To mark World Mental Health Day, we wanted to share some of our tips for looking after your wellbeing. Have a read below, and head over to our social media channels to share your advice with us!
Five Ways to Wellbeing
Our Network Director, Sophie, suggests the Five Ways to Wellbeing as a good way to frame your personal wellness. She recommends using it as a checklist, with the goal of doing all five steps weekly, if not daily. These are:
- Connect with others. The number or method of connections isn’t the most important thing here, as we all socialise in different ways, and it’s important to feel comfortable. You could connect with someone (or a group of people) by playing sports, grabbing a coffee together, or even chatting online or over the phone.
- Get active. We’ve all heard about the endorphin boosts we can gain from exercise but it can be challenging to work out how to fit physical activity into your day. There are plenty of ways to do this, from more obvious solutions like going to the gym to subtle changes to your routine, like taking stairs instead of a lift, or walking to the shop rather than driving.
- Take notice. With so much going on around us, it’s easy to be distracted from the present moment. This step is a great reminder to slow down a little and really take in the things around you, whether by sitting to enjoy a natural view or even just taking a walk and leaving your headphones at home.
- Learn. You really can learn something new every day! You might like to sign up for a class, or perhaps just make the effort to Google that interesting building you pass on your commute and find out what it is. Reading books, listening to a podcast, or completing a puzzle are also great ways to get your brain working and learning.
- Give. Doing good deeds for others can benefit your mood, too. Next time you’re in the supermarket, could you help someone reach a high shelf? Do you have a skill that you could share with a neighbour to help them out? If you’re stuck for ideas, it could be useful to find out what volunteering opportunities there are nearby.
Our staff team are big fans of the outdoors, and we are all in agreement that it really does help our wellbeing, often reminding each other to get outside on our lunch break after mornings staring at a screen. There’s nothing quite like a walk in the woods, listening to birds singing, and enjoying the weather – be that wind, rain or sun!
It’s scientifically proven, too – taking inspiration from the Five Ways to Wellbeing, researchers at the University of Derby have created Five Pathways to Nature Connection – our Operations and Activities Manager, Amy, is a big fan of these, and is happy to remind everyone that you can progress through all five pathways just by caring for and appreciating a houseplant! It’s certainly a great excuse to go and get another one…
Ultimately, the pathways seek to remind us that we are part of nature, rather than separate from it, and give us tools to strengthen that connection. Crucially, you don’t need to know loads about plants and wildlife to connect to it – you just need to pay attention!
These plants all live in Amy’s flat, and she definitely believes that looking after them has a positive effect on her wellbeing!
Take control of your Working Day
We get it, not everything you do during the day is exciting or even enjoyable. However, when your task list isn’t sparking joy, there are still things you can do to keep work engaging and manageable. Our Bristol Hub Manager and Wellbeing Champion, Sorcha, has some great tips for keeping well at work:
- Frequent breaks. This means taking mini-breaks throughout the day in addition to your lunch break – not instead of one! You could use the Pomodoro Technique, or there are even apps you can use to enforce screen breaks.
- Movement. Set reminders in your calendar to get up and move each hour, or maybe even try standing up for shorter meetings to get the blood flowing. There are lots of resources about stretches you can do at your desk, too!
- Clear boundaries.It’s okay to say you don’t have extra capacity, or to set expectations for how colleagues can request your time. Boundaries with yourself are important too: if you plan to log off at 5pm… Log off at 5pm!
- Clear communication and reflection space with your team. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and if they’re not, finding out why that might be. Problem-solving and reflecting together can help you to feel less isolated when you’re being challenged, and is a reminder of the support around you.
Make a meal of it…
Sorcha also shared a playful way of classifying the things that bring you joy, by breaking them down into a ‘menu’ of starters, appetisers, mains and desserts.
- Appetisers are activities you can do for 10 minutes that give you a boost but don’t require much effort (a 10 minute walk around the block; a 10 minute stretch; making a cup of tea)
- Starters get you into a learning mindset and give you a bitesize of something new (for example reading a news article about a topic that interests you)
- Mains are key things that give you joy but require a bit more fleshing out and preparation (such as meeting friends, going to the gym/class, practising a hobby or skill)
- Desserts are things that can fill you up but you should avoid overdoing it (like scrolling on your phone or watching TV – if you use this as a short break in your day it can feel good but if you keep going you feel depleted).
You might like to write your own ‘menu’, so you have a ready-made list of joyful activities to call upon if you need a boost.
How does this translate into our culture at student hubs?
Though it’s great to share advice on how to look after our mental health, we also ensure that our culture enables our team to put these things into practice.
- We encourage our team to bring their ‘whole self’ to work, recognising that we are all complex individuals who have lives and emotions outside of our roles.
- Our sickness policy means that we can take time off work to look after our mental health just as easily as our physical health.
- We have open conversations about how we’re feeling: sometimes this takes the form of check-ins at the start of meetings (our CEO, Sim, opened a recent meeting by asking us to describe our emotional state by comparing it to an animal).
- Our Wellbeing Champions, Sorcha and Will, are always on hand to provide support and guidance. It’s not just on us to reach out, either: they check in periodically to make sure we have everything we need to feel well at work.
- We all create personal User Manuals, which include things like our preferred time to have meetings, how we like to receive feedback, and what kind of working environment we thrive in. Everyone has access to these, so we can learn more about our colleagues’ work styles and preferences.
- We use Slack for the majority of our internal communications, and utilise the status feature to let everyone know what we’re up to. For example, if someone indicates they are taking their lunch break, everyone knows not to expect immediate responses from them, and they are able to step away from their screen knowing nobody will be waiting on a response from them.
Now you’ve finished reading, we have a challenge for you: pick one of the above pointers and make time this week (or even today!) to get it done. You’ll feel better for it!