May Update: Stress and Wellbeing for Volunteers
It’s May, which for our cohort of student volunteers inevitably means exams and deadline period. We know how stressful this time can be, and often it can have a negative impact on general wellbeing.
Last week Laura Barr, our Hub President, led a session on how to manage stress for our new committee. The session got the committee thinking about some of their signs of stress, how they can recognise these signs in themselves and things they can try to feel better.
So here are our top tips about stress and wellbeing!
What is stress?
Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can help motivate us, drive us in our work and make us more resilient. However, when stress gets too much, that’s when there’s a problem as it begins affecting us physically and mentally.
What does stress look like?
Signs of stress look different for every individual. Basically, if you’re displaying behaviour outside of your usual patterns (eg eating too much or too little, fidgeting or being very still, being too chatty or very quiet etc), then this could be a sign of stress. It can also involve physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, sweating, headaches and feeling ill.
It’s important for you to have a think about what your normal patterns are, and reflect on when these things change as to whether it could be a sign of stress. This reflective process will help you get better at identifying stress early and dealing with it in a healthy way.
How can I deal with stress?
The way you deal with stress may need to be different from your friends. But it’s good to try a range of methods and learn what works best for you. Some of our suggestions are below:
- Keep a stress diary to track patterns and coping methods
- Eat well*
- Try to normalise sleeping patterns*
- Reach out to your support networks
- Take time for yourself
- Be kind to yourself — our President Laura is a strong advocate of this!
- Physical exercise
- Mental exercise (eg a sudoku, a puzzle, a colouring book)
- Mindfulness techniques
- Make a note of your achievements, big or small!
*Remember, all these things will be individual to you.
Do also check out our ‘ways to wellbeing’ section in this Student Hubs blog post which reflects on how volunteering experiences can support mental health.
What if I’m struggling to deal with my stress?
We would strongly encourage you to reach out to someone. This could be a family member, a friend, a tutor, or a member of Enabling Services. Opening up about stress is hard, but it can really help to know you have support in whatever way you need. Be clear with that individual about what you need too: it is for them to tell you it’ll be OK, to offer some advice, or for more serious support?
We hope this helped you feel more in control of your stress and wellbeing, and we wish all our volunteers good luck with their deadlines and exams!
Please note: We are not experts on this topic, so if you want some more advice about how to deal with stress, we would recommend you looking at guidance from the NHS, Student Minds, MIND and Enabling Services at the University of Southampton.
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