How do I look after my wellbeing this term?
Sometimes we may need active support from someone else, such as a counsellor, but there are also things we can do ourselves. This page offers some information on habits and skills that we can learn in order to improve our general wellbeing and address some of the challenges we may be facing, especially at the moment.
Self care during the pandemic
Although there are now far fewer restrictions impacting our daily lives, we have been living with the stress of the pandemic for some time, and for most people, life feels complex and difficult, at least some of the time. We may be processing complex emotions, and when multiple complexities pile up, it can be hard to keep a sense of perspective. We may feel overwhelmed, or out of control. And although we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat - our individual circumstances will have a significant impact on how we experience these challenging times, and will also affect what we are able to do to look after ourselves. You may find some of the resources more helpful than others, and they may not all work for you - don't give up! If you are really struggling to find ways to look after yourself, contact the welfare team for some more tailor-made suggestions and support.
Living and learning
With learning this term still including an online element for most subjects, some of the skills you learned during the periods of lockdown will still be useful. If you find that you sometimes struggle to find the motivation to engage with your work or manage your time, you are not alone. It is hard, and finding it hard doesn't mean you are somehow failing. Here are some hints and tips that may help you cope with these challenges - the handouts were designed during a period of much greater restrictions, but many of the insights and suggestions are just as helpful now. The Welfare Team will also be exploring some of these themes in welfare workshops during MIchaelmas term and beyond.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been adapted for our current context, in which we are teaching and learning and working online, often in isolation and away from our usual support networks. If you find yourself having to self isolate, it may be a helpful starting point for you as you think about your basic needs, and how you might realistically go about meeting those needs.
Reboot your brain
Prolonged stress eventually starts to affect our brain chemistry, but the good news is there are lots of things we can do to 'reboot our brains'.
This excellent article sets out six ways to undo some of the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic, and begin the process of healing and rebuilding our sense of wellbeing:
- practising kindness
- learning new things
- prioritising social connections
- eating well
- good sleep
The Welfare Team will be using these as the basis for some of our welfare events during the coming weeks.
Acknowledge and respond to your feelings
Whether we are feeling a lot of complex things, or we're feeling numb or 'flat' we may need to do a self check of what's going on, so we can respond in the most helpful way and start to feel better. This feelings self-check tool may help as a first step, and this handout provides some practical actions you can try for each of these difficult feelings - we are all different so we each need to learn what works best for us. If you find something particularly helpful, make a note of it.
Many people find mindfuless practices helpful in managing stress and anxiety, and increasing general feelings of positive wellbeing. The University provides a range of mindfulness courses and sessions for students, some of which run daily. Information about all of these can be found here. You may also like to try this 'Bodyscan' three minute audio meditation.
Even gentle exercise can help enormously with our overall wellbeing - and sitting still for long periods staring at a screen can cause problems with our joints and eyesight, as well as having a negative impact on our mental health. The resources below may help you find a way of getting your body moving that works for you.
- Carmen's Circuits: our very own Rowing Coach, Carmen, has produced a downloadable spreadsheet and some excellent videos demonstrating various different circuits to help people keep fit at home - these are available from Carmen directly, and you are welcome to drop her an email if you'd like the videos.
- YOGA with Adriene free online videos
- NHS fitness studio - instructor-led aerobics, strength and resistance, pilates and yoga
- The University Sport Service will also be updating their resources regularly
- BBC Sport also provides a catalogue of resources to support everyday exercising at home, without equipment.
You can still access the hugely popular Wake up with Joe.workouts led by Joe Wicks.
Many people find dancing to be a fun way of getting some exercise, so you may wish to try online dance workouts or simply dancing to a spotify playlist such as this one.
The Couch to 5k programme is a popular way to start exercising for the first time and to make good use of our permitted daily exercise.
Go for a walk
There are lots of lovely local walks in and around Cambridge. Walking is a great way to keep active, and get some fresh air and sunshine. You might like to try some of these ways of making a walk more interesting:
- Download one of these apps to your phone, and use it to help you identify local plants and wildlife.
- Take some pictures on your phone - get creative using different camera angles, and even reflections in puddles to see things in a new way.
- If you take a picture you're really pleased with, why not make it into an online jigsaw and send it to your friends?
- Walk with a friend - walking together can be a good way to have a chat, or just enjoy companionable silence.
- If you find it motivating to set yourself a target, you can use a pedmoter or sports watch to count your steps or your distance, or a running app to track your route - some people have even managed to make their walks or runs wheel-shaped!
E-books on wellbeing
The University Library has put together a collection of e-books on wellbeing, including some titles about specific mental health issues. When you click on the link you will need to use your raven login details and click through a couple of permission pages to get through to the list the first time you access it.
Things to do in isolation
Spending time in isolation can be hard, especially if you are alone in your household. Remember, many of the fitness activities above can be done even in a small room if you are stuck inside, and if you just need to hunker down and care for yourself, some of these suggestions may help:
- This amazing list of things to do if you have to spend time in self-isolation has been compiled by students, for students.
- Netflix Party enables groups to watch movies together no matter where they are in the world.
- The JCR welfare officers have provide a crowdsourced list of recommended TV series, movies, books and podcasts.
Colouring and drawing can help with relaxation and is a recognised tool in mindfulness, and sharing your creations might just cheer someone else up, too.
- Download and print these pictures of Catz and the surrounding area and colour them in. If you don't have access to a printer, contact Mary or Ally and we can send you paper copies.
- Doodle or create patterns as a way of focusing and calming your mind - many people enjoy zentangle.
Virtual activities and excursions
- Share photos with your friends by making online jigsaws
- Play board games virtually using Board Game Arena.
- Use a video chat to play traditional face to face games such as Charades
- Use a chat to play 'emoji charades' (using emojis to represent TV shows, films, musicals, and so on) for friends to guess
- Make a virtual visit to a museum or gallery (such as those listed here travelandleisure.com and here MCN), or the Paris Museums online picture gallery, or, closer to home, a virtual tour of Kettle's Yard, or these guided virtual tours of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
- You can also Watch the Beluga Whales at Georgia Aquarium or Check out the panda cam at Edinburgh zoo - many people find these super-relaxing.
There are lots of really great organisations offering resources for self-care, including the following:
- CALM - a wealth of free resources for calming the body and mind
- MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION - podcasts on mindfulness, stress and relaxation
- NHS-recommended apps to help with mental health and wellbeing
You can find links to more organisations and resources on this page (along with links to the University Counselling service and other sources of interactive support in the University and beyond) and remember, you are always welcome to contact the Welfare Team for one to one support and help if you need it.