Laughter is the best medicine – more tips for self-care

We loved this collection of exam self-care tips so much that we thought they deserved their own blog post! They also apply all year round and capture each element of the King’s Way to Wellbeing:

K- Keep Active

I – Invest in Relationships

N – Never Stop Learning

G – Give to Others

S – Savour the Moment

Love the humour too.  There’s a reason why people say that laughter is the best medicine; it decreases levels of stress hormones in the body and promotes the release of natural feelgood chemicals called endorphins.  One more reason to watch your favourite sitcom during study breaks!

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Take Time Out Wall of Wellbeing

What a pleasure it was to be involved in Take Time Out 2016!  Over three weeks, King’s Sport and King’s Wellbeing interacted with around 7000 students, many of whom shared their top tips for self-care during exam time and messages of solidarity and created a huge wall of wellbeing in the Take Timeout tent.  We’ve collected some of our favourite messages here!

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My Journey with Yoga

As we enter the second week of Take Time Out 2016, which will see more opportunities for rest and relaxation, including yoga, mindfulness and tai chi, Wellbeing Coach and yoga enthusiast Belinda Okuya shares her own personal journey with yoga and the benefits it has brought to her wellbeing.

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KCL students practising yoga with instructor Jennifer during the 2016 Take Time Out campaign


My Journey with Yoga – KCL Wellbeing Coach Belinda Okuya

The name yoga derives from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’, ‘to join’, the mind, body and spirit, through the practice of postures, meditation and controlled breathing. There are many different types of yoga, but they all serve the same aforementioned purpose.

I started practicing yoga regularly about three years ago. It’s been a steady development of myself and my body throughout that time. Developing my stamina, my posture, my strength, my breathing and my focus. My evolving relationship with the practice of yoga reflects the evolution of my relationship with my mind and body too. I have gained physical and mental strength by pushing beyond my boundaries, and greater clarity and calm by connecting with my mind through my body on a deeper level. I’ve learnt that whatever I experience on the mat I experience in my world, which has helped me to grow and develop greater self-understanding and compassion.

Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being”. Joel Kramer

Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga are many and varied. Like many things in life you get out of it what you’re ready to put in. Unlike many other forms of exercise there is a spiritual element to yoga, which is a part of the practice that you can choose, along with your body, to explore further, each time you get on the mat. Otherwise some of the other well-known benefits are:

  • Stress relief – reduce the physical effects of stress on the body.
  • Better breathing – Yoga slows down and deepens the breath, which activates the body’s parasympathetic system (relaxation response).
  • Weight management – A study from the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that regular yoga practice was associated with less age-related weight gain.
  • Increased strength – Yoga postures use every muscle in the body.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning – Yoga practice increases endurance and oxygen supply to the body.
  • Calm and relaxation – Regular yoga practice has a meditative quality.

From Yoga Alliance.

“Yoga is the Journey of the Self, Through the Self, To the Self” – Bhagavad Gita

Take Time Out moves to the Maughan Library!


What a fantastic first week of the Take Time Out campaign we had last week! Amidst the revision, there were daily yoga and meditation sessions, free fruit and water, countless smoothies made on the ever-popular smoothie bike and lots of smiles and laughter.


As exams near, it can be tempting to lock yourself away in the library, but King’s Wellbeing and King’s Sport are here to show you another way; one that allows you to be kind to yourself and still aim for peak performance.  This week, we’re outside the Maughan Library until the 14th of May, with a range of activities to help you keep active and chill out during revision breaks and more healthy snacks and freebies. Hope to see you there!WP_20160505_10_58_40_Pro (002)

You can follow the Take Time Out campaign as it happens here:

Tai Chi for Take Time Out

Jalal profile picAs part of the Take Time Out campaign, Careers Consultant Jalal Afhim will be running tai chi sessions on:

Monday the 9th of May at the Maughan Library 5-6pm

Monday the 16th of May at Guy’s campus from 5-6pm. 

Here, Jalal tells us about the different elements of the Chen style of tai chi and how it can benefit our wellbeing.

Chen style tai chi

Chen Style tai chi (or taijiquan) originated in central China, when Ming Dynasty general Chen Wangting (1580-1660) combined his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and external martial arts, with internal martial arts/self-cultivation techniques originating in the Taoist community at Wudang Mountain. The martial art was taught only within the family, from one generation to the next, until Chen Changxing taught his servant Yang Luchan. Yang went on to found Yang Style tai chi. The last 30 years have seen Chen Style being taught well beyond its traditional confines, as the Chen family have worked hard to bring their art to a wider audience. In particular Chen Xiaowang’s efforts have led to the founding of tai chi schools and groups across Europe, Australia, and the United States.Jalal 1

Tai chi demonstrations at Take Time Out

I will be demonstrating some reeling silk (chan si) exercises. Reeling silk is a type of movement fundamental to Chen Style, and not obviously present in the other tai chi styles. It is a consistent part of the Chen Style curriculum, and builds leg strength, hip flexibility, and the spiralling movement (luo xuan) from which Chen Style derives its power. See videos of Chen Xiaowang or Chen Xiaoxing (his brother) on Youtube for demonstrations of power (fa jin/fa li) or reeling silk. I will also demonstrate some chi gong techniques, and the opening of the empty hand long form known as Laojia Yilu.

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Other elements to Chen style tai chi training (not being demonstrated)

The curriculum in Chen Style is varied, and includes the following:

  • Weapon forms: dadao (halberd), straight sword, saber, spear, pole, three-section staff
  • Pole-shaking
  • Standing post (a static chi-gong exercise)
  • Silk reeling (single & double handed, static & stepping)
  • Push hands (single & double-handed, static & stepping, semi- and full-contact)
  • Empty hand long form, first route (Laojia Yilu)
  • Cannon Fist (Laojia Erlu)

Benefits to Wellbeing

Tai chi is both a martial art, and a form of exercise which nurtures good health and wellness. It is very versatile in that it can be practiced in a physically demanding way for the more athletically inclined, or a less demanding way for those who are older or frailer. It promotes:

  • Enhanced body awareness and control (can also help posture)
  • Relaxation, both physical and mental
  • Balance and leg strength (especially useful for the elderly)
  • Healthy circulation (helping joint health)
  • Good digestion (due to the waist rotation movements and abdominal breathing)
  • Self-defence (although this takes longer to develop than most martial arts)

Where to learn more

  • You can read about the Chen Family school in Henan Province, China, here. This is where I was taught.
  • The school in Chenjiagou has a UK branch, here.
  • There is a good exponent of Chen Style teaching in London, here.

“The best way to conquer London is to run London.”

Our very own Wellbeing Coach Wilna Gracias reflects on her experience of running the London marathon.


“The best way to conquer London is to run London.”

This has been my motto from the very beginning of my relationship with London when I hopped across the pond in 2014.  It was a much-anticipated move and I looked forward to the many adventures this new home would have for me.  However, what I did not anticipate were the many challenges it would also bring.  From finding a job to making friends, I learned early on that establishing myself in a new country would take some time and effort.  So whenever I found myself frustrated or sad or anxious about my transition, I went for a run.  It was during these runs that I allowed myself room to feel every emotion, think about my next steps, play out all the possible outcomes, and build the courage to keep moving forward despite setbacks.  For me the running was all about keeping myself emotionally and mentally healthy.

It also gave me an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and parks throughout the city.  For example, I enjoyed running along the trails of Richmond Park and seeing the hundreds of dear on the lawns.  I joined Nike’s Run Club last summer and ran my first race in Victoria Park.  This past year I started a half-marathon in front of Hampton Court Palace.  And with each run London became more familiar, more like home.

So when an opportunity arose to run the London Marathon with my charity from back home, Team for Kids, and I knew I had do it.  I’ve spent several hours each week for the past few months training for my first marathon in the UK. As I made my way to the marathon expo, I found myself feeling extremely emotional.  As I held back tears, I realized in many ways, my training for the marathon had been a metaphor for my transition to London. I have been challenged and stretched. I’ve loved it and hated it. I’ve thought “What the heck did I get myself into?” and “Thank you for this awesome experience!”


On Sunday, 24th April, not only did I get to run London, I conquered it by spending 6 hours reminiscing over the almost past 2 years of experiences and planning for what is yet to come.  As I ran past iconic places such as the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, I paid my respects to London and gave it everything I had to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for being a part of my journey and this chapter in my life.  I’m excited for our future together.

Take Time Out returns!

Take Time Out returns throughout May

95x95 puff - Take Time OutWhat better week to launch our wellbeing blog than the first week of the KCL Take Time Out campaign!

In the run-up to exams and coursework deadlines, we can all feel pressured by the demands of academic work. This is when it is important to remember that looking after your health and wellbeing will help your performance throughout the exam season.

To help, the Take Time Out campaign is returning throughout May to promote student wellbeing through the summer term.

From the 2nd May, Take Time Out will be visiting every campus offering activities, tips and advice around exams, and a separate space in which to enjoy a quick break away from revision. There will also be daily morning yoga and afternoon mindfulness classes helping you to unwind whilst studying.

Look out for the Take Time Out stands at both the IOPPN, Denmark Hill Campus and FWB, Waterloo Campus and tents outside New Hunts House Library, Guy’s Campus, and the Maughan Library.

Throughout the summer term you can also find bitesize practical information to help maximize your studying by visiting the Take Time Out webpages here. You can also share your own revision methods and strategies with the King’s Wellbeing team by using #ExamReadyKCL on Twitter.

Take Time Out venue dates:

Monday 2nd – Friday 6th May – IOPPN lobby, Denmark Hill Campus & FWB lobby, Waterloo Campus
Monday 9th – Saturday 14th May – Maughan Library
Monday 16th – Saturday 21st May – Quad, Guy’s Campus

Your Wellbeing Coaches will be on hand throughout the campaign, so do come and say hello!