Whilst we may not be able to control the situation itself, we can always control how we react to the situation.
If we choose to perceive the situation negatively, we often then feel negative and this leads to negative thoughts, and sometimes negative behaviours. For example, you may wake up at the weekend to find that it is raining on one of your only days off.
Whilst we can’t change the weather, there are two ways we can handle this situation.
The first is to see this as a negative and to focus on all the things you cannot do, like going outside, and this may result in feeling negative and trapped. This negative perception of the weather could then impact the rest of your day, for example you may anticipate that anything you do will be unenjoyable compared to if it was a sunny day, and therefore you may not even try to do things you enjoy, and think “what’s the point?”.
Alternatively, you could see the rainy day as a positive. In spite of the fact that you cannot go outside, you may decide it’s a good opportunity to stay inside and watch movies all day, or even just listen to the sounds of the rain as a way of relaxing. This may then lead you to feel happier and calmer, and you still enjoy the day, even though it wasn’t what you expected it to be.
Mindset can really influence a lot of how we feel, what we think and what we do. The question is, if we know that negative perception can be so unhelpful, why do we do it?
The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the idea that things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things, even if they are actually equal in intensity.
As humans, we tend to:
- Remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones
- Recall insults better than praise
- React more strongly to negative stimuli
- Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones
- Respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones
This bias toward the negative leads you to pay much more attention to the bad things that happen, making them seem much more important than they really are.
At one point in time, this negative bias would have been an essential skill for survival – allowing us to be aware of any potential threats. However in modern society, there is much less of a need for this, and often this negative bias can be detrimental for our stress levels and wellbeing.
Unhelpful Thinking Habits
There are actually a number of key negative biases that we use. These are known as unhelpful thinking styles, and they often create the thoughts that lead to negative feelings and behaviours. Everyone uses these during their lives, particularly in times of stress, and they can become our automatic response or habits.
Here are 10 types of unhelpful thinking styles. Do you recognise any of these?
Forming a negative judgement based on just a few qualities and then assigning labels to ourselves or others. “I made a mistake. I’m so stupid.”
- All or Nothing thinking
Placing people or situations into either/or categories. There is no middle ground. “If I’m not perfect, I have failed.”
- Disqualifying the Positive
Focusing on the negative by discounting good things that have happened. “That doesn’t count/She just said that to be nice.”
Magnifying small negative incidents or minimizing positive events. “Now I’m going to fail my course, not get a degree, and never get a job I want.”
- Mental Filter
Only focusing on the negative details while filtering out the positive aspects. “I got two points of negative feedback on my last assignment. I’m terrible at university.”
Making a pattern out of a single experience or making overly-broad conclusions based on a piece of evidence. “Everything is always rubbish/ Nothing good ever happens.”
- Jumping to Conclusions
Mind reading – Imagining that we know what others are thinking, “they think I’m boring”. Also, predicting future outcomes “They aren’t going to like me.”
- Shoulds and Musts
Using words like “should” or “must” to enforce ideas or rules for behaviour. “I should be getting firsts.” These can make us feel guilty or like we have already failed.
- Emotional Reasoning
Assuming that feelings reflect fact about self or a situation. “I feel ugly, therefore I must actually be ugly.” “I feel stupid, so I must be an idiot”.
Blaming yourself for something that is not within your control. Also, blaming others for something that was one’s fault. “If only I didn’t leave the house at that time, this wouldn’t have happened.”
If you did notice that you use some of these unhelpful thinking styles, don’t worry. The best part about realising we use unhelpful thinking styles is that this is the first step to becoming more resilient.
How are you resilient?
Think back to a time in your life where you had a problem or challenge that you overcame. How did you do this?
The truth is we are all actually more resilient than we realise, as we have all already had to overcome obstacles, no matter how small. This could have been learning to navigate school life, starting a new college, making friends, or coping with getting negative feedback. You may have needed to reach out and seek support from friends, family or teachers, or even just learn how to channel negative feelings into something positive, by doing something creative, listening to music or raising awareness about an issue.
Thinking back, it is usually in the most difficult situations that we grow the most as people. Take some time to think back to some of the ways you have solved problems previously, and remember that even if you haven’t used these in a while, you do have skills and resources to help you if you come across challenges.
How can you improve your resilience?
The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be built upon, no matter what your current levels are resilience are.
Here are some top tips for building your resilience:
- Be aware – Have an awareness of your resilience level as it is. Do you only focus on the negatives? Do you try to resolve problems you face? Think about which areas of resilience you would like to improve on. You can begin by completing a resilience self-assessment
- Expect challenges – Part of being resilient is to accept that challenges are part of life and that they are likely to happen. Once you begin to expect that things may not always go smoothly, you are that bit more prepared to cope when issues arise
- Reframe negative thoughts – When you encounter challenges, don’t let that negative bias be the only way you see a situation. Ask yourself if are there any positive’s that you are overlooking? Check to see if you are using any of the unhelpful thinking habits we mentioned above. Challenge those negative thoughts to identify more balanced thoughts. Try to see any issues that arise as a “challenge” not problem, or any negative feedback as a learning opportunity, not a failure. A great way to reframe thoughts is to ask yourself – what would I say to a friend in this situation? We are often great at giving advice to others, so why not try to apply this to yourself.
- Problem Solving – If you encounter a problem, aim to identify if this is something that is within your control.If it is, try to think about some positive actions you can take in response to the situation. You can do this by mindmapping as many solutions you can think of, even if they aren’t completely thought through. At the end of this you can pick the best solutions to carry out.If you identify that the problem is outside of your control, then try to acknowledge that no amount of stress or worry is going to be helpful. Each time you notice the problem beginning to take over, remind yourself that it is outside of your control and push the problem away. Sometimes the use of distractions can help us to do this.
- Manage your emotions – Okay so even if we re-frame our thoughts and problem solve, we still have emotional reactions to situations that arise. For example, we may acknowledge that we are not a failure after making a mistake, and have a plan for next time, however we may still feel down or frustrated.Emotions are completely normal and are part of every experience. We are human, not robots, and so it’s important to acknowledge and accept our emotions. Practice identifying what the emotion is that you are feeling, and try not to judge yourself for your emotions – just accept them.
- Practice mindfulness – A skill that can help you to practice acknowledging your emotions without judgement is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the skill of attending to the present moment and noticing ourselves – how we feel, what we are thinking and the things that are around us. A key concept of mindfulness is acceptance. Practice mindfulness by spending 10 minutes a day sitting and just noticing all the different feelings and thoughts that come into your head. Try not to judge yourself for anything, just acknowledge what they are.Acknowledging our emotions means that we become more self-aware of our emotional reactions. It also means that we are better able to separate our emotions from our thoughts “I’m not an idiot, I’m just feeling frustrated about that low mark”, and also that we can then choose healthy strategies to manage them, “I’m going to listen to some music and go for a walk to clear my head”
- Identify your emotional coping mechanism – Think of some the various emotions that you might experience: sadness, anger, worry, stress. Now think about a few things that help each of those emotions.
- When you are sad, try to think of ways that you might comfort yourself, or cheer yourself up. You may find watching your favourite film, wrapping yourself in a blanket, having a warm drink or watching funny videos all help you to feel better.
- For worry, try to carry out calming activities such as listening to calm music, taking a warm bath or shower or talking things through with a friend. It can also be good to ask yourself if your worry is something that you can control or not. If it’s within your control, try to problem solve and think of some positive actions. If not, remind yourself that it is out of control and try some distraction techniques like watching a film or listening to music.
- If you feel angry, it might be a good idea to do some physical activity or do something creative to express how you feel. After doing this you may find some of the calming activities mentioned above helpful too.
- For stress, it could be helpful to write tasks down so they do not seem so overwhelming, or do some problem solving as we discussed above, or just make some time for self-care.The strategies you use are unique to you – try and test a variety of techniques to find the ones that work for you. Eventually you will have an array of healthy ways to cope with your emotions.
Seek support – Our support networks are key in feeling resilient to managing life stress; even just knowing that we are not alone in anything that we are facing can be reassuring, and make the stress we feel less intense. Building good support networks can take time, but are really valuable. You may already have people in your life that you feel you could turn to if you needed. If not, it is never too late to meet new people and to start to build those connections. It could be those people are already there, and you just need to take the first step in talking about how you feel.If you feel you are not ready to open up to others personally, know that there is always support available at university. This could be in the form of lecturers, your personal tutor or some of the teams in student services, such as wellbeing, counselling and chaplaincy.There are also lots of other ways to connect to others and seek support – such as Togetherall, or take a look at the student wellbeing webpages.
Another great way to offset the negativity bias that we often experience is to actively try to focus on the positive more. Positive psychology is all about the study of the positive aspects of the human experience. If you want to bring a bit more positivity into your life, then try some of the below strategies:
Often negativity arises when we think about the things we are not happy with. Therefore, a great way of injecting some positivity is to think about the things we are thankful for. Although we know the things we are thankful for are important, we often overlook them or begin to expect them.
Tip: Take some time each day to think about 3 things that you are thankful for – try to build this into your routine, for example, on your walk home, or whilst you are brushing your teeth.
Tip: Say a little thank you to someone in your life – this could be a verbal thank you, or any little gesture that shows your appreciation – and bonus – you will be spreading some of that positivity by doing this too!
Tip: Keep a gratitude journal – A great way to build on tip number 1 is to write down your daily gratitude for a week or two. After this, take a little look back and see all the positives you have, and all the things to be thankful for. This could be especially good to look back on when things seem negative and difficult.
As we have acknowledged, negativity often leads to critical and judgmental thoughts about ourselves or others. Try to counteract this by actively being kind to yourself and others, as this can really create a positive change.
Tip: Self-kindness – Try to practice self-kindness once a day. This could be by starting your day with a positive affirmation “you can do this”, talking to yourself in an empathetic way if things go wrong, or creating some time for self-care.
Tip: Small acts of kindness – Think about some small gestures that you can make to share a bit of kindness with others – a small thank you, some positive feedback or a compliment, you can even think about participating in a “pay it forward” scheme, donating money or goods to charity, or volunteering your time to someone in need.
One of the best and most direct ways to tackle that negativity is to challenge it directly, and practice a bit of optimism!
Tip: For every negative, think of two positives! Okay so this one sounds a bit silly, but the saying really is true – for every cloud there is a silver lining (or two if you really think about it!). Try to think if there are any positive aspects when you encounter challenges. For example, have you learnt how to overcome an issue, or had a new experience?
We all have a variety of skills and strengths, but when we’re feeling negative it can be difficult to acknowledge these, which can lead us to feeling worse. Take some action and try to actively acknowledge what makes you great.
Tip: Think of 3 strengths a day – As with the gratitude, create some time within your daily routine to think about 3 things that you have done well that day. Is it that you tried your best? Or that you made someone else happy? Maybe you tried something new, even though you felt nervous. Instead of just focusing on what could be better, take time to acknowledge your strengths and positives.
Action for happiness
For more ideas on how to incorporate more happiness into your life, take a look at the Action for Happiness website. They create monthly calendars that you can print or download with daily tips for living a happier life!
Coping with anxiety
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, such as before public speaking, or a job interview, and it usually passes once the situation is over.
Worry and anxiety can make our heart race, and we might feel sweaty, shaky or short of breath. Anxiety can also cause changes in our behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.
When anxiety becomes a problem, our worries can be magnified, even if the situation is relatively harmless. Things may feel more intense or overwhelming, and interfere with our everyday lives and relationships.
Signs of anxiety
Anxiety can show in a variety of ways. This can be as changes in your body, in being constantly worried or changes in your behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.
- feel tired, on edge, restless or irritable
- feel a sense of dread
- be unable to concentrate or make decisions
- have trouble sleeping
- feel sick, dizzy, sweaty or short of breath
- be shaky or trembly
- get headaches or tummy aches
- avoid situations or put off doing things you are worried about
- have difficulty falling or staying asleep
- experience panic attacks
- experience a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat
- have pins and needles
- have a dry mouth
- sweat excessively
- repeatedly check things or seek assurance from others
Top tips to cope with anxiety
- Understand your anxiety – Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times to help identify what’s affecting you and what you need to take action on
- Challenge your anxious thoughts – Tackling unhelpful thoughts is one of the best things we can do to feel less anxious. Watch the NHS video to find out more
- Make time for worries – If your worry feels overwhelming and takes over your day, setting specific “worry time” to go through your concerns each day can help you to focus on other things. Watch the NHS video for more advice – Tackle your worries video
- Shift your focus – Some people find relaxation, mindfulness, grounding or breathing exercises helpful. They reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment. Try NHS-recommended relaxation exercises
- Face the things you want to avoid – It’s easy to avoid situations, or rely on habits that make us feel safer, but these can keep anxiety going. By slowly building up time in worrying situations, anxious feelings will gradually reduce and you will see these situations are OK.
- Get to grips with the problem – When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can help to use a problem-solving technique to identify some solutions. This can make the challenges you’re facing feel more manageable. If you find your anxiety is specific to social situations, take a look at ourtips on managing social anxiety
Seek support – If you feel you need some support with anxiety, help is available:
- Try the strategies mentioned above
- Use self-help
- Register at Togetherall – here you access peer support and attend online self-help workshops. Togetherall is completely anonymous, available 24/7 and free for all Edge Hill Students.
- Book an appointment to speak to a GP about your anxiety
- Complete a self-referral for NHS talking therapy in your area
- Use a mental health helpline
What is low mood?
Everyone can feel low or down from time to time. It does not always mean something is wrong. Feeling low is common, particularly after distressing events or major life changes, but sometimes periods of low mood happen for no obvious reason.
You may feel tired, lacking confidence, frustrated, angry and worried. Usually, low mood will often pass after a couple of days or weeks – and there are some easy things you can try and small changes you can make that will usually help improve your mood.
Signs of low mood
You may feel:
- a lack of self-confidence
- not interested in things
Or you might notice you start:
- withdrawing from your usual activities, particularly ones you used to enjoy or value
- spending less time with those you care about
- having trouble sleeping
- Finding it difficult to concentrate on things
How to improve low mood?
- Increase helpful activity – Low mood can stop us doing important or enjoyable activities. Try listing these things and doing some each day. Start with easier ones and, as you progress, your mood should improve.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts – The way we think affects the way we feel. Watch the NHS video to learn how to challenge unhelpful thoughts – Reframing unhelpful thoughts video
- Talk to someone – Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling. Watch the NHS video for more ideas – Social connection video
- Get better sleep – Low moods can make us feel tired. Tiredness can also have a bad impact on our mood. Watch the NHS video on tips to improve your sleep – Tips for sleeping better video
- Be kind to yourself – Try to break big tasks down into manageable chunks, and do not try to do everything at once. Give yourself credit when you complete each bit.
- Healthy living – Being active, cutting back on alcohol and making sure we have a healthy balanced diet can help boost your mood, and help our wellbeing. See our self-care section
Seek Support – If you feel you need some support with low mood, help is available:
- Try the strategies mentioned above
- Use self-help
- Register at Togetherall – here you access peer support and attend online self-help workshops. Togetherall is completely anonymous, available 24/7 and free for all Edge Hill Students
- Book an appointment to speak to a GP about your low mood
- Complete a self-referral for NHS talking therapy in your area
- Use a mental health helpline
Developing your self-esteem
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves.
When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life’s ups and downs.
When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges that life throws at us.
What are the signs of low self-esteem?
If you have low self-esteem or confidence, you may hide yourself away from social situations, stop trying new things, and avoid things you find challenging.
In the short term, avoiding challenging and difficult situations might make you feel safe.
In the longer term, this can backfire because it reinforces your underlying doubts and fears. It teaches you the unhelpful rule that the only way to cope is by avoiding things.
How to develop a health self-esteem
- Recognise what you’re good at – We’re all good at something, whether it’s cooking, singing, doing puzzles or being a friend. We also tend to enjoy doing the things we’re good at, which can help boost your mood.
- Build positive relationships – If you find certain people tend to bring you down, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how you feel about their words or actions. Try to build relationships with people who are positive and who appreciate you.
- Be kind to yourself – Being kind to yourself means being gentle to yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical. Think what you’d say to a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.
- Learn to be assertive – Being assertive is about respecting other people’s opinions and needs, and expecting the same from them. One trick is to look at other people who act assertively and copy what they do.
- Start saying “no” – People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to other people, even when they do not really want to. The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed. For the most part, saying no does not upset relationships. It can be helpful to keep saying no, but in different ways, until they get the message.
- Give yourself a challenge – We all feel nervous or afraid to do things at times. But people with healthy self-esteem do not let these feelings stop them trying new things or taking on challenges. Set yourself a goal, such as joining an exercise class or going to a social occasion. Achieving your goals will help to increase your self-esteem.
Seek Support – If you feel you need some support with self-esteem, help is available:
- Try the strategies mentioned above
- Use self-help
- Register at Togetherall – here you access peer support and attend online self-help workshops. Togetherall is completely anonymous, available 24/7 and free for all Edge Hill Students
- Book an appointment to speak to a GP about your low mood
- Complete a self-referral for NHS talking therapy in your area
- Use a mental health helpline
Preparing for degree level studies
We know this past year has been different and that you may have experienced interruptions in your studies, so we have pulled together some useful information and tips which may help you with your current studies or help prepare you for starting University.
Toolkit – Introduction to Academic Writing
This toolkit will introduce you to the concept of academic writing, and what it involves at university level. We will look at what to expect as a student at Edge Hill University, how to get the most out of your learning and how to maintain your study motivation.
Toolkit – Academic Resilience
This toolkit will help equip you with practical tools to nurture your academic resilience, help you recognise the qualities of a ‘growth’ as opposed to ‘fixed’ mindset, and help prepare you to feel confident in dealing constructively with feedback.
Toolkit – Research skills at University
This toolkit will help you develop your research skills in preparation for studying at Edge Hill University. We will introduce you to the concept of academic information, the importance of using dedicated search tools to find information and discuss good note-taking techniques for carrying out your research.
Managing your time
A big part of coming to university is managing your time. Between attending lectures, completing assignments, revising for exams, socialising with friends, keeping in touch with family, and looking after ourselves, it can seem that there isn’t enough time for everything!
Therefore it is easy to understand that not managing time will lead to build up of work, and can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and even feeling unable to cope.
Being organised and planning accordingly can help to break your work down into manageable chunks so that you can fit this into your life around any other commitments.
The Importance of Scheduling
Scheduling is the art of planning your activities so that you can achieve your goals and priorities in the time you have available. When it’s done effectively, it helps you:
- Understand what you can realistically achieve with your time.
- Make sure you have enough time for essential tasks.
- Avoid taking on more than you can handle.
- Work steadily toward your goals.
- Have enough time for family and friends, exercise and hobbies.
- Achieve a good work-life balance.
Time is the one resource that we can’t buy, but we often waste it or use it ineffectively. Scheduling helps you think about what you want to achieve in a day, week or month, and it keeps you on track to accomplish your goals.
Identify Available Time
Start by selecting a time frame that you want your schedule to span.
It could be a good idea to do this for the entire semester to begin with so you have a perspective on all upcoming deadlines, and then break it down into a weekly schedule that you plan for each week.
If you are making a weekly schedule, you need to initially establish the time available to you.
For example, you may have lectures scheduled for 2 full days a week. This is time that cannot be used in any other way, so you initially need to block that time out as unavailable.
This will then leave you with 5 days in which to block out time for academic reading, revision, assignment work and preparation for any other academic sessions such as seminars; as well as any other social or work commitments.
The amount of time you dedicate to each section will depend on what your goals are, and also the urgency and importance of the task.
If you are aiming to get the best grades possible, you should expect to put in an adequate amount of work time to reflect this. Speak to your tutors about how much time they expect you to do additional reading/work on the lecture content. As a general rule, you can do this on a 1:1 ratio. For example, a one hour lecture followed by one hour self-directed learning, and this could be by doing the recommended reading, typing up lecture notes or more.
Other Commitments (social, work, hobbies and more)
If you are part of a society or have a part time job, make sure that you also plan to dedicate adequate time in order to carry out these activities to the standard that you want. For example, if you work all day saturday and Sunday in a part time job, and go to a society on a Wednesday evening, this will leave 3 days and 2 evenings to focus on additional academic work.
Time for yourself
It can be really easy to completely schedule our time, and fill our diaries with commitments like study, work, socialising, hobbies and more. By doing this, it is really easy to overcommit and give too much energy to others, leaving us feeling worn down, and burnt out, which ultimately reduces our resilience and motivation in the longer term.
Therefore it is really important that you also give yourself the time you need, in order to look after your own physical and mental health. This time could be spent practically, by doing things such as cooking, eating and cleaning. But this is also time that you need to practice some self-care, for example having time to relax, watch TV, have a pamper session. The important part is that you are prioritisng your own needs, whatever these are. We can only give to others, and do our best if we make sure we are looking after ourselves first.
As we’ve talked about, there are a lot of different competing tasks that need our attention. So how do we know which ones needs our attention first?
Once you’ve got all your tasks and activities in front of you, you need to prioritise them.
You can determine priority based on a lot of different things, such as how big or difficult the task is, how important the task is, and how urgent it is. Essentially prioritising means that you put tasks in order of what needs to be done first.
Step 1 – determine which tasks go into which of the below boxes.Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
Step 2 – Create a to do list in order of most important to least important. It is recommended to prioritise any tasks you put in the green “do first”, followed by “urgent” and “important” tasks.It is often a good idea to tackle the most difficult, complex and demanding tasks first when you are freshest. This way, even if you only manage to do one thing on your to-do list, you know it was the most important task.
Set realistic deadlines. When you’re working on something that has a deadline, aim to set your own deadline ahead of the deadline. However, set realistic ones. Don’t try to rush yourself just to finish it earlier. Take everything one step at a time and don’t set yourself up for failure.
This is also applicable for your everyday work. Don’t overwhelm yourself. You don’t want to force yourself to finish something and then suffer the consequences of creating poor-quality work.
Don’t wait until you’re at university to practice your planning and organising. Start by identifying some stuff you need to do now, and put this into priority order, taking each task step by step and see how you get on. The better practiced you are, the easier you will find it when it comes to the real thing.
And don’t forget, planning and organising can help us to create and structure and routine for our daily lives, not just when it comes to our assignments, which is a big positive for our mental health.
- Get Organised – Getting organised is the first step in any effective study plan. This means knowing what deadlines you have, collecting your lecture notes so they are in one place, and having all your required reading on hand. Think about creating a study plan which outlines how long you have until deadlines, and breaks the work down into small sections on the lead up to this. Don’t forget to use apps, calendars and reminders to help keep you on track.
- Location, location, location – Think about the space that you are going to study in and make sure that it is appropriate for you. For some, they prefer to study at home, whilst others prefer the library to keep them on task. Try to choose a space free from distractions that you associate with thinking and working. Try not to work in your bed – this is where you might unwind and sleep, and therefore your brain will not associate it with the concentration usually needed for studying.
- Choose the right time – Think about what time of day suits you most. Are you a morning person or a night own? Try to study at the time where you feel most productive. Try not to study through the night however as this can lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
- Limit distractions – This may be a simple one, but it is effective. Distractions are easy, even if we only intend to reply to one text, this can often lead to minutes of scrolling on social media with time passing us by. Try to put distractions in out of reach places, and even use your phone setting or apps to limit your screen time while studying.
- Understand the concepts – Make sure that you understand the concepts of the task at hand before you start planning or working. It can be very difficult to motivate yourself to do work if you are unsure of what that work is exactly. Don’t hesitate to revisit your lecture notes, or seek clarification from a tutor if you are unsure.
- Break it down – The thought of sitting down to complete an entire assignment can be really overwhelming. Try to break your work down into sections of work, and then break this down further into what you actually need to do. This may then become more of a task list that you can work through one by one, which feels much more manageable.
- Take breaks – Having shorts breaks whilst you are working can be really helpful. Breaks gives us the chance to take stock of our needs, and stops us from becoming fatigued and prevents burn out. Overall, you are much more productive if you take short breaks often. Try using the Pomodoro Technique when you are working – set a timer for 25 minutes and work during this, then take a 5 minute break. Having time limits means we are often more focused and productive.
- Eat well and stay hydrated – As with the above point it is crucial to look after yourself when study for both your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Try to eat nutrient dense foods like fruit and vegetables, and drink plenty of water. Try to avoid excessive stimulants like soda and coffee and junk food, as although these may feel like they give us energy in the short term, they will often lead to crashes in energy after having them.
- Ask for help – If you are struggling academically after attempting some work, don’t unnecessary time feeling stuck, and becoming stressed or anxious about the work. Asking for help is an effective way to problem solve – whether this be getting in touch with your lecturer, your personal tutor, or attending a UniSkills session, asking for help means that we resolves issues and can get back to the task at hand, without impacting our wellbeing.
- Reward yourself – Rewards are an important part of hard work. It is healthy to recognise when you have worked hard and to celebrate your successes, even with small treats such as a coffee, some nice food, a night with friends. Rewards are also a great way to self-incentivise as you work.
Student Support at Edge Hill
We pride ourselves on providing excellent support for our students, so during your time at Edge Hill you will have access to a range of dedicated support services, from Learning Services and Student Services to Careers and Money Advice.Find out more about the Student Support available at Edge Hill