Support and advice during the pandemic


Tips and advice from Student Advisory & Wellbeing about managing during the global pandemic

The current global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an extremely challenging time for everyone within our community and is an unprecedented situation for us all.  It is therefore inevitable that everyone is struggling with their responses and how to manage to new emotions and anxieties that we are feeling. 

Student Advisory & Wellbeing would like to share some support and advice that we hope you will find useful.  We'll add new advice as the situation progresses and we learn of new challenges, changes to our lives and differences to our own perception of 'normal'. 

If you have suggestions for advice that would be helpful for you please email us.  

Do also follow our updates on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Stay safe, stay well, stay home. 

 

The student wellbeing 101 - summer of 2020
Kate, Emma & Susan, Wellbeing Advisers (5 July 2020)

There is no doubt we are living in unprecedented times.  Coronavirus has brought loss into all our lives. Even if we have been fortunate enough not to lose someone close to us, we are all dealing with loss of some kind.  You may have missed out on events that you expected to remember forever - a graduation ceremony, holidays, work experience and more.  The disappointment and uncertainty created by this loss is very real, and it is okay to not be okay with it.  It's also okay to talk about it and recognise that you are not alone.

You will probably already have started to take in how much things have changed, particularly with your plans for the summer.  You may now have three months completely free and are not sure what to do next and hopefully that’s where we can help!  The Student Wellbeing team have come up with a 101 of things to do during summer 2020.  We hope this will help you build new memories (imagine telling generations to come about the year the world shut down!), give you a sense of purpose and most of all help you to find the fun in these strange times.  Feel free to share this list with friends and family and via social media, then, when you return in September we would love to hear how many you managed to do – send us an email, post some photos on social media #rhwellbeing #rhsummer2020.

Summer 2020 - Give it try, have some fun and make some memories of a unique summer - which we will all remember forever.

Don’t forget to let us know how you get on and we look forward to seeing you next academic year where you can create a whole new set of memories at Royal Holloway.

Written by Kate Corti, Emma Watson & Susan Eastburn, Wellbeing Advisers (Student Advisory & Wellbeing) 

 

Job hunting advice for Graduates from the class of 2008
Szu Ping Chan (Business Reporter, BBC News website)

Shared content from BBC News

Graduates face even tougher competition for jobs this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 400,000 students finishing their degrees in 2020 have seen opportunities evaporate overnight.

Twelve years ago, graduates faced similar anxiety when the global financial crisis threw much of the world into recession. Banks collapsed, businesses went under, and millions of people lost their jobs.

But what can the Class of 2008 teach the Class of 2020? We asked three graduates from 2008 what advice they would give to their younger counterparts.

Lindsay Cash, 35: 'Try new things and use it to your advantage'

I think I'm one of the lucky ones from 2008.I studied law at Warwick University. I was finishing my legal practice course (LPC) when law firms started contacting people to defer their training contracts. My friends and I were all in the same boat. So when the phone rang, I already knew what they'd say. My training contract was deferred for two years, but luckily the firm offered me a job as a paralegal.The salary was about £6,000-a-year lower, but I was working in insolvency and litigation at the time so I was always busy. By the time I qualified in 2012, they were still making people redundant. There weren't any jobs in the area I wanted to go into, so I left my law firm and decided to see the world. I ended up in Australia, where I've been working ever since, first in financial services and now in IT as a commercial manager.

Lindsay Cash in 2008Image copyrightLINDSAY CASH
Image captionLindsay Cash in 2008. She took a job as a paralegal when her training contract was deferred for two years

People have challenged me about my longevity in a job. I've been asked: am I a flight risk? And I just say that my CV is a product of the financial crisis.

I took roles that helped me to build skills that I would use in the future. I never sat waiting to be given something. And when you explain that, it resonates with people, especially the older generation.

There's a great speech by Steve Jobs (the co-founder of Apple) who said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward."

When I look back I realise that things don't always work out. But you have to regroup and say: what do I need to do to move forward?

Scott Wilson-Laing, 33: 'Stay positive, all work experience matters'

I was 11 years old when I knew I wanted to become a pilot. I even thought about applying to the Royal Air Force straight after finishing A-levels. But my careers adviser told me a university degree would look better on the application form. I'd get paid more and be promoted more quickly. So I went to the University of Wales to study ancient history and archaeology.

By the time I graduated in 2008, the opportunities were already drying up. The RAF recruitment office told me they weren't recruiting for certain roles like pilots. I couldn't even wait a year to apply again because I'd be too old. I was gutted.

There weren't any graduate jobs left where I'm from in Sunderland. So I used a scattergun approach to apply for anything going. In the end I spent a year working at a call centre. After that, I worked at a lighthouse for six months and then a steel factory. For six years I worked my way up from the production line to sales and operations, before moving to an IT company.

By then I'd spent a decade working for other people. I have a daughter who's 10 years old now. Little things like having to ask for a day's holiday just to see her school play made me rethink my career. So I used my experience to set up WL Distillery in County Durham last year. We crowdfunded our first batch of premium gin. And then the pandemic hit. The Chinese factory making some of our equipment was mothballed so we couldn't make gin. But we saw there was a massive hand sanitiser shortage, so we decided to use our ingredients to make small batches for the NHS, local schools and businesses.

My advice to recent graduates is to stay as positive as you can and stop fixating on things that don't work out. I thought my life was mapped out: go to university, get a job, stay for life, and get a nice retirement package at the end with a watch. And that's not the world we live in anymore.

So be open to opportunities that you may not have planned for. Working in a call centre was where I learned the right way to treat and talk to staff. It's amazing the skills you pick up in jobs that you don't even realise.

Harriet Nicholson, 33: 'Don't dismiss non-graduate jobs'

I'm ashamed to say it now, but when I graduated in 2008 I thought people would throw opportunities at me. I knew there was a financial crisis going on, but I believed the market almost owed me a job. I had a history degree from Oxford University and was always a high achiever. I also lacked humility in a very big way.

At the time I was gunning for graduate schemes at consumer goods giants like Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser. When I didn't get anywhere, I started applying to advertising agencies, and big retailers like Tesco. I think I filled in about 110 applications. I got about five interviews.

Harriet NicholsonImage copyrightHARRIET NICHOLSON
Image captionHarriet Nicholson in 2008. She worked as a receptionist when she couldn't get on any graduate schemes

After four months of trying and no job to show for it, I ended up moving back home to Southampton where I took a job as a medical receptionist.

I felt embarrassed and had lost confidence. That job made me realise I wasn't as good as I thought I was. So many people I worked with could do my job better than me.

 

 

After that I got an internship at Oxfam. This was instrumental because I made a lot of contacts and eventually did a masters degree in management. That got me on the career path I'm on now, which led to my current job at a digital consultancy. It's also where I met my husband!

 

 

 

 

Be kind and compassionate to yourself
Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (18 May 2020)

We are often our harshest critic and have our own critical and strict inner voice that speaks to us when we have perhaps not achieved the grade or goal we set ourselves or made a mistake.

Sometimes we are self-critical because of past experiences or feeling like it helps to motivate you.

Take a moment to think about how your critical voice sounds to you?  What are they saying? What language do they use and what tone does it take?

  • Is this voice helpful and encouraging or judgemental, harsh and strict?
  • How does this voice impact on your mood, feelings and outlook?
  • Is this how you would speak to a friend?

We must remember as humans we are continually learning; learning from experiences, mistakes and success etc.  Therefore, it is important that we begin to be more kind and compassionate to ourselves to help us continue our journey and growth.  Encouraging ourselves to feel good about exploring, taking chances, stepping out of our comfort zones and moving forward.

Think for a moment how life would be if we were all more compassionate to ourselves and how that would impact on those around us?

Some tips on becoming more self-caring and compassionate

  1. Learn to accept and acknowledge that critical voice, label the comments ‘there goes those critical comments again’ and let them go.  Don’t engage with the feeling.
  2. Give your compassionate voice more ‘airtime’, allow it to step in and speak.
  3. Develop gentle, soothing and encouraging language.
  4. Become less judgemental of yourself.  Allow yourself to feel angry, upset or sad.  Let your compassionate voice tell you that ‘it is OK to feel like that, you are only human and it’s understandable’
  5. Be gentle with yourself when you feel upset or scared.
  6. Think of the values that you would apply to friends and the people that you care about.  How would you apply these to yourself?
  7. Treat yourself as you would a friend.  What would you say to your friend if they made a mistake or didn’t get top results?
  8. Loosen some of your strict rules you have for yourself.  Give yourself permission to be human, recognise your efforts.
  9. Offer yourself praise, become your own coach or mentor.
  10. Find ways to do your best within any given situation that you find yourself in,  are there any positives e.g. are you getting to do anything which you wouldn’t normally be able to do?
  11. Keep a gratitude diary and think of 3 positive things that have happened each day.  This helps us cultivate appreciation for the simple and small things in life.
  12. Allow yourself to do something nurturing for you each day, something that you enjoy and perhaps gain a sense of achievement from.  Create that time and space for you.
  13. Reach out and connect with friends and others.
  14. An act of kindness to someone. Perhaps volunteer in some way? Or just send some kind words to a friend or someone you care about?
  15. Look after your body.  Exercise (an activity that you enjoy) and eat healthy as much as you can.  Studies have shown the positive impact of healthy eating and exercise on our moods, especially those suffering with depression.
  16. Take time to rest and relax, giving your mind and body chance to re-charge and replenish energy levels.

Keep a journal and notice how you feel when you become more compassionate to yourself. What shifts do you recognise and how does it impact on your responses to situations and outcomes, friendships and relationships? 

What voice would you now prefer to listen too?

Remember to practice your compassion voice every day as it’s like developing a muscle group in your body, it will only get stronger the more you use it!

The kinder you become to yourself, the more you will create a ripple effect around you.

Written by Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May)
Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing (17 May 2020)

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from Monday 18 to Sunday 24 May and the theme is kindness.

The theme has been chosen because of it's singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strenghtens relatonships, develops community and deepens solidarity.  It is a conerstone of our individual and collective mental health.  Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something we all need to experience to and pracrise to be fully alive.

We encourage you all to reflect on this and get involved with our online activities and resources this week.

Written by Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing

 

Having a healthy relationship with alcohol during COVID-19
Lee Fellows, Head of Student Wellbeing (14 May 2020)

During the current Covid-19 crisis many of us have had to learn new ways to cope and how to live with what is a new normal. Although pubs, bars and clubs are closed supermarkets have reported an increase in alcohol sales which means in times of social distancing an increase in drinking at home.

If you have increased your alcohol intake then don’t be too hard on yourself and also it may not be a reason for major concern. It is okay to have a beer or a glass of wine after a hard day working or studying. However if you have started to drink every day, spend large amounts on alcohol or feel that alcohol is helping you to cope then it might be time to think about getting some support or help.

Here are some tips and things to think about. It is important to remember that we are all very different and some things may be more relevant to you than others. These are things you can think about and how they apply to you.

Alcohol: what to do, and what not to do, during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Remember that excessive alcohol can undermine immune system, try to lower what you drink in order to stay fit and healthy
  • If you do not drink, do not let any supposed health reason or claim persuade you to start. Don’t believe internet theories that alcohol cures COVID-19 or causes immunity
  • If you drink, keep your drinking to a minimum and avoid getting intoxicated.
  • Do not use alcohol as a way of dealing with your emotions and stress. Isolation and drinking may also increase the risk of dark or intrusive thoughts.
  • Reach out for help online if you think your drinking or the drinking of someone close to you is out of control.
  • If you are on medication do not mix medication with it if this is the advice given from your GP or care team.
  • Do not consume alcohol if you take any medication acting on the central nervous system (e.g. pain killers, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants, etc), as alcohol might interfere with your liver function and cause liver failure or other serious problems.
  •  Avoid stockpiling alcohol at home, as this will potentially increase your alcohol consumption and the consumption of others in your household.
  • If you are a parent, make sure that children and young people do not have access to alcohol and do not let them see you consume alcohol excessively. Demonstrating healthy relationships with alcohol is a positive example for children.

Getting further support

 

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if you are struggling with alcohol and your relationship with it or if you are becoming dependent there is plenty of support available. Likewise, if you are in recovery and currently struggling please reach out to your sponsor or support. If you don’t have any available then reach out to others for support.

 

Support at Royal Holloway

  • Student Advisory and Wellbeing Alcohol Support pages for full information
  • To speak to a Wellbeing Adviser about alcohol or any worries and concerns email the team.
  • Our Student Counselling team are also able to provide confidential support and therapy to help you understand or come to terms with any issues you are experiencing with alcohol. To get in touch and arrange an appointment please email them. 
  • You can also speak to the Students' Union for advice and support from the Advice Centre, email them.  Information on services provided by them can be found here

External Support

Remember, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed but do reach out for support and advice.

Written by Lee Fellows, Head of Student Wellbeing (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Financial support for IT equipment (COVID-19)
Tina Barnard, Student Financial Advice Manager & Charlene Dawkins, Student Financial Adviser (5 May 2020) 

We understand some students may not have adequate access to either the IT equipment or internet connections  that will support them in completing their assessments this term.  We have revised our financial wellbeing support offering to allow students to request reimbursement of up to £500 for the recent purchase of equipment improving their digital access. 

The conditions of this grant are that

(i) Only necessary computer equipment to assist with the completion of assessments will be considered;

(ii)  all applications must be submitted by Friday 12th June 2020 

(iii) only equipment that you can provide recent proof of purchase for will be refunded. 

You will need  to submit proof of purchase, such as emails confirming purchase, receipts or bank statements for contactless payments along with a short application form. 

Please contact the Financial Wellbeing team to discuss the conditions and eligibility.  Guidance on the process and the application form are available on the student intranet.

Written by Tina Barnard, Student Financial Advice Manager & Charlene Dawkins, Student Financial Adviser (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Living locally during the lockdown
Amanda Ellis, Community Support Co-ordinator (4 May 2020)

If you have been renting off-campus this year, you may be coming towards the end of your lease and thinking about preparing to leave or returning to collect your belongings if you have moved away during lockdown. 

Living in the community during lockdown 

If you have stayed in your local rented accommodation during the lockdown, you will have noticed how quiet the streets are. Many of your neighbours may be at home during the day and night, some may be isolating or feeling unwell and others may be working from home or home-schooling children. With this in mind, we would like to remind you to follow the principles of the ‘Be a good neighbour guide’. We ask you to show consideration to those living around you. Try to avoid making too much noise especially at night and keep on top of your refuse and recycling. Also, as tempting as it may be to meet up with friends, make sure that you stick to the guidelines on social distancing and keep in touch with friends and family online.

You may want to look at ways of helping out in the local community. Information on this can be found on the student intranet.

 

Alternatively, you may be self-isolating yourself and struggling to leave home to buy food, collect prescriptions etc. In this case you can contact the Egham and Englefield Green Mutual Aid Group who are a group of volunteers who can help you with this. Information on contacting them is available here. You can also order deliveries from your Union Shop, details on how to do this can be found here.

 

 

Returning to your property 

If you have moved away for the lockdown, you will presumably return to your rented accommodation when restrictions on travel and social distancing lift. When you get here, you may be tempted to have parties to celebrate being back with your friends. We don’t know what additional social restrictions will be in place at that time, but again we would ask you to follow the principles set out in the ‘Be a good neighbour guide’ and avoid making noise that could disturb others, particularly at night. There should be no excessive noise at any time and no disruptive noise audible outside your property at night.

Leaving your property

At the end of your tenancy, it is always a huge task to clear out your belongings and tidy your property for the end of tenancy inspection. This could be even more difficult by months of lockdown. Check https://www.runnymede.gov.uk/collections for the latest information from the Council on the dates and any changes to their rubbish collections so that you can use the different collections to remove as much of your waste as possible. Remember that the Council will not empty bins that are overflowing or remove any bags of rubbish that are left beside or on top of your bin.

 

If you have unwanted items that you don’t want to take home, we would normally recommend that you consider donating them to one of the charity shops in Egham, the British Heart Foundation or using one of the websites like Freecycle or Gumtree, but you will need to check if these options are available when you move out. Similarly, you should check https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/community-recycling-centres/lyne to see if Lyne Lane tip (TW20 0AR) is open to take any bulky, unwanted items you may have. If you have any unopened and in date food items, you can donate them to Runnymede Foodbank by taking them to the collection point at Waitrose, Egham.

 

Written by Amanda Ellis, Community Support Co-ordinator (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

 

Meaningful May
Action for Happiness (1 May 2020)

Shared from Action for Happiness

Action for Happiness is a great organisation that helps people take action for a happier and kinder world.  We hope that one positive change that will emerge from the current pandemic is a realisation we should all be a little bit kinder to ourselves and to others.  There have been some amazing demonstrations of kindness during the period of lockdown - from the incredible support of the fundraising achievements of Captain Tom Moore, to the fostering of community spirit through the weekly #ClapForTheCarers, with the development of PPE from all areas of society and of the more simplistic desire we have all felt to keep in touch or re-connect with our family and friends.

Each month Action for Happiness share a calendar of ideas to help us through the month.  Their Meaningful May calendar has daily actions for May 2020 to help us all respond to this global crisis with a sense of purpose and meaning.  Download your copy here and join the mission to be kinder and happier.

Today's action is to take a minute to remember what really matters to you and why - the perfect feel-good action ahead of the weekend.  Enjoy!

Shared from Action for Happiness by Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing.

 

Online self-help reading lists
Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing (1 May 2020)

 “One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”     Linda Poindexter

If you're anything like me you may have found that one of the positives of the current pandemic has been having the time to start making your way through a large pile of books at home that have been waiting to be read.  Whether it's finally reading Sally Rooney's 'Normal People' just before the TV adaptation, reading a critical text for your studies or indulging in a book about a new or planned hobby for many of us reading has been an escape from the endless news and worrying headlines.  

Our good friends in the library are (of course) the experts on the benefits of reading a good book and how the solutions to questions and concerns can be answered by the contents of a book. 

With this in mind Greg Leurs (Digital & Online Teaching Information Consultant) contacted Kate Roberts (SU Vice President, Education) and I with an idea to collaborate on compiling an online self-help reading list. 

We provided suggestions for books we know have benefitted students and enabled mental or physical behavioural change and these have been purchased or highlighted for your use.  The digital books, which cover a variety of areas, are now available for you and are accessible through the Library Services Reading Lists (Digital Self-Help Books).

Why not log in, puruse the areas of support covered, and see how these books could help you? 

Thanks to Greg for his idea and work on this and to Kate for her collaboration on the project.

Written by Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing

 

It's (not) just a virus 
Dr Gero Baiarda, Lead GP, GP Surgery (30 April 2020)

’It’s just a virus.’ How many thousands of times must I have said that in my career of nearly 20 years as a GP and 25 years as an NHS Doctor? It is usually a very reassuring statement, suggestive of you needing nothing more than a few days of regular paracetamol and a lot of hot drinks watching Netflix on the sofa.

Covid-19 has changed all that, and I won’t be using those words again in a hurry.

But why is this virus so different?  

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the main symptoms of Covid-19 we should be looking out for are:

●         A persistent dry cough

●         Fever > 37.8 degrees

●         Tiredness/lethargy

●         Shortness of breath

However, what has made containment of this pandemic such a challenge is the lack of uniformity of symptoms, and the fact that those already infected will often not display any symptoms for a week or more whilst actively shedding virus everywhere they visit and on everyone they contact.

This is what has made the current UK lockdown essential.

Complicating matters further is the likelihood that as many as a third of those infected never manifest any symptoms at all, and go about their lives as before merrily shedding virus everywhere they go - the bus, the lecture hall, the park, the pub (you get the idea). More than 43,000 people in China had tested positive by the end of February this year without showing any symptoms at all. That is why the majority of NHS workers find it so concerning that we have been so late to the party when it comes to testing.

I recently completed 14 days of isolation because my eldest son came back from school a few weeks back like a poster boy of each of the 4 WHO symptoms mentioned above. I had a tickly throat and some muscle aches and pains, but nothing more. Have I had the virus? Am I now immune? I honestly don’t know, and won’t know until all frontline NHS staff are tested. 

The only way to even start to control this pandemic in the UK is to do as they did in China and test everybody. And yet, frontline NHS staff still cannot access testing, let alone patients.

We just don’t know how badly we will be affected if we contract this virus, and nobody should be complacent. Although there is a considerably higher chance of falling under the wheels of this virus if you are elderly or have a pre-existing condition such as asthma, diabetes or hypertension, our hospitals are steadily filling up with the young and previously fit, and of those, some are inevitably ending up in ITU on ventilation. Youth and vigour is not a reliable defence.

Coronavirus wears many faces. Other symptoms that my colleagues and I have come across in Covid-19 patients have included

●     Myalgia (muscle aches and pains)

●     Tickly or sore throat

●     Nasal congestion

●     Runny nose

●     Sore eyes

●     Diarrhoea +/- abdominal pains

●     Sudden onset loss of sense of smell and/or taste, often within 24 hours

These symptoms are often identical to what might reasonably be expected from the common cold or a dose of the flu, and therein lies the diagnostic challenge.

A further spanner in the works is that there is no reliable time frame for onset of symptoms. Although currently, they are thought to appear anywhere between 2 and ten days, there have been cases of symptoms occurring in China after 29 days.

The other statistics that are emerging worldwide are;

>80% of those infected recover will make a full recovery without needing any special treatment.

Approx. 16% will become seriously ill with acute respiratory distress and will require high level intervention possibly including admission to ITU and intervention. In a country of 70 million people, that is potentially an enormous strain on our already stretched NHS resources.

Between 1 and 3.8% of those who contract the virus will die from it, and even there we have no consistency, with these rates varying wildly depending on where you live. Compare and contrast Germany and Italy, for example. Germany has a death rate of much less <1%, and heart-breakingly, it is not far off 10% in Italy,the land of my ancestors. It is the SAME virus, and there are a mere couple of hundred miles between their borders.

There is so much we still just don’t know. The best we can do is try to avoid catching it in the first place, give our NHS the breathing space it needs so that it can deal with this pandemic as a steady trickle rather than gush, and allow time for an effective vaccine to be developed.

That is the reason we are isolating.

Thanks, and stay safe.

Written by Dr Gero Baiarda, Lead GP, GP Surgery (Clarence Medical Centre)

 

Sleep in lockdown
Kate Corti, Wellbeing Adviser (28 April 2020)

Life in lockdown is hard, being confined to our homes present challenges that we have never experienced before and these challenges can have sometimes have an effect on our sleep.

Good sleep is very important as it helps to maintain a positive mood, improve your memory, reduces stress, helps your body to fight back and helps with our energy to sustain a locked down life!

Manage stress

This is a time of worry, but try not to take your worries to bed.  This may be easier said than done, however try to set some time aside every day (just 20-30 minutes or so) to think about the things in your life that you find worrying.  Try writing them down and then make notes of possible responses or solutions.

Create a sleep routine 

One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, including weekends. This will help adjust your body clock and aid falling asleep at night. Carve out at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed in which you do something relaxing.  Dim the lights in the house slightly an hour or so before bed. Create a sleep positive bedroom environment by reading before bed rather than texting to unwind.  Disconnect from close range electronic devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets. In order to calm your mind to do a breathig exercise or relaxation exercise. Even if you have a bad night's sleep it is important to continue with your daytime activities.  Don't avoid activities because you feel tired, this can reinforce insomnia. 

No Naps

It is best to avoid taking naps during the day, so you will be tired at bedtime. If you cannot make it through the day ensure it is less than an hour and before 3pm.  Dark, quiet and cool environments generally make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.  For some people a hot bath one or two hours before bed can help to raise your body temperature causing you to feel sleepy as it drops again.  Move all clocks so you can't clock watch which reinforces negative thoughts.

Exercise

Move more, sleep better!  Being active is well known to help your sleep, perhaps introducing some vigorous online exercise into your routine (YouTube have many!), avoiding exercise four hours before bedtime.  A healthy balanced diet will help, remembering timing is important - don't go to bed hungry or straight after a heavy meal. Avoid caffeine later at night which acts as a stimulant and will disrupt your ability to fall asleep. The UK government has said people can go out to exervise - for example on a run, walk or cycle - just once a day so make the most of this - a morning walk or run is a great way to start the day feeling refreshed.

Written by Kate Corti, Wellbeing Adviser (Student Advisory & Wellbeing) 

 

Achieving balance
Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (28 April 2020)

These are difficult times that we are all living through, plus exams are now upon us and all of this can cause us emotional distress, low-mood and anxiety. 

Therefore, it is important that we try and create our own peaceful place and pace of life and let go of the things we are unable to control.   Now more than ever it is important to create a balance in your days to achieve wellbeing.  We need to be taking care of our mind, body and spirit in order to achieve restful sleep, relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Routine and Plan

  • Build a self-care routine each morning to start your day positively e.g. shower, breakfast etc
  • Schedule your work for the week and be realistic, for example don't make a plan that starts at 9am in the morning if it is unlikely that you will be awake and ready at that time.  This will just lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety that you haven't completed as much work as you can.
  • Structure your day to include regular short breaks - studies show that regular breaks allow the brain to organise new information better.
  • Once your plan has been made for the week, just focus on each day as it comes.  Be in the present.

Exercise

  • If you can, schedule a walk or exercise outdoors each day.  If you are unable to do exercise outside find a workout routine or a yoga session.  It doesn't have to be lengthy - just 15-20 minutes a day.  Think about all the walking you would be naturally doing whilst at university, commuting etc. 

Self-Care and Nurture Your Mind

  • Plan rewards and down time at the end of your day, something you can look forward to and allows you the time to completely switch off from work and unwind your mind and body ready to relax and achieve restful and good quality sleep.This could be watching a film or series, game, reading, music, art, baking etc.  Something for you to nurture you.
  • Perhaps listen to a muscle relaxation or guided visualisation whilst in bed ready for sleep.  This will help release worries of the day and relaxes the body.
  • Although you have lots of revision to fit in, your brain and body will perform much better if it is rested and the brain has had a chance to process, repeat and store the information you have learnt and this is achieved through breaks, relaxation and sleep. Therefore it is important to achive balance each day.

The more you build habits of relaxation and calm into your life, you are training your brain and body to respond differently and be more resilient in times of stress and your base levels of anxiety will begin to reduce.

Written by Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Praying in a time of crisis and isolation
Father John Dickson, Catholic Chaplain (24 April 2020)

It’s often remarked that many people only turn to God in a crisis and some people feel that this is a childish reaction, and one that grown up human beings should despise. If you are familiar with  the book ‘ The God Delusion’, you can find this idea developed into the idea that people who pray to God are not only acting childishly but are actually subject to a ‘delusion’ that is not just mistaken but dangerously out of touch with reality.

What many believers would answer is that their personal and communitarian experience of the world, and particularly at a critical time such as we are living through, but also down through the ages is that humanity can sometimes deceive itself into the delusion of thinking that it has everything under control and that we are masters of our own destiny. What is clear to may believers is that this is a delusion. No matter how amazing advances in science and medicine are, we are only at the edge of understanding much less controlling the world we live in.

From a Christian perspective, we are not masters of the universe, like some comic characters but rather the extraordinarily blessed creatures of a Creative and Mysterious ‘Father’ we call God.

In the gift of life itself and in the mystery of our human freedom and creativity we see pale reflections of the God who created us and who breathes life and breath, intelligence and a longing to understand into our minds and hearts and a capacity to love and make relationships that fill us with joy and hope.

In a fundamental way, Christians go one step further in recognising that we are also ‘fallen creatures’ who have misused our freedom and creativity and often wasted and destroyed the wonderful environment that we have been gifted and with it so many of our poorer brothers and sisters in creation, plants, animals and humans and  the ecosystems that support us.

0ur greed and avarice and our wastefulness have led to a world that is deeply out of joint with itself, with huge extremes of wealth and poverty and a vast gulf between the hungry and the overfed.

In a crisis like this, we are invited to turn and reflect on the mystery of life and creation, to reflect on our part in the brokenness of our world, to lament and repent. This is prayer.

Prayer is not an illusion making activity, rather it is deeply rooted in the reality of our human experience and it involves us recognising the reality of being created in love and having to take responsibility for our world and our way of living and reaching out to the God who gives life to inspire, forgive and encourage us.

In Jesus life and in his suffering, death and resurrection, we see the pattern that we are invited to live by and the deeper reality of a God who doesn’t remain outside, above and beyond but a God who empties himself and becomes a human being, and being humbler still even to embracing death, death on a cross to save us from the power of evil.

In Royal Holloway, we have a tradition that goes right back to our Foundation Document of having Morning Prayer offered each day, just like an ordinary Christian household and which we continue even now to livestream every morning at 8.45am Monday to Friday on the Facebook Royal Holloway Multifaith Chaplaincy page and on Fr John’s Facebook page: John Dickson. Everyone is welcome to join us online and to have a chance to stop at the beginning of the day and to come before God in prayer.

Written by Fr John Dickson, Catholic Chaplain (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Emerging from Isolation - Coronavirus won't last forever so how can you prepare?
Dr Dominique Thompson, True Student (20 April 2020)

Source: True Student, written by Dr Dominique Thompson

Over a very short space of time our worlds have shrunk rapidly. Unless we are a key worker, our surroundings have reduced to a room or two (our sofa, our bed, our desk) and a local outside space if we are lucky. We have become used to a quieter world as fewer people move about, cars pass rarely, and sports, concerts and other gatherings have stopped.

We have slowed down, adopted different routines, followed rules, and tried hard to cope with being cut off physically from family and friends. We have mourned our lost lifestyles, and talked endlessly of what we will do when the restrictions lift, and when Lockdown is no more.

It has been vitally important for us all to focus on getting through this difficult time, taking it one day at a time (or one hour),  staying in touch remotely, and staying fit. We have enjoyed the birdsong (now audible as the traffic stops) and tree blossom, and the sense of community, humour and shared values we have discovered. 

There have been positives in the darkness, as neighbours connect and we clap for our NHS. We have seen how many people genuinely value vocation, dedication, altruism, and hard work above fame, money and celebrity. There have been dark days but also bright spots. 

We are now settling into a routine, having good days and bad days, trying to keep going with no fixed end in sight, but knowing this won’t be forever.

And that is the thing I want to touch on today.

As we yearn for our freedom, and for normality to return, it may be worth taking time to think ahead about how we will feel as we emerge from our isolation.

Will we have become institutionalised? 

How will we manage transition back into Normal Life? 

We may struggle at first with the noise that returns. We may currently miss our commute to work, but find the crowded bus or tube too much when we venture back out. People pushing past us in the street or shops may make us anxious, now that we are becoming conditioned to swerve to avoid others. We might feel worried by crowds, having never given them a second thought before. Greeting people might be awkward- will we have been put off hugging, or shaking hands, or will we embrace them with enthusiasm? You don’t have to know now how you will feel yet, but it worth considering, being aware of the possible challenges, and planning ahead.

How will you adjust and recalibrate? 

There are no fixed answers, but here are a few suggestions;

Be aware of this as a potential issue- that taking up your old life might need an adjustment period. 

Plunging back into normal routine might not be the best thing- and a slow gentle approach might be better. 

Ease yourself into work and studies slowly- plan to do much less than you might have considered normal in a working week, till you feel settled back in. Plan fewer meetings, or study sessions at first.

If crowded places make you nervous- dip in and out at first, till you feel able to stay longer. 

Let people know that you might be having a staggered return to activities- and tell friends you might not want to go out every night just because you can. 

Talk to others about how you might greet each other- if you’re not ready to hug people, be smiley and let them know, and plan ahead. Write it in your messages or emails, share your thoughts. Break the tension with light hearted comments, or honesty about your ambivalence ‘”I’d love to shake hands but I’m still adjusting to human contact! But it’s great to meet you.” Everyone will have been in the same situation, so they will understand even if they have a different approach. 

Most importantly- Be kind to yourself. It is normal in times of transition to feel a bit anxious, and stressed. You will almost certainly feel anxious the first time you travel beyond your current boundaries, get on public transport, see your friends again in a group, or find yourself in a crowded place. Acknowledge it, recognise it for what it is (it is to be expected) and give yourself time to readjust. 

We have a long few weeks ahead of us, and we will adapt, with support from each other. We will look after each other. But, just as we have needed time and support to adjust to this new ‘isolation reality’ we will need time, support and understanding to get back out there again, and ease ourselves back into Normal Life.

It’s worth talking about, starting now.

For more advice or support check out Dominique’s Student Wellbeing Series of books.

Thanks to Dominique for letting us share her True Student blog

 

Feeling anxious about the pandemic and upcoming assessments?
Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (20 April 2020)

The uncertainty and worry about the current coronavirus pandemic has heightened everyone's anxiety and has challenged our ability to manage.  The upcoming assessment period is also a time when students find their anxiety levels increase.  

We will be running a workshop on anxiety managment on two Wednesday's at the start of term which any student can sign up for.  These will be run online via MS Teams.

The two hour workshop will help you understand anxiety and why we experience these feelings, physical sensations and behaviours.

Identifying and exploring your own anxiety cycle and building a toolkit of simple strategies will support you to feel more in control and able to cope in times of stress.

To register your interest please email the team stating which of the two dates you would like to participate.

  • Wednesday 27 April 2020; 2pm - 4pm
  • Wednesday 13 May 2020, 2pm - 4pm

Written by Jane Gittins, Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Support for financial difficulties during the pandemic
Tina Barnard, Student Financial Advice Manager (20 April 2020)

Have your finances been impacted by the changes to life that have been required by the current pandemic?

Students can consider applying to the Study Support Grant if they are experiencing financial difficulty during these challenging times. This information on the student intranet will provide more information on how to submit an application to the Financial Wellbeing team. 

The assessment process looks at your income versus outgoings and if there is a shortfall between the two the Study Support Grant will look to assist you.  Please note this limited fund is available for all students who are currently enrolled and studying at Royal Holloway this academic year.  We are unfortunately not able to provide funding to students who have taken an interruption of studies at this time.  
The application process will take around two weeks from the team receiving your completed application form and supporting documents.

Please do not hesitate to contact the team by email to discuss your financial situation further.

Written by Tina Barnard, Student Financial Advice Manager (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Ramadhan 2020
Nisar Shaikh, Muslim Chaplain (17 April 2020)

This year Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, is expected to commence on the evening of Thursday 23 April and will end on the evening of Saturday 23 May. We would like to take this opportunity to wish our Muslim students and colleagues Ramadhan Maduran.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of mosques and a ban on large groups of people beyond members of the same family living in the same household. Ramadhan for Muslims, like much of the Islamic faith, is very much a social and communal experience and not being able to break fast, pray or simply come together when ordinarily the mosques would be full of people, may leave many feeling lonely and removed. Our Muslim Chaplain, Nisar Shaikh, has provided a poem and a range of guidance for students and colleagues who will be fasting and worshipping whilst the social distancing regulations to stay at home are in place.

The guidance includes practical tips on coping with fasting and worship in Ramadhan whilst the majority of us are staying home.

Written by Nisar Shaikh, Muslim Chaplain (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Living back at home or in a houseshare during lockdown
Lee Fellows, Head of Student Wellbeing (16 April 2020)

Living at home full time with parents again or sharing a house with friends with increased time together can be really stressful and the cause of added anxiety. Just when everything was okay and you found a nice rhythm, suddenly big changes have come and in some cases can upset things.

Here are some helpful tips to help you through adapting and resolving issues

This is no-ones fault: No-one has chosen this to happen and no one is responsible for the current situation we are all facing. Taking things out on each other and getting frustrated is not going to help any of you. Always remember this when you feel yourself getting frustrated or annoyed by the actions of others. Remember, they might be feeling annoyed and down with things too.

Set boundaries: It is really important that in your house you all have your own space that you can go to. This way you have a safe and comfortable space where you can take a break from others. Set up a workspace in your room or a nice comfy area where you can relax. If all of you are working from home it is maybe not the best idea to all be in one room working, taking calls etc. If possible try to have a room each you can work in. If you are all competing for one room then put a fair timetable together so you all have an opportunity to work in that space.

Walk away: If tempers get frayed, then remember it is sometimes better to walk away and cool off rather than go into argument mode. It gives you time for all involved to get some perspective and cool off. You can then go back and talk things through calmly. Make a list of what it is you want to say if you are in a disagreement over something. Keep the issues factual and not personal. Maybe someone else in your house can help mediate.

You don’t need to be together all the time: During isolation and living together all the time disagreements will come up, and emotions will be higher. It is easier for you to get annoyed by others and vice versa. Being together all the time will not help, put in breaks from each other - you do not need to be together and in the same room all the time. If you can leave the house for exercise perhaps do this separately so you can have some away time.

Do nice things together: Plan some nice enjoyable things that you can do as a group or as a family. You can plan movie nights, cook with each other or treat someone to a meal. Play games online or traditional board games. Teach each other things like languages or talk about your degree. You will be surprised how rewarding it is to learn new skills from each other. Teach each other new skills, can you play an instrument, teach someone that!

Everyone pulls their weight: If you have moved back home it does not mean you can go back to being a child! Clean your own room and make your bed. Offer to help out your family with things, you may have a younger sibling who you can help home school. Likewise, if you are living in a houseshare make sure you are all on a rota that distributes tasks fairly. It is really annoying when one person does not do their fair share. Make sure that person is not you. If you are living with someone who does not do their share, then talk to them calmly about it. Maybe they don’t know how to do it or didn’t realise it was a problem.

Emergency support: We recognise that for some of you, your home environment may not be safe. If this is the case please make sure you reach out to student wellbeing explaining, if you can, your situation and we can offer you full information and advice relating to your situation. We can then set up a safe time to make contact with you or send on details via email if you prefer. You can also get you in touch with our Student Counselling and Mental Health teams for further support. These services are still operating and are free to use.

If your domestic environment places you in immediate danger please make contact with the emergency services or you can make contact with charities who can offer some further support and advice. Student Advisory & Wellbeing has a list of charities we can get you in touch with.

Written by Lee Fellows, Head of Student wellbeing (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

Here's the science....
Dr Gero Baiarda, Lead GP (GP Surgery) (8 April 2020)

Shared, with thanks, by Dr Baiarda.  (Lead GP, GP Surgery)

About the SARS-COV-2 Coronavirus, the cause of the current global Covid-19 pandemic

  • The virus is not a living organism - instead, it is a protein chain of RNA within a protective layer of lipid (fat).
  • When the virus is absorbed by human cells (usually through the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa), it literally embeds itself within the genetic code of the cellular nucleus, and converts infected cells into viral production factories churning out innumerable copies of itself.
  • Infected cells are eventually destroyed by the virus, allowing millions of new viruses to burst forth. These can then be shed and passed to other people. 
  • Since the virus is a protein supermolecule rather than a living organism, you cannot kill it. It will, however, decay spontaneously given sufficient time.  The time it takes to break down depends on the environmental temperature, humidity and type of material upon which it settles.
  • The virus is actually surprisingly fragile - the only protection it has is a thin outer layer of lipid or fat.  That is why any soap or detergent (both of which break down fat) will destroy it. By dissolving the external lipid layer of the virus, the virus is rendered completely inert and unable to penetrate human cells
  • Hot water and heat generally will directly kill the virus, but it has to be very hot e.g. Cooking food at 65 degrees celsius or above for 4 minutes or more will denature the virus in the same way as what happens to an egg white in a frying pan.
  • It is still a very good idea to wash with warm water when using soap, as it makes the soap so much more effective at breaking down the lipid layer of the virus. You also will wash off any other nasty bacteria or viruses you have on your hands into the bargain. Drinking very hot water to try and kill the virus ( as some have been reported to have tried) is dangerous and NOT advised.
  • Any alcohol sanitizing preparation with a concentration over 60% will destroy bacteria and viruses, but only if used correctly. Squirting a little bit on your palms and rubbing them together just won’t cut the mustard. You need to cover the entire surface of both hands including fingers and thumbs. Also, if you sneeze into your hands, you need to wash that mucus away with soap and water rather than just apply sanitizer.
  • Alcoholic drinks are not potent enough to kill this or any other virus. Even the strongest vodka is only 40% proof, and we have already established you need the concentration to be 60% plus.
  • The virus will not penetrate healthy, uncracked skin. It is therefore a good idea to regularly moisturise your hands, because all the hand washing and sanitizing we are having to do can lead to dry, cracked areas where the virus can lodge. It is also a good idea to keep your fingernails as short as possible. If you gently place your fingernails in your palm but cannot feel the pulps of your fingertips, your nails are too long, and you will not be able to effectively clean them.
  • Hand washing remains one of the best preventative measures you can take - you should wash your hands before and after touching food, surfaces, keys, locks, doorknobs, switches, remote controls, mobile phones, watches, computers, desks, TV, etc.  It also goes without saying that you should wash them whenever you have finished using the bathroom. If in doubt, give them a wash! Do this for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water, dry them on a paper towel, and dispose of the towel immediately in the bin. 
  • The cleaning of bathrooms, kitchens and surfaces is still best carried out with hot warm water and a surface detergent as you have always done. If you have a case of Covid-19 in your house and want to disinfect common areas, you can use a dilution of household bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Vinegar will not work against Coronavirus and is not advised. 
  • Antibiotics do not kill coronavirus. They work against living bacterial microbes only, and as we have already established, viruses are not living micro-organisms. 
  • The virus can last a long time on smooth surfaces. According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the SARS- Cov-2 virus survives longest on plastic (up to 72 hours) and stainless steel (48 hours), but was found to still be present on cardboard after 8 hours, and to linger in the air for up to 3 hours. Copper surfaces appeared to eliminate it within 4 hours. In the current climate where we are staying at home much more and having shopping and parcels delivered to us instead, this information becomes much more important, as plastic bags and cardboard parcels may allow a way into your home for the virus in an otherwise soundly isolated household. Consider leaving paper/cardboard parcels 24 hours before opening them and using gloves to handle shopping delivered in bags to minimise this risk. 
  • UV light will directly break down the genetic code of viruses and bacteria given enough time. 
  • For this reason, cooler, darker, and confined environments allow the virus to thrive much better than well lit, dry and bright spaces.
  • The best defence is not to catch or spread Coronavirus in the first place. Stay isolated, and stay safe!

Written and shared by Dr Gero Baiarda, Lead GP, GP Surgery (Clarence Medical Centre)

 

Back to basics: 10 practical ways to look after your mental health
Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing (7 April 2020)

As a department Student Advisory & Wellbeing truly understands that the current changes to our daily lives and ways of studying, working and socialising are incredibly challenging and we can all acknowledge that it has been unsettling and anxiety-inducing. There is still a full range of support we can provide students at this time - in an online or digital format (e.g. video or audio calls on MS Teams or Skype) and all our advisers are ready to support you with these new challenges.

There are some practical ways we can all seek to look after our mental health in more usual times and we can adapt these easily to support self-care in more complex times. 

  1. Talk about your feelings. Acknowledge that the current circumstances are unsettling and share how this is impacting on you with someone you trust. Just expressing how you feel will help ease the burden of feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Eat well. It's important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet eating fresh fruit and vegetables where you can to keep your energy levels high.  Don't be tempted to keep snacking on unhealthy items during the day as this will leave you feeling sluggish and tired.
  3. Keep in touch. While we're all missing face-to-face interaction and contact with our friends and family we're lucky to live in a world where there are so many other options to keep in touch.  Check in with friends and loved ones each day and take the opportunity to get in touch with friends you've not spoken to for a while.
  4. Take a break.  When you're limited in where you can go each day it is easy to get stuck at your desk / laptop all day and not to take a much needed break.  Ensure you take regular breaks to keep hydrated, move about (even if it is just going upstairs!) and to break up 'screen-time'.  It will boost your energy levels and refresh your thinking.  
  5. Accept who you are.  Another challenge during this time is the space we have to over think things. Often this leads to us asking questions about ourselves and this can be a negative experience.  Make sure you balance any negative feelings with identifying something positive about yourself but also be realistic.  Understand our individuality is vital to us and that the very thing we don't like about ourselves is very often the trait that a friend loves us for.
  6. Keep active. With the government restrictions it is not as easy to exercise in the ways we have become used to and of course any team sports or exercise classes are temporarily on hold.  It is however important to make sure you are using your daily opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air and get moving.  Even a brisk walk around where you live (2m away from others!) gets the blood pumping and improves your mood.
  7. Drink sensibly.  Now is not the time to be over-indulging in alcohol and if you're spending time on your own it could be easy to drink more than you usually would if you were with friends (less talking = more drinking).  It is important to stay hydrated though and you should keep drinking the recommended amount of water each day - perhaps with some fruit in it to mix things up!
  8. Ask for help. Don't feel that self-isolation means support is not available so do ask if you find you're struggling to manage or are facing unexpected challenges with your new daily routine.  It is more important than ever to not bottle feelings or concerns up and as the old adage goes - a problem shared is a problem halved.
  9. Do things you are good at.  It's not necessary to come out this pandemic with a new skill or expertise; simply taking some time to go back to previous interests or hobbies is good for your wellbeing.  Now might be the time to practice the musical instrument you used to play, to re-discover your love of enjoying a good book, or simply taking time out to re-connect with yourself.  Don't beat yourself up if you don't become fluent in another language during the pandemic!
  10. Care for others. Understanding we're all in this together and that we'll all feeling challenged, insecure and anxious is important.  Recognise that a kind word to a friend or a loved one is particularly crucial at this time and it might be that this is enough for them to not feel so lost or alone.  As we use more social media than ever be particularly aware of what you share online and how this could impact on others.  Why not use this time to notch up some random actions of (social distancing) kindness? #BeKind.

Stay home, stay safe and stay well. 

We're all in this together.

Written by Helen Groenendaal, Head of Student Advisory & Wellbeing.

 

Adapting to new ways of studying
Instagram: Royal Holloway Campus Life (5 April 2020)

Source: Royal Holloway Campus Life Instagram

We are all adapting to new ways of studying and working, in light of the government's regulations to stay at home

To help you navigate your new ways of studying here are a range of top tips and advice.

  • Start off your day as you usually would if you were going onto campus to study.
  • Showering and getting dressed will help you to feel mentally ready to be productive with your studies.
  • Create a routine to help you become more productive.
  • Organising yourself and your time by structuring your day will allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment as you tick items off.
  • Setting up a working space can be really beneficial.
  • Having a workspace allows you to put yourself in work mode and leaves spaces within your home for you to relax when you're not studying.
  • Remember to frame your day by giving yourself breaks: Go for a morning jog; call a friend on your lunch break; practice some yoga in the evening; do some baking.
  • Remember to stay connected! It's really important to digitally stay in touch with friends and family using platforms such as social media, Skype and FaceTime.
  • If you're worried about coronavirus, a list of the services @rh_wellbeing are now delivering online and digitally can be found on the student intranet
  • You can also email supportingyou@royalholloway.ac.uk for additional support.
  • Please continue to check your College email and the student intranet for further updates.

Written by the Internal Communications team

 

Mindful Wednesday
Revd Dr Orion Edgar, Anglican Chaplain & Sofia Mason, Mindfulness Practitioner (3 April 2020)

Struggling to Concentrate?

Feeling Isolated?

The Chaplaincy are now running Mindful Wednesday — a guided meditation session led by Sofia Mason, our Mindfulness Practitioner, for wellbeing and connection with others.

Join us via MS Teams at 12:30 every Wednesday.

You’re welcome to drop in on mute as a guest and check out whether mindfulness is for you.

Written by Revd Dr Orion Edgar, Anglican Chaplain

 

Finding perspective in a crisis 
Revd Dr Orion Edgar, Anglican Chaplain (31 March 2020) 

The world is changing before our eyes. These are unsettling times, to say the least. Nobody knows how things are going to look in just a few weeks’ time — let alone how this pandemic will have changed us, have changed the world, in ten years’ time.

If you’re anything like me, you will have spent time in the last week aimlessly scrolling through multiple social media feeds, wondering what is to be done in times like these. I think when we’re doing that, we are often searching for some kind of ‘external’ perspective on what is going on; but we can find ourselves in an echo chamber of the things that are already going on inside: for all of us, at a time like this, there is fear and confusion and uncertainty.

It is good, of course, that we can connect with others despite our physical separation, and that we can communicate effectively and co-ordinate our behaviour to limit the effects of this crisis. We are living through the greatest effort of co-operation to save lives that has happened since 1945. And that is a wonderful, heroic thing. What we suffer in isolation is for the sake of others, most of whom we will never know, many of whom we would disagree with profoundly about politics, religion, and so much more — yet we are working together for the good of all. This is to be celebrated. This all comes from ‘inside’ our situation.

We will only really start to see what is going on, and how this situation will change us, as we start to gain some external perspective. Eventually, that will come to all of us with the passing of time, when this is all over. But it can be helpful to make a start by talking to someone outside your situation. If you’d like someone to ask how you’re feeling and listen to what you’re experiencing, the chaplains are available to talk; you can get in touch with us by emailing chaplaincy@royalholloway.ac.uk.

It can also be accessed now by putting some distance between ourselves and our immediate reactions to the situation, for example through Mindfulness and Meditation. The Chaplaincy is hosting shared online mindfulness sessions led by Sofia Mason, our Mindfulness Practitioner, every Wednesday at 12:30 on MSTeams. You don’t need to have any experience, and this is the perfect opportunity to ‘dip in’ on mute and see what it’s like. Join us at bit.ly/MindfulWednesday.

We can also begin to gain perspective by seeing our lives now within a ‘bigger story.’ For many people of faith, this is about seeing the world as created by God for a purpose. Created for the flourishing of all, including those human lives which we are protecting by staying at home — each of which is uniquely valuable, because each one is created by God as a gift to the wider world. That is the story we celebrate daily with our online celebrations of Morning Prayer and Compline (Prayer Before Bed). Connect with us at facebook.com/royalhollowaychaplaincy to join in.

Each life has its inherent value — is deserving of what we call ‘human rights’, in a language shared by people of all religions and none. But more, each person has something to offer. And it is the stories of those people who are ‘vulnerable’, the unique contribution that they are able to make to their communities and our shared life, that can offer us an outside perspective on our own life.

In times like these we need to secure our own safety and wellbeing first of all. Find a routine. Establish what is most important for you, and do what is most important first. What has to be done, and by when? Can you break each task, each essay, down into chunks that would take a few hours to achieve?

Allow yourself space to process the anxieties of this time — whether that’s by being alone, connecting with others online, or taking care of the people around you. Then, reach out to others. Who do you know that is vulnerable? Who could you re-connect with at this time? You might want to investigate volunteering opportunities through Royal Holloway’s Volunteering service to connect with people. Ask them how they are doing. Listen to their story. Remember that you are a gift to others, and that they may be have some gift, some insight, some thought, to offer you, however unexpected.

Written by Revd Dr Orion Edgar, Anglican Chaplain (Student Advisory & Wellbeing) 

 

A spiritual and religious response to anxiety and self-isolation
Fr John Dickson, Catholic Chaplain (31 March 2020)

Feeling anxious, worried or troubled, or even manic, that is our normal reaction to stress and threat, so in the present situation, that is a sensible and wise reaction, but we can dig deep into our deeper selves and find strength to cope and even grow in this very stressful situation.

One of the great Spanish Mystics, Teresa of Avila summed up her personal experience of dealing with stress in a prayer that is well worth reading and reflecting on. It is called Nada te turbe

     Let nothing disturb you;
     Let nothing frighten you,
     All things pass away.
     God never changes.
     Patience obtains all things.
     He who has God,
     finds he lacks nothing.
     God alone suffices.

This is clearly an act of faith but it grounds us in the deeper reality that all things even this virus will pass but that God never changes, he is always there upholding us his creatures.

Another great spiritual writer, Francis of Sales, a French speaking Bishop also wrote about dealing with a very uncertain future:

Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has guided and guarded you this far in life. Do you but hold fast to His hand, and he will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you the unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.

St Paul writing to the early Christians made the same point writing to the Church at Philippi

Philippians 4:6-7.

Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

Recognising that we are God’s beloved children and that he wants us to be at peace in ourselves can give us a deep reassurance that we will be given the strength and purpose we need for the circumstances we face.

Orion and I are always happy to listen and to pray with you on the phone or social media. Fr John D.

Written by Fr John Dickson, Catholic Chaplain (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

 

This too shall pass....
Jenny Chivers, Counselling Caseworker (30 March 2020)

Acknowledge your experience 

You are absolutely allowed to feel anxious about this.  Whilst it helps to frame your anxiety within the context of this global experience and to rationalise it; before doing so allow yourself a moment to acknowledge that you are anxious, scared, frustrated, sad, uncertain…whatever you are feeling. Try not to fall in to the “it could be so much worse, so I’m not allowed to feel this” trap.  While yes, there will be people worse affected by this than you, dismissing your own feelings without processing them is counterproductive to moving on from them.  You are human and you will be feeling these things regardless of whether you tell yourself you shouldn’t.  Give yourself permission to recognise that this is such a unique experience in your lifetime, you are not expected to know how to manage it automatically.  We are all learning as we go along.  In order to be giving and present for others it is important to first be kind to yourself, you cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Place your fears within a context

Once you have acknowledged and allowed your own personal feelings, it might be useful to remind yourself that you are not alone in this.  Globally, people are feeling disappointed and frustrated as travel, study, lifestyle and social plans are put on hold for the forseeable future.  You are not being personally victimised by COVID-19, I promise.  No one is exempt from being affected by this in some way or another, it does not discrimiate.  This is also not your fault.  No one could have predicted this or prepared for it entirely. 

Rationalising your thinking and putting your own situation in to perspective can be a useful tool in an uncertain time.  So much of this is outside of your control and that can feel overwhelming, but it can help to find the small things you can take control of for yourself.  You can control your attitude, grace and kindness, your own following of government recommendations, limiting your use of social media and scheduling set times to check factual news articles.  You cannot control the behaviours and motives of others, predictions of the future, how long this will last, or the amount of toilet roll is in the shop.  Let go of the things which you simply cannot be in charge of, breathe, there are people in positions of power who do not want to see this country fail, it is not in their interest to do otherwise.  While life will be very different for a while and there is no underestimating the impact this will have on everybody, you will not be experiencing this alone. 

Physical rather than social distancing 

n order to remind that anxious brain that you are not alone, while the physical aspect of social distancing is fundamental to facing the current crisis, you don’t have to end your social life.  Yes, the thought of not physically seeing a friend or family member for the coming weeks will incredibly uncomfortable, but it is hugely important to remain in virtual contact with each other rather than to literally isolate yourself.  To do so only feeds depressive and anxious thinking.  It may be tempting to hibernate until this is all over, and that is absolutely an okay way to feel, but in practice this may not be the best thing for your mental health.  Utilise the technological world, organise an official event for a group skype birthday celebration, play cards, do dares, have a virtual drink together.  Trust me it becomes ten times funnier when you can all see how ridiculous you look trying to work out if your camera is on.  Yoga and fitness instructors are conducting group workouts you can access at home.  If this is part of your routine, stick to it.  If it isn’t, it may give you the opportunity to try something you may be too shy to do in a gym in front of people.  If you accidentally do something daft on camera?  End the call!

Say goodbye to guilt

In everyday life, pre-COVID-19, many people experience guilt and shame at the thought of being as productive, busy, useful or perfect.  This is a situation that is entirely out of your control.  Your critical voices may see an opportunity to latch on to the changes in routine which have become so important to managing your mental health.  However, it is worth reminding them that you quite literally have no choice in needing to change that routine.  You are not skipping the gym because you are “lazy”, you are skipping the gym because it is closed.  It took you all week to get to grips with Microsoft Teams, is that because you are stupid and useless with computers?  No.  That’s because it was a new experience and the rest of your team were also getting to grips with this new way of working whilst simultaneously managing a lot of anxiety.  Your brain was in fight or flight mode (as is expected!) and not capable of its usual level of functioning.  Try to compassionately remind yourself that you cannot be expected to perform to the standard you would in your normal situation, when your situation currently is anything but “normal”.  You will adapt, but this takes time.  You are learning, try to be as patient with yourself as you would with a child who is learning a new activity.  You wouldn’t expect them to know how to play the piano the first time around would you?  Quick reminder, child prodigies are rare and even they need to practice.  

We are all going to HAVE to adapt to a different way of living.  There is no fighting it.  As difficult and scary as it is to accept, perhaps this is an opportunity to allow yourself an hour of guilt free reading, that book you bought six months ago that you just haven’t found time to read yet.  You know the one, on the shelf collecting dust looking at you temptingly while you’ve rushed past.  You quite literally cannot avoid it now.  Enjoy it.  Get lost in it.  Give your brain some downtime by escaping for an hour or three.  Or sorting mountains of junk in the loft that’s been put off for a “rainy day” that never seemed to come, despite living in drizzly England.  You don’t have to pressure yourself to somehow become a genius and discover the next big thing or get a six pack or learn three languages.  Maybe it is just about picking one thing that you love, that always gets side-lined by the idea that there is just not the time.  We have been a part of a machine that is not grinding to a halt.  Be still, you will not get left behind.

 

Written by Jenny, Counselling Caseworker (Student Advisory & Wellbeing) 

 

10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus
NHS Every Mind Matters (30 March 2020)

Source: NHS Every Mind Matters 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak means that life is changing for us all for a while.  It may cause you to feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, lonely or frustrated.  It's important to remember it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently.  Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass.

There are some simple things you can do to help you take care of your mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty. Doing so will help you think clearly, and make sure you are able to look after yourself and those you care about.

Here are 10 ways you can help improve your mental health and wellbeing if you are worried or anxious about the coronavirus outbreak. For specific tips and advice while staying at home, read our advice on maintaining your mental wellbeing while staying at home.

It is important to follow the latest official guidance on staying at home and away from others to keep everyone safe. 

Stay connected with people: Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing, so think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while needing to stay at home.You could try phone calls, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it's with people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

Talk about your worries:  It's normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember: it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too. If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead. 

Support and help others: Helping someone else can benefit you as well as them, so try to be a little more understanding of other people's concerns, worries or behaviours at this time. Try to think of things you can do to help those around you. Is there a friend or family member nearby you could message? Are there any community groups you could join to support others locally? Remember, it is important to do this in line with official coronavirus guidance to keep everyone safe. 

Feel prepared: Working through the implications of staying at home should help you feel more prepared and less concerned. Think through a normal week: how will it be affected and what do you need to do to solve any problems? If you have not already, you might want to talk with your employer, understand your sick pay and benefits rights, and get hold of some essentials for while you are at home. You could also think about who you can get help from locally – as well as people you know, lots of local and community help groups are being set up. Try to remember this disruption should only be temporary.

Look after your body: Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.  Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs, and try not to drink too much alcohol. You can leave your house, alone or with members of your household, for 1 form of exercise a day – like a walk, run or bike ride. But make you keep a safe 2-metre distance from others. Or you could try one of our easy 10-minute home workouts.

Stick to the facts: Find a credible source you can trust – such as GOV.UK or the NHS website – and fact-check information you get from newsfeeds, social media or other people. Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources. You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to a couple of checks a day.

Stay on top of difficult feelings: Concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their daily life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information. It's fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about coronavirus are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety or listening to an audio guide.

Do things you enjoy: If we are feeling worried, anxious or low, we might stop doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing indoors or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings. If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with inventive new ways to do things, like hosting online pub quizzes and music concerts.

Focus on the present: Focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people deal with feelings of anxiety, or you could try our mindful breathing video.

Look after your sleepGood-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. See our sleep page for more advice.

Further support and advice

There are plenty of things you can do and places to get more help and support if you are struggling with your mental health. Our pages on stressanxiety, sleep and low mood have lots more tips and specific advice. If you are a parent or caregiver for a child or young person, Young Minds has guidance on talking to your child about coronavirus.  The NHS mental health and wellbeing advice pages also have a self-assessment, as well as audio guides and other tools you can use while staying at home. We also have guidance and information to help others if someone you know is struggling with their mental health. Remember, it is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when you are low or anxious. Some of these, like feeling hot or short of breath, could be confused with symptoms of coronavirus. If this happens, try to distract yourself. When you feel less anxious, see if you still have the symptoms that worried you. If you are still concerned, visit the NHS website.

 

How to manage your time as a student
Seeta Bhardwa, THE (27 March 2020)

Source: Times Higher Education, written by Seeta Bhardwa 

As soon as you wake up in the morning with the whole day in front of you, it can seem as though you have plenty of time to get a million things done. 

At 10am it’s easy to think that you will be able to read three chapters of one of your set texts, write 1,000 words of an essay, tidy your room, cook a healthy meal and go for a 10k run. But by 4pm, you find that instead you‘ve watched far too many cat videos on YouTube and have only read two pages of an article. 

Giving yourself an unrealistic expectation of how much you can get done in a day is only going to set you up for failure. Plus it would be difficult to maintain this level of productivity for a long period of time – you will just end up burnt out and tired. 

But on the other hand if you don’t have a proper plan and aren’t strict with yourself, procrastination can creep in and stop you from achieving anything. 

So here are some tips on how to manage your time effectively. This is especially important now that university students are having to study at home and have more control of their studies. 

1. Stick to your timetable

Most lecturers are now conducting their lectures online and chances are they are sticking to their regular timetable and delivering their lectures at the exact time they would under normal circumstances. 

This means you should still attend these online lectures at the same time and not assume you will be able to access the videos at a later date. Sticking to your original lecture times means you can maintain some of the routine that you had before and will also give you a way to structure your day. 

2. Write down a list of three things you want to do each day

To-do lists are a great way to keep you on task and ensure that you get the things done that you need to. But to-do lists can be counterproductive if they are too long and just overwhelm you so much that you don’t know where to start. 

Instead, make a general list of everything you need to get done, from university work to life admin. Creating one big to-do list and dumping it onto paper will clear your mind and ensure you aren’t spending too much time trying to remember every single thing you need to do . 

Then every night before you go to bed, take three things from your “life to-do list” and write them down on a daily to-do list to get done the following day. This way you aren’t giving yourself too much to do and you’ll find you feel far more productive when you’ve ticked all three things off your list. 

3. Set a timer

Now that you are having to spend more time studying at home, it can be easy to get distracted by everything in your room. Or even to just sit and stare into space while you put off writing that essay. 

Try setting a timer for half an hour so that you work solidly until the buzzer goes and then take a 15-minute break. Get up and walk around your room for a few minutes, do some stretches, make yourself a cup of tea – getting away from your books even for a few minutes can help you feel refreshed.

Setting the time also means that you are more likely to get work done if you think you have to work for just an half an hour, rather than sitting and working solidly for three hours. 

4. Limit distractions

And by distractions I mean your phone. Put it somewhere you can’t reach and you’ll be amazed at how much you get done when you aren’t scrolling through Instagram or Twitter every five minutes.

Alternatively if you must have your phone near you, turn off all notifications or download an app that discourages you from unlocking your phone, such as Forest. Forest grows a tree across your lock screen and the tree dies as soon as you unlock your phone. 

Identify if there might be any other distractions such as the TV, your reading book or anything else that could draw your attention away from the task at hand.

5. Figure out when you are most productive

Very few people can say that they can maintain high levels of productivity for an entire day. For most people there is a window in the day when their brain is most focused, when they are less likely to succumb to distractions and when they are able to do their most productive work.

Regardless of whether it is morning, afternoon or evening, try to structure your day around this or at least tackle your trickiest tasks during the time you feel the most alert. 

6. Set a daily schedule

This is slightly different from writing your to-do list for the day. This is more about setting a schedule for the day and ensuring that you stay on top of all the things you have to get through, but also ensuring that you schedule in leisure time, time for exercise etc. 

Not only will it keep you on track, but it also gives you things to look forward to and means that you are more likely to schedule things into the day that aren’t just university work. 

Thanks to Seeta Bhardwa and AMOSSHE for sharing 

 

Tips for studying online and at home for university students
Seeta Bhardwa, THE (27 March 2020)

Source: Times Higher Education, written by Seeta Bhardwa

During these uncertain times many universities are pausing face-to-face teaching and university students are having to take online lectures. For some students this might prove quite a challenge.

It may not be easy to regulate your own studying and to utilise online lectures and seminars to their full potential but here are some ways in which you can do so. This is a general overview for all students, but your university may have specific measures in place so be sure to keep checking your emails and online portal for updates 

1. Engage with your learning

In the same way you would take notes when attending a lecture, it is a good idea to do the same while listening to or watching an online lecture. Sit in a comfortable place, have a notebook and pen handy and try to keep any other distractions to a minimum. 

Take some time to look at your timetable and work out a study schedule to ensure you are well-prepared to attend all your seminars and lectures online. Do the relevant reading beforehand and ask questions if there is anything you aren’t sure about. 

2. Coordinate group chats 

There are a number of online tools such as Skype or Zoom that you can download for free and enable you to coordinate video chats with groups of people. Use these programs to set up study groups with coursemates so you can spend some time discussing ideas, analysing texts together and swapping study tips. 

This is a great way to keep in touch with other students in your class, and for making sure you are maintaining the collaborative aspect of your university course. It also helps to add some social contact so you don’t feel too isolated studying alone.

Ensure that you plan what you are discussing beforehand and try to stick to the topic so that the discussion remains productive and you don’t get distracted chatting about other things.

3. Keep in touch with your tutor and lecturers

You may no longer be able see your tutors during their regular office hours, but ensure that you keep in contact with them on a regular basis. Perhaps an email once a week or even every few days to ensure you are of any developments in your courses. Additionally, if you are feeling anxious or stressed, speaking to your tutor could help to alleviate any concerns you might have. 

Also remember to keep in touch with lecturers and seminar leaders to ensure that you have up-to-date reading lists and are looking in the correct places for lecture notes and slides. Don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any concerns about your learning, but be patient when expecting a response. Your tutors are probably under immense pressure to prepare lectures for online delivery so give them time to get back to you. 

4. Ensure you have all the right tools to study

Online lectures will require a fairly well-functioning computer and a good internet connection. Some students already own these things but if you don’t, speak to your tutor or your student services office about how this can be facilitated. There may be spare laptop computers you can borrow, or you could join a small group of other students to study together. 

Make sure you have enough stationery (pens, highlighters, notebooks etc) and the correct books or articles to study from, whether hard copies or digital editions. 

Check your online portal daily for updates on classes and for any study tools that the university is providing to help you. 

5. Think about your work space at home

If you’re used to studying in the campus library, you might find it quite difficult to transition to studying at home for the majority of the time, but there a few things that you can do to get yourself in the working mindset.

First, identify an area where you can sit and work. Some students are lucky enough to have a desk but if you don’t, any surface where you can sit comfortably with your laptop and notes is good enough. Then ensure you keep all the things you need nearby so that you don’t have to keep getting up. 

Many universities around the world have kept their libraries open, so this could be an option, but try not to get too close to your fellow students. It is also important to stick to the latest guidelines about leaving your house in the country you’re in, so be sure to check whether this is something you are allowed to do. 

6. Take regular breaks

This is common advice but it is now more important than ever when you are studying in your living space. You don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule if that doesn’t work for you, but identify the hours you are most productive and centre your work day around that. 

Taking regular breaks during the day keeps your mind fresh and is one of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t burn out. Step away from your laptop every hour or so and do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading a chapter of your book, watching a little TV or playing a game. Try to get out at least once a day for a walk (if you are able to) and give yourself things to look forward to each day. 

It is also important to have a clear cut-off point when you finish studying for the day. Pack up your study materials at the end of the day if you can, so that you can relax properly for the evening without your books staring at you. 

Thanks to Seeta Bharwa, Times Higher Education and AMOSSHE for sharing 

 

A student survival guide to self-isolation
Dr Dominique Thompson, True Student (27 March 2020) 

Source: True Student, written by Dr Dominique Thompson 

I'm guessing that if you are one of the many people around the world currently hiding away in self-isolation due to Coronavirus, that this was not on your to-do list for 2020...?!

And if you haven't had to self-isolate yet, then, unfortunately it may be something that becomes necessary very soon due to the spread of COVID-19.  This article is not offering medical advice, there's plenty of excellent expert advice available if you need it.  Instead, today's blog hopes to inspire you to get creative and not go stir-crazy!

Make the best of a bad situation

When you were making your New Year's Resolutions 2 months ago, or excitedly planning your adventures for the year ahead, you probably never considered having to spend day after day entertaining or distancing yourself (within a fairly confined space).  But here we are, so, to be honest you probably have 2 basic options for getting through this challenging time. 

You can either get upset or frustrated and generally exhaust yourself with negativity (which is understandable - but not necessarily helpful) or you can choose to accept the situation and try to make the best of a rubbish scenario. 

If you can try to 're-frame' (change the context of) the difficult situation, and make it something useful practical and even positive, and get stuff done.  It won't be easy, but here are a few suggesitons that might help to make the time pass more quickly, and still allow you to feel like you are achieving something, or having a bit of fun with your (more empty) days.

Break the day into 'managable chunks'

Blocks of an hour or two, then decide on activities for each block.  Don't look too far ahead, and focus on each day. It makes the time seem less overwhelming and might even feel like it goes more quickly.  If it helps, draw out a timeline and fill it in with activities for each block of time and each day.

Get into a routine
Don't spend all day in bed, just because you can - unless you are actually unwell.  Get up when it's daylight and go to bed a a reasonable time.  Eat regular meals and snacks.  Tune into lectures or webinars online, if they are available to you.  Don't lget the days blend into one, as it will feel endless and confusing.

You've got work to finish

Now is the time! Research your essays, revise or plan your projects - look up the 'extra / bonus info' you wouldn't normally have time to and make your work even better.  Really grasp the opportunity to get 'stuck in' and so something you're really proud of.  If you've also wanted to write a blog, or an article, or even a book, make a start.  Use the 'headspace' and quiet solitude to let your mind wander and be creative

Get creative! 

If writing is not your thing, then be creative in other ways - plan some holidays and trips for when you are 'free' again.  Scroll through websites of beautiful, faraway places (avoid checking the news wesbites too often).  Check out Instagram travel feeds., dream about where you might visit, and start to plan or create a 'mood board' of travel ideas.  If that feels all too much, try being creative on a smaller scale - and make birthday cards for people you care about - you might not normally have time, but it will mean a lot to them!

Exercise (gently)

In your space, use the floor for yoga / pilates, or do star jumps and squats.  Don't overdo it, but maybe have breaks from your other activities, and do a few stretches, or if you feel up to it, go crazy to a Zumba video on You Tube. Open the windows, and make sure you get some fresh air each day.  If you can go outside that's even better, but be guided by up to date medical advice.

Be sociable (online!)

You may not be able to see people in person, but don't isolate yourself from your loved ones, and try to stay upbeat where you can, to help each other through.  Try to avoid feeling like you're in 'solitary confinement' if you possibly can.  If you're really struggling and feeling down, of course, it is important to ensure a person you trust is aware.

Talk to them regularly to help you through.  We (student support professionals) always tell people they are 'not alone' when supporting them, and it is still true now, even if you feel physically alone.  Don't forget all those people out there who love you, even if they can't hug you today.  Give each other virtual hugs via technology.  If you need more help, check out the NHS website

Relax when you can

If you love films or TV then you have a brilliant opportunity to binge-watch the series you have been meaning to see for ages or relax in front of all the 80's films of John Cusack or Molly Ringwald (trust me, they're well worth a look - and the very definition of 'feel-good movies', which might be just what you need!). If you're a big fan or a particular actor or director, treat yourself, and catch up on their back catalogue.  Make yourself a cosy nest in your room, and settle in to watch some quality entertainment.

Organise your life 

And finally - have a really good sort out of your clothes, decide what you want to keep, what would make a good swap with friends (in a week or two...), and what might be ready for donation to a charity shop or clothes recycling point.  It will feel productive to do, and you'll be doing something nice for others as a bonus.  

The next few weeks and months are going to be tough for lots of people, and self-isolation will never be fun, but I hope that this gives you a few ideas to make it more bearable, and together we will get through whatever 2020 throws at us, as best we can.

For more advice or support check out Dominique's Student Wellbeing series of books. 

Thanks to Dominique for letting us share her True Student blog.

How to cope with coronavirus anxiety - You are not alone
Dr Dominique Thompson, True Student (27 March 2020)

Source: True Student; written by Dr Dominique Thompson 

So much information, so much advice, so much uncertainty.

How do we sort out what is real in what we hear, and what can we believe?

We live in extraordinary times, and we are all having to adapt - with almost no warning, no preparation, and whilst navigating a tidal wave of new and scary information, we well as quitre a lot of fake news. 

What we really need is simple, clear, unambiguous advice, and support.

We need our friends and family like never before, yet in so many cases we can't be with them in person.  We need to look after our mental health and welleing, yet we can't do all of the things we would normally do, such as go outdoors, exercise, go to college or meet up with friends.  It is a time of confusion and worry.  Not surprisingly most people are feeling anxious, some more than others.

If you are feeling anxious, or even very anxious, you are NOT alone.  In fact, because so many people are worried and stressed, coping with this new reality, it is (more than ever) important for us to look after ourselves, and each other.

Here are some tips if you are feeling particularly anxious - they may help.... 

  • Plan your day - routine is everything, so eat regularly, exervise, and even consider doing a remote dog walk with a friend who can get outside!  Ask them to video-chat with you, as they walk their pet.  You can even remote stroke their dog, without being at risk of catching the virus!
  • Take back control - this is key to reducing anxiety in many aspects of our lives.  It's the 'not knowing' that wears us down.  The constant uncertainty.  So think about what you can control, and tackle those things - what to have for lunch, what to wear, who to speak with, which book to read, which piece of work to do, which project to start.  We can't control the virus, any more than we can control the weather, so stop shouting at the telly, and focus on what you can do.
  • Read or watch only credible, reliable news - and ony do that once or twice a day.  Pick a website or source you trust, and mute the others.  You don't need to read 800 versions of the same story, with different details on different feeds.  Delete the unnecessary deluge of info, and mute to negativity.
  • Be kind - To yourself, to others, to neighbours, to strangers,  Online, or in person.  To those with whom you are cooped up with. Being kind to others makes us feel good about ourselves (it's a well-knonw wellbeing trick) but will also make their day better, and yours nicer.  We all need a little extra goodness and humanity in our lives right now.  Be gentle with others.  

The next few weeks are going to challenge us all, in ways we never saw coming, even a month or so ago.  It is normal, and very human, to feel anxious.  All we can do is take each day at it comes, and tell ourselves that, soon, this will all be over.  Stay safe.  

For more advice or support check out Dominique's Student Wellbeing series of books. 

Thanks to Dominique for letting us share her True Student blog.  

 

Managing anxiety during social distancing and self-isolation
Susan Eastburn, Wellbeing Adviser (26 March 2020)

It’s time to talk about how we are feeling – lots of us are feeling wobbly, we’re having reactions that we don’t really understand, and things are constantly changing.  In times of crisis we start doing weird stuff – we can struggle to sleep, we overwatch the news, we go to the supermarket and buy things we don’t usually eat, we are quick to get angry with friends and family.  You might find that you are a bit teary, you might be drinking more than usual, you might want to eat cake, cake and more cake!

If you are having a wobble have you noticed other stuff going on?  Are you arguing more, picking fights, talking faster, restless, desperate for information? Are you struggling to make decisions, do you find yourself saying random inappropriate things, or perhaps you just want to stay in bed?  Have you got physical symptoms such as an upset tummy, palpitations, butterflies, headaches?

If you are feeling any of these things then the good news is that this is a normal reaction to the situation we find ourselves in, and you are not alone!  We are living in anxious times – this is an unprecedented crisis that has happened unexpectedly and which presents a threat to ourselves, our loved ones, and our way of life.  It’s scary and it makes us feel out of control. 

So here’s the science bit….

When we are exposed to threats and need to deal with them our brain springs into action – specifically a tiny, innocent looking thing buried behind your ear called the amygdala.  It’s the part of your brain that’s in charge when we are frightened and right now it’s in full tin-hat klaxon mode!  Unfortunately, it’s also a very ancient bit of kit.  It came into being when threats basically consisted of being eaten by large scary animals like bears.  To the amygdala everything looks like a bear and it only really has two settings: no bear and BEAR!

Setting BEAR!  Because all threats look like a bear to the amygdala, it preps you accordingly to either fight it or run away really fast.  So this is what your body gets you ready to do.  You may have heard of this already – it’s called the Fight or Flight response.  It floods your body with chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline.  Your heart rate goes up, you feel super alert, your breathing goes shallow, your muscles are ready for action.  These chemicals are also largely responsible for the huge range of other physical and emotional reactions I mentioned earlier, and your body reacts even if your conscious mind doesn’t.  This is all great if you are really running away from a bear, but we’re now in a situation where we’re being asked to do the exact opposite of running away – to sit tight!  We are trying to process large amounts of information, make complicated and life changing decisions and stay calm.  All while this bit of your brain is running around yelling BEAR! BEAR! BEAR! This isn’t easy.

So what do we do?  Well, the good news is it is possible to calm down.  We can turn the amygdala from BEAR! to NO BEAR! (and not just with distracting it with cake and tea).  Here are some solid, scientifically proven, things you can do:

Breathe: It’s so basic, but breathing exercises are basically magic – they work in minutes and you can do them anywhere.  They work because of all the physical reactions the amygdala triggers, rapid breathing is the only one over which we have conscious control.  Control your breathing and you are basically telling your body: it’s okay, there is no bear.  Your body will then start to dial down the adrenaline and cortisol and all other reactions will slow to a halt.   So, how do you control your breathing?  Try this YouTube video as a starting exercise: or search two minute breathe bubble in YouTube.  Remember:

  • In through the nose, out through the mouth.  Slowly.
  • Make the out breath longer than the in breath – imagine there is a candle in front of you and it mustn’t go out.
  • Breathe from the tummy, not chest – really make your tummy go out when breathing in.
  • Do it for two minutes – time yourself – and see how you feel.

Seriously, try it, this technique is used by everyone from top athletes to the US military to help stay in control while under stress.  There are lots of versions, search online for them or contact Student Wellbeing for more resources.

Call a friend: Don’t suffer alone, call a friend – someone who’ll listen while you have a bit of a rant, or a cry or a general wobble.  Someone you can trust not to judge you and who’ll just sympathise.  And if you get one of those calls, just be nice to them – you only need to be kind.  You can’t fix what’s going on so just give them a space to rant and tell them they’re normal and doing great.  And if you’re okay, then call your friends and check on them – especially if they’ve gone silent.  If you’re concerned about another student, you can also alert Student Advisory & Wellbeing

Laugh: It doesn’t matter what’s funny, laughter is a huge releaser of endorphins – silly memes, silly jokes, stand-up, videos on YouTube – the sillier the better!  This is also good for bonding with friends, which will help you feel less alone.

Do something with your hands: Yes you can meditate, and if this is your bag, then it’s great, but if it’s not, then trying to start something new when you’re anxious is really hard.  So instead do something with your hands that you have to focus on to get right – cook, tidy, knit, draw, bake, garden, mend things.  This is your version of mindfulness!

Treat your body: We hold stress in our bodies as much as our minds, so take a bath or a shower, put on things that feel good on your skin, use nice smelling body creams, stretch, skip, do yoga, dance, eat healthy but delicious things (fresh if you can get it).  All of these will help calm you down.

Sunshine: It’s Springtime, enjoy it.  If you can’t go outside, open the windows, feel it on your face and breathe it in.  If it’s safe for you to go outside, do it, while observing social distance.  Being outdoors and connecting to nature is hugely calming.

Take breaks from social media / news: Stick to sensible sources of information like the BBC and the NHS, and limit how often you are watching/listening/sharing news.  You’ll feel better immediately.  Talk to friends (online)  instead.

Step away from unhealthy coping mechanisms: They will translate as BEAR! to your brain – especially don’t get drunk particularly if you’re alone (BEAR!), take drugs (BEAR!), stay up all night reading (BEAR!), get sucked into conspiracy theories (BEAR!).  See?  Stress levels going up already!  Breathe.

Be kind: To yourself and others.  Now is not the time to go on a diet, nor is it the time to makeover your life.  You’ll probably fail and make yourself feel worse.  Don’t make this anymore stressful than it already is.  Think comfort books, comfort tv, comfort everything.  Everyone is going have a wobble at some point.  Understand that if someone is angry or aggressive, then they are also just scared.  And eat more cake.  Cake makes everything better.  So, be a little less BEAR!

If you found this helpful, we have lots more resources, tips and advice, so please get in touch with us.

Written by Susan, Wellbeing Adviser (Student Advisory & Wellbeing)

Credit to Imogen Wall, Trainer and Advisor specialising in crisis management, mental health and safeguarding in humanitarian contexts for most of the content of this article.  

 

Guide to living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty
Dr Matthew Whalley & Dr Hardeep Kaur, Psychology Tools (26 March 2020)

'Our world is changing rapidly at the moment.  Given some of the news coverage, it would be hard not to worry about what it all means for yourself, and for those you love.  

Worry and anxiety are common problems at the best of times, and when it takes over it can become all-encompassing. At Psychology Tools we have put together this free guide to help you manage your worry and anxiety in these uncertain times. 

Once you have read the information, feel free to try the exercises if you think they might be helpful to you.  It's natural to struggle when times are uncertain, so remember to offer care and compassion to yourself, and to those around you.'

Wishing you well,

Dr Matthew Whalley & Dr Hardeep Kaur

Psychology Tools: Guide to living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty (PDF)

Thanks to Pat, Head of Student Counselling for sharing this guide. 

 

  

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