Looking after your mental health
Taking time to focus on yourself and wellbeing can have a really positive affect on your life. It not only reduces stress and anxiety but also increases self-esteem, has a positive impact on our mood and develops resilience which helps to improve our quality of life.
Have a look at the tips below to help improve your wellbeing
For more information download the below documents which are taken from the mentalhealth.org website.
Mindfulness is another effective way of improving our wellbeing and paying attention to the present moment. Techniques such as meditation, breathing and yoga help us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that we are able to manage them. It is a form of therapy that is widely recognised and recommended by the department of health as it is an easy, effective and doable intervention for stressful lives.
Benefits of practising mindfulness
People who regularly implement mindfulness strategies may find lasting physical and psychological benefits such as:
- Increased experience of calm and relaxation
- Higher levels of energy and enthusiasm for living
- Increased self-confidence and self-acceptance
- Less danger of experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain or low immune efficiency
- More self-compassion and compassion for others and our planet
Mindfulness training for students is enjoyable and creative as well as productive - helping you to stay calm, focused and better manage the pressures of student life.
Research suggests mindfulness training for students gives you tools to help you remain calm, sustain your attention, and be able to focus. It does this by helping you to pay attention to the present moment through simple breathing and meditation practices which increase awareness of thoughts and feelings so as to reduce stress and anxiety and boost levels of attention and concentration.
How to be calm in a busy world
Throughout the next few months you may experience times of stress and anxiety in the run up to exams. This is an extremely important time in your life and will impact on your future, however, it is also just as important to look after yourself and wellbeing so that you are more fully prepared to face your exams in a more positive way.
Jeremy Thomas is a well-known Author, producer and public speaker who reaches out to schools in an attempt to make students realise good mental health is as important as physical health. Jeremy believes prevention is better than cure and has therefore put together a range of steps we should practice to ensure we stay calm in a busy world (http://jeremythomastalks.co.uk/).
Our brains and body need time to reboot and restore themselves so give them a break and get some good sleep
- Avoid drinking caffeine at night
- Switch off phones and computer at least an hour before bed and keep them away from you
- Have a routine – go to bed at a reasonable time and stick to it each night
Take 10 minutes each day to focus on yourself and forget about everything else. This could be in the morning, before you go to bed or even both. Try one of the following strategies each day for a week and then move onto a different strategy the following week. See how you feel by the end of the month. If you keep this up for just 10 minutes a day it will make a difference to how you feel and the way in which you face your exams.
Have a go at some of the techniques below but there also many techniques on YouTube, in books and found on apps.
All exercises are taken from ‘The little book of mindfulness’ by Patrizia Collard
5 senses drill – Stress buster
1. Pause what you are doing for a moment and take one or two deep breaths to help bring you into the present moment.
2. Look around you, and silently name three things that you see in your immediate vicinity
3. Now opening to the sounds around you, silently note and name three things that you can hear right now
4. Bringing your attention to your body, silently name three sensations that you can feel in this moment (maybe warmth, tingling, contraction, coolness…...)
5. Bringing your attention to smell and taste, what do you notice in your immediate awareness when you bring your attention to these senses- lightly name what you experience.
6. Take one or two breaths to finish this mindfulness exercise.
Repeat this exercise every now and then to deliberately bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment and to build your resilience to deal with exam anxiety and general pressures around this time of the academic year by cultivating mindfulness in this way.
Awakening your breath – 5 Minutes
This important exercise helps us to breathe more fully, and strengthens and awakens us to face the day with confidence and calmness.
- Stand with the spine lengthened upwards and the legs and feet hip width apart.
- Position the arms by your sides, palms to the front, so the thumbs face outwards
- Inhale and sweep/lift your arms slowly up and overhead until the hands meet above the head, palms touching
- Exhale slowly as you lower the arms back down to your sides, moving slowly with your breathing.
- See if you can deepen and lengthen your breathing and try to feel the pause after each breath.
- Repeat 5-8 times
Roll down for serenity – 5 Minutes (Avoid if back problems)
In the process of ‘letting go’, the roll down stretches the muscles and helps release tension. It increases the mobility of the spine, stretches the back muscles, works the abdominals and stretches the hamstrings.
- Stand in mountain pose, with your arms by your side
- Lengthen your spine and, while breathing deeply, bring the chin to the chest and roll down as if rolling over a big ball.
- Your hands slowly glide down your thighs and help you control the movement. Go as far as you are comfortable; bend your knees, Draw in the abdominals a little.
- Hold for several deep breaths then slowly return.
- Exhale to squeeze the sitting bones together, draw the abdominals to the spine, then breath in and out softly and deeply, straightening your spine as your roll up again, vertebra by vertebra, letting your head dangle, arms touching the legs to support the movement. Bring your head up last, rolling the shoulders back and down. Stand tall and be in control
Do the Cat stretch six times – 5 Minutes (Avoid if back or neck problems)
We hold the tension of unresolved feelings in our bodies. The cat stretch can help to release mental and muscular tension in the back, spine, shoulders and neck, retuning us to a state of calm awareness.
- Get on your hands and knees on a yoga mat, forming a box position with the wrists directly under your shoulders, and knees under the hips.
- Lengthen the spine from the top of the head to the tailbone, Inhale, and feel your belly moving away from the spine, then exhale, drawing the belly/navel closer to the spine with each exhalation.
- Exhale, drawing your navel towards the spine, tucking the tailbone under and moving the chin to chest, rounding the spine into a C-Shape, as if you are dropping over a beach ball. Breathe in and out.
- Inhale and reverse the movement. Slowly release your belly towards the floor and elongate your spine into the neutral position. Still inhaling, lift the chest and breast bone forwards and up, and look up. Keep the arms strong and he shoulder blades back and down.
- Repeat 6 times
The gentle chest opener – 5-15 Minutes
- Place a rolled up bath towel on a blanket or yoga mat
- Sit on the end of the blanket or mat and then, supporting yourself with your arms, lower your spine over the entire towel, from the tailbone to the top of the head
- Your arms are by your side, or extended in a T-Shape. Your legs are bent or stretched; support the back of your legs with a rolled up blanket if you need to.
- Relax the legs so they fall open, if your head needs support use a pillow.
- You are now opening your chest, deepening your breathing.
- Stay here for 5-15 minutes
- To finish, roll over onto your side and remove the towel to the side.
- Finally roll over onto your back again and feel any sensations in your back and chest. It is likely you will feel a lot more spacious
Do the knee hug – 5 Minutes
A great wat to release anxiety and the feeling of containment offers a sense of focus.
- Begin in a relaxed, comfortable position, lying on your back on a yoga mat or blanket. If you need to support your neck use a pillow or rolled up blanket.
- Bend your legs, one after the other, into the chest and gently hold them, but avoid pulling them, into the chest.
- Keep your spine long as you press each vertebra into the floor, and avoid hunching the shoulders up.
- Pay attention to your breathing and hold for as long as you feel comfortable.
- When you are ready, gently let go of your knees and relax your body into the floor.
Relaxation - You tube videos
There are lots of guided mindfulness clips on you tube which will help with relaxation. Type into you tube ‘10 minutes guided mindfulness meditation’ , ‘mindfulness meditation’ or ‘relaxation mindfulness’ and lots of video clips will come up of different time frames which you can use to help relax your mind and move away from exam pressure and stress.
These could be useful before going to sleep or as you wake up to relieve anxiety and stress in the exam period.
Gratitude practice: Write it down
Gratitude and appreciation help us turn towards joy and gladness, which create chemicals of well-being and peace in our whole body.
Studies show that the regular practice of gratitude and appreciation, including writing down the experiences you feel grateful for, can lead to better health, less stress and a more optimistic outlook on life.
- Find a peaceful spot where you can sit down and write in a notebook.
- Give yourself a few minutes and note down all the things you are grateful for (such as friendships, things about yourself, your body, home, pleasurable memories, and so on)
- Read through your list and internally give words of thanks to each point you noted. For example ‘Thanks for my last holiday, thanks for my family…..’ when you give thanks, really tune into all five senses he best you can.
- Bring awareness to this moment. What are you grateful for right here and now? How does this feel?
- Gently breathe and sit with gratitude a little longer.
You could use a little book to write 3 things that went well, you are grateful for or positive things that happened in that day and write these down each evening to reflect on the positives in order to create calmness.
The big ‘I’
Self-compassion can be the yin to the yang of mindfulness. We need to be kind and accepting of ourselves when we don’t manage to be mindful, while we need mindfulness to observe our own self-critical behaviour and thoughts.
- The ‘I’ below represents you as a whole, all the actions you’ve done, you talents and so on.
- Over 1 week, write down, within the big ‘I’ little things that you like about yourself in one colour. For example ‘I am good at cooking, I like socialising with friends, I am a good listener…..’
- You may want to write in another colour things you feel haven’t gone well that week that need improving for example ‘ Increase patience’, ‘improve organisation’ or ‘take time for myself’
- It is good to see in large scale all the good things about yourself. Nobody will be perfect this is our human condition.
Colouring is an excellent way to de stress and take your mind of any worries. Get a colouring book or download some colouring worksheets from the internet and take 10 minutes to unwind and focus the mind on something else. There are lots of resources on mindfulness colouring on the internet or in supermarket and book shops.