Welcome and Savour the Moment

Whether this is your first experience of higher education, or you’re returning after a break from study, the start of the academic year is an exciting time and it can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming!  With so much to take in, from finding your way around campus (Bonus points if you’re based at Strand and have managed to locate the Chesham building, which is notoriously difficult to find!), to navigating the transport system if you’re new to London, to establishing your social group; it can all go by in a bit of a blur.

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People often talk about ‘being in the moment’ and, whilst this can sound a little cringe-worthy to some, it’s worth unpacking what this can look and feel like and how it can help.   When we’re rushing around, trying to get ourselves organised and fit in our many different commitments, we often don’t even notice the world around us, much less what’s going on for us internally.   Sometimes, it’s important to slow down and check in with ourselves, notice how we’re feeling in our bodies and minds, ask ourselves which aspects of our lives feel fulfilled and which might need a little tlc.  And who can we reach out to so we can achieve that?  Taking notice of the external world, too, can help anchor us in the present, rather than being caught up in thinking about the past or stressing about the future.

This was probably best summed up at one of our Welcome to King’s panel discussions. When one of our new students asked the very helpful question “What one piece of advice would you give to us at this point in time?”, there were many useful suggestions, including this point from the Counselling Service; “Just breathe!”.

Savour the Moment Challenge

  • Take some quiet time to yourself to check in and notice how you’re feeling at the moment. Use our wheel of wellbeing tool to help you do this.  Think about each segment and rate your wellbeing out of 10 to identify your areas of strength and development.   If things are a little out of kilter, what could you do to restore that balance?  Perhaps our wellbeing toolbox can provide a good starting point.
  • Identify some times and places to carve out some quiet time for reflection on your own wellbeing. Spent 20 minutes reading, meditating, or just sitting with your own thoughts.  Why not try out the following spaces and see how they feel:
  • Wellbeing room, Maughan Library
  • Chaplaincy rooms – there’s one on each campus
  • Strand and Guy’s chapels
  • Try out our 20 minute vinyasa flow yoga tasters
  • Try a Be Active yoga class
  • Check out the mindfulness sessions run on a weekly basis during term time by the Chaplaincy. Click your campus to find out where and when.view over thames small
  • Take notice of and really savour three things a day that give you pleasure as a starting point. Use your senses to guide you. Was it a beautiful view over the Thames, your favourite song or podcast on the way to lectures, the smell of your shower gel, the taste of your morning coffee, the feeling of a cool breeze?  Sometimes it’s the small things that ground us and bring us back to the present to take us out of our racing thoughts.

For a recap of the different support services available on campus, check out Tuesday’s ‘Welcome and Never Stop Learning’ post

 

Welcome and Give to Others

Self-care and investing in yourself are crucial for academic success and personal development and we shouldn’t hesitate to give ourselves that ‘me time’.  At the same time, an atmosphere of mutual support, respect and celebrating diversity are what make for a truly inclusive university campus where everyone can feel free to be themselves and belong.

Be The Reason Someone Smiles Today  written on paper with pen,red gift box and wooden background desk.

Of course, there are actions we can take, both big and small ,to achieve this.  This could be something as simple as smiling and saying hi to someone in the lecture theatre or bringing someone into a conversation if they are standing on their own before lectures to signing up to do some volunteer work.  In time, you might even like to train as a KCL peer supporter to lend emotional support to fellow students.

Give to Others Challenge:

Have a read through the KCLSU societies and see if any of their charitable activities catch your eye

Ask one of your friends or flatmates how their days was and really listen

Is someone you live or study with having a difficult time adjusting to uni life?  Take them for a walk or coffee with them and remind them of all the support on offer.  Have a quick re-read now of our ‘Never Stop Learning’ post to jog your memory.

Get in touch with someone from home if you are living away to let them know you are thinking of them or send them a card

In Your Corner Campaign and Look After Your Mate workshops

You’ll soon be seeing our In Your Corner mental health awareness campaign posters up around campus.  Each month, a number of students, academic and professional service staff will let us know how they would be in their mate’s corner if they let them know they were struggling with their mental health.

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Current KCLSU President Momin Saqib and former president Ben Hunt are supporting our ‘In Your Corner’ mental health awareness campaign to create a campus where we can all talk about mental health in an open and supportive way.

With approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year (Mind), it really is nothing to feel ashamed of, so don’t be afraid to reach out for the help and support that you need.  Equally, if you notice that your friend seems to be going through a rough patch, or acting differently, why not ask them if all is well? It doesn’t need to be a big, awkward conversation; it could just be as simple as going for coffee, asking if they’re ok and giving them the time and space to talk through what’s worrying them. If they don’t open up this time round, then they know your door is open.

There’s also no need to feel that by reaching out you’re suddenly responsible for solving all your friend’s problems.  Make sure you’re armed with the knowledge of all of our KCL support services so that you can signpost towards professional help where needed so that you can just be there as a friend.  If you want a quick recap, have a read of our ‘Never Stop Learning’ post.

mate

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to support a friend through mental health difficulties, do come along to one of our monthly ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshops.  With an emphasis on listening and supporting within your capacity as a friend and taking care of yourself at the same time, you will leave with an awareness of how to offer a helping hand without compromising your own self-care and wellbeing. It’s that old adage isn’t it?  We need to put on your own oxygen masks before helping anyone else with theirs :)

Welcome and Never Stop Learning

This seems so obvious, right?  It goes without saying that uni is a learning experience, but this goes so much further than your academic work.  For sure, there’s a certain sense of mastery that comes with exploring your subject in more depth and this growing expertise will boost our self-confidence.  But, what we learn outside of the lecture halls and the seminar rooms can be just as crucial to our wellbeing, if not more so. 

At King’s Wellbeing, we are all about helping students to thrive and have a full and rich university experience to become the person that they want to be in all aspects of life. Think about your first few days at King’s; what have you learned about yourself?  Think about what you’ve enjoyed most about Welcome Week.  It might have taught you something about how you prefer to socialise, the size of group you feel most comfortable with, your preferred social settings, how much time you need to yourself and so forth.  And where you’ve identified things that you aren’t so comfortable with, these could be areas for future development.

motivational  poster LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONESometimes, we grow as a person and develop new skills when we step outside of our comfort zone.  If you’ve identified an area you’d like to explore, King’s one-to-one coaching and workshops may be able to help.  

At King’s, we believe in nurturing the whole person throughout the year and you can find a variety of workshops to assist with different aspects of your personal development.  Check the King’s Wellbeing workshops page for sessions on communication skills, self-care, resilience and much more and keep checking Skills Forge and KEATS throughout the year for other workshops to help you build a portfolio of life skills alongside your growing subject knowledge.  Upon referral, the Counselling Service also runs a number of therapeutic groups and workshops, providing emotional support and space for exploration of different issues that may come up during your time at uni.

Sources of Support

Your student journey is bound to have ups and downs.  At certain times, you may be feeling great; enjoying all that uni life has to offer you.    Sometimes, we might need a bit of a helping hand with goal-setting to make the most of our time at uni and reach our potential; this is where King’s Wellbeing comes in.

helping hand

And on occasion, life can throw us a curveball and we might need some advice or support to help us rebound.  There’s no shame in this and King’s has a number of support services with dedicated and empathetic staff.  It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different sources of support now so that you know exactly where they are and how to get in touch if you need them.

 

Never Stop Learning Challenge: KCL Support Services

Take half an hour to look up all of the support services and initiatives below, learn what they offer and how to get in touch if you need them:

King’s Wellbeing

Counselling service and peer supporters

Student Advice – Housing, Immigration, Disability and Mental Health and Money, including the student money mentors

Mental Health Advisors

Chaplaincy

Careers and Employment

Study Skills

English Language Centre

Your personal tutor

Health Centre

Harassment Advisors

Positive Peers

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Feeling Connected to Campus

It can be easy to come and go from campus and feel a bit disconnected, especially if you’re living at home and commuting. But do try to stick around and feel connected; this is your campus, your space and you have every right to feel at home.  Identifying places that you enjoy being in either socially, or for a bit of quiet time to reflect can help you feel a connection to the physical space and campus at large.

Time to chill

Never Stop Learning Challenge: Connecting to Campus

  • Explore your campus with a friend and identify a nice spot for a coffee and catch up before or after lectures. Many departments even have their own common rooms, such as the Dickson Poon School of Law and the Virginia Woolf Building.
  • Find some quiet spaces for chilling and reflecting. Don’t forget the wellbeing room in the Maughan Library and the chaplaincy rooms on each campus if you just want some time to yourself.
  • Learn a little about the history of King’s and its traditions. Did you know that the Duke of Wellington had to fight a duel to defend his role in establishing the college in 1829?  Find more facts here and check out this link for 6 surprising facts about King’s mascot Reggie the Lion:
  • Check out the Life at Kings Instagram to see how some of our other students are connecting with campus, taking some fun and quirky photos along the way.

Welcome and Invest in Relationships

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Feeling nervous about building new social connections? Don’t stress, you won’t be the only one!  It’s daunting to find yourself in a new environment, potentially without the friends and family who’ve been your anchor points over the last years close by and this is something that many new students are experiencing.  It’s worth remembering at this point that you’re entering into a community of almost 30,000 students from over 150 countries and are perfectly poised to meet a new and diverse range of people who could become friends for life.  That’s pretty special.

Invest in Relationships Challenge: Accommodation

So, how can you start to build a social network?  If you’re in uni accommodation, that’s a good place to start. Even if you don’t end up being close friends, it’s still better to be on first name and friendly terms in a convivial atmosphere than passing ships in the corridor.  That said, have a look at some of these challenges below and don’t forget to buy and print your NUS card at the Welcome Fair to take advantages of student discounts while you socialise:

  • Knock and introduce. Take a deep breath and go and knock on the doors of everyone around you in halls.  Say ‘hi’, introduce yourself and, if you get a good vibe, see if they fancy meeting up for coffee/going to an event together such as our Welcome Marquee takeovers on the 21st at Strand (10am-7.30pm) and the 22nd at Guy’s (10am-3pm).

Wilmington DE © @timsavageYou just never know if the person behind the next door will turn out to be a great friend.  In any case, we bet it won’t be as scary as knocking on these doors!

  • The communal meal. Are you in accommodation with a shared kitchen?  Why not get everyone together for some chips and dips and drinks, or a meal if you’re feeling adventurous and get to know each other.  Don’t worry if your culinary skills aren’t up to much just yet; it’s all a learning process and many a uni friendship has been forged over experimental meals in the communal kitchen!

food small Lacking in the culinary skills department? No need to worry!  You won’t be alone!

  • Keep saying ‘hi’. Cut your flatmates a little slack if they don’t initially appear all that friendly.  They may just be taking a little while to acclimatise, so don’t write them off.  Keep being friendly and offer them the chance to come out of their shell when they’re ready.

Don’t forget that your Residence Associates (RA’s) will be putting on social and community-building events throughout the year in your halls – the perfect opportunity to get to know your new neighbours.

Trying new activities

Uni is the perfect time to try out new activities and from bhangra to Dr.  Who, tea drinking, to social justice, there is a KCLSU society for absolutely everyone. If you’re a bit nervous about going, just remember that this is the time of year when most new members join, so you’ll be in the same boat as a lot of other students.  You’ll come across societies recruiting at the Welcome Fair and around campus – they want you there!  And don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you find it’s not for you, you haven’t lost out, but you may just awaken a hitherto undiscovered passion or talent.

fencing

Who’s to know what new passions and talents might be unleashed at the KCLSU Welcome Fair!

Aside from societies, don’t forget that there are other social events all year round within your academic departments, halls and Student Services.   Anyone staying in London over the winter holiday period can also make use of the Global Lounge provided by International Advice.

For a weekly get-together in an informal and friendly environment, why not check out the chaplaincy international lunch, running on each campus every week, aimed at bringing together international and home students of all faiths and none.  Whatever your faith background and nationality, you can be assured of a warm welcome.  Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch was very much mistaken!

Keep investing

Amidst the hubbub of freshers’ week and finding your feet with balancing academic work with social time, take some time out to reflect on your support network before KCL. Who in your life do you truly value; which relationships mean the world to you, are supportive and a force for positivity in your life?  Once you’ve reflected; whether this be friends, family, significant other, think about how you can continue to invest in these relationships even if there may be distance between you.

clasped hands

9f84f38168542230d3d27c1e1b466bfdIt’s a common thing to worry about how a significant life change like going to uni might affect the dynamics of our relationships, but with Skype, WhatsApp, snapchat and student travel discounts, you needn’t feel far removed.  You can actually have the best of both worlds as you continue to nurture your prior relationships and broaden your social circle at King’s.

Keep Investing Challenge: Reach Out

So, why not reach out now?  Think of your super 5 supporters, who you know always have your back and write them down.  Send them all a card to let them know you’re thinking of them, drop them a text or a WhatsApp message and let them know how you’re getting on.

Welcome and Keep Moving

Wondering how to keep fit and active during your time at KCL?  You might already have found a sport or activity that you love with a passion.  If so, that’s great!  You’ll almost certainly find a club or society where you can get involved at your comfort level.  If not, no worries!  It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment and find an activity to suit your level and approach and you can even set up your own society if it doesn’t already exist.  Read on for a bit of guidance and a few fun challenges to help you get moving at King’s.

Active KCL – Take Advantage!

Check out the wide variety of sports and movement-based activities on offer.  Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just looking for a way to keep moving with some fun activities in an informal setting, there’s something for everyone at KCL.

You can choose from club sport on the KCL Sport website, the gym, the many KCLSU sports societies and don’t forget Be Active; KCL’s social sport programme.  At only £25 for the year (free if you’re in halls) it’s a bargain and has something to bring out the inner active side of even the most reluctant sportspeople among you!

 woman stretching small

No need to suffer through workouts you  don’t enjoy!

The new Active Wellness scheme is also there to support students experiencing mental health difficulties to implement a health and fitness programme to help optimise physical and mental wellbeing.

Keep Active Challenge: London on Foot

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Tempting as it may be to jump on the Underground to get around, take advantage of the autumn weather to scope out the local area around your accommodation and campus on foot.  Go exploring with some people from your halls or course and identify some nice cafes, pubs or eateries to unwind after lectures. Don’t forget to check if you get a student discount!

Discover some of London’s many parks and green spaces and maybe arrange to walk to campus a couple of days a week (weather permitting!) to kick-start your day with some fresh air and gentle exercise.  You could even book a free walking tour with Free Tours by Foot with some new acquaintances and get to know the city and your fellow students at the same time.

Keep Active Challenge: Being Healthy and Active Your Way

Take 10 minutes to peruse the vast array of sports and activities on offer.  Find one that suits you, your fitness level and approach to exercise and give it a go!

You might also like to check out our very own Wellbeing Coach Wilna’s blog post about her journey to  fitness and marathon running and the benefits it’s brought to her physical and mental health here!

Wilna running Wellbeing Coach Wilna getting into the running zone!

 

 

Moving into Uni Halls

A warm welcome to all of our new King’s students!  And greetings to our returnees; it’s great to see you  back for the new academic year.  We hope this blog post finds you well and settling into your new lodgings.  One of the big adjustments you’re probably making is communal living; it can be nerve-racking to move in with new people!  But just remember, it’s OK to be nervous and everyone’s in the same boat.  Be sure to introduce yourself to your flatmates and neighbours in halls, try and organise something social early on to break the ice and take advantage of any events organised by your RA’s. 

Fortunately for us, Claire, one of our Student Money Mentors and prolific blog writer, is back this academic year with her top tips for making the most of uni, written in her own inimitable style.  First on the list is her take on life in halls and she’ll be back again shortly with some advice for cooking on a budget, so check back again soon!

Not everyone will move into Halls at university. My parents called it ‘digs’, which made me laugh as it made me think I would be living in a literal hole. Luckily, although some apartments may be small, none of them are buried in the ground. There are a few things you ought to do when you first move in though, and a few things to be prepared for.

  1. Someone will steal your food

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Whether it is because they are desperate and have run out of everything in their cupboard, or (more likely) when they have come back late from a night out and are peckish, one day you will wake up and your packet of biscuits you keep as a treat will be finished.

Do not panic.

Yes it is annoying and yes you will hate your flatmates for a bit while you mourn your bourbons, but in the end, it is only biscuits. If they are true friends, they will buy you a pack in compensation afterwards, if not, forgive and forget – save your grudges for bigger things

2. Label your Saucepans

It may seem childish to think that this is ‘mine’ and this is ‘yours’ but it is very easy to get mixed up, and if you bought an expensive non stick Tefal pan, then you don’t want someone burning their sausages and eggs on it and not washing it up. Especially if you are a vegan and can’t eat eggs nor sausages.

The same goes if you have allergies. You don’t want someone storing their walnuts in your plastic container when you have a nut allergy – that is nut cool (get it? XP Okay I will stop). When you move in, make sure you let your flatmates know about anything like that so they can be considerate.

3. Be Fair

Loo roll and washing up liquid can start a lot of arguments. Be honest, and if you haven’t chipped in for a while, take the initiative and buy the next set. Make a rota if you have to, but don’t be the person everyone hates because you always take and never give back. You want your parents to be proud of the person they brought up.

  1. Stay Positive

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Don’t make snap judgements. When you got to university, you are going to meet so many new people so keep an open mind. You will click with some people and less with others, but make sure you approach everyone with an open mind. Try going to Football Try-Outs even if you haven’t played for half a decade, or join the Board Games Night because it may be a lot of fun. The welcome period is when you can dip your toe into so many new experiences, so grasp that opportunity

  1. Invest in an eye mask and ear plug

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If you are a light sleeper, it is worth investing in these. The curtains and walls in Halls can often be quite thin. You may think you can survive a few nights on less than 4 hours sleep but they stack up very quickly and coffee can only do so much.

Trust me, you will enjoy uni a lot more with a decent night’s sleep. If that means having a cuddly teddy from childhood, do it!

Staying Hydrated

This week is Nutrition and Hydration Week 2017 (13th -17th March ) so Fight The Fads have put together their top tips on how to stay hydrated!

sporty woman drinking water

How much water do we need?

It is recommended that men consume 2L or 10 glasses/day and women 1.6 L or 8 glasses/day.

However, water requirements depend on your activity levels and the surrounding temperature, so only view the above recommendations as a minimum!

 

The easiest way to identify if you are consuming enough water is checking the colour of your urine:

clear or light yellow = well hydrated
darker = dehydrated (the darker, the more dehydrated) DRINK WATER!

FTF tips on building your water consumption:

  1. Carry a bottle with you and fill it up periodically.
  2. Keep a glass of water on your desk at work.
  3. Keep a glass next to your bed. Many of us wake up dehydrated first thing in the morning.
  4. Switch one glass of soda or cup of coffee for a glass of water.
  5. Drink small amounts of water throughout the day to ensure you get enough.

NOTE: We often forget that we get hydrated from foods we consume, such as fruits, soups and stews. This accounts for 20-30%, the remaining 70-80% of our water needs comes from drinks, so choose wisely!

 

University Mental Health Day 2017 – Why I Run

We hope you are looking forward to University Mental Health Day tomorrow as much as we are! This year, the theme is ‘active mental health’ and our Wellbeing Coach Wilna Gracias ,who is organising this year’s event, was keen to reflect on the benefits that her passion for running has brought to her own physical and mental health.  To take part in UMHD 2017 and #moveit4mentalhealth, check out the timetable of events here.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Wilna running Why I Run – Wilna Gracias (Wellbeing Coach)

If you would have told the 15 year old me that the older me would be a marathoner, I would have laughed in your face.

Back then I was your average overweight teen that spent most of her time in front of a TV and/or on the couch doing homework.   In an effort to feel good about myself, I tried all the fad diets and extreme weight loss techniques out there (remember Taebo and sweat suits).  However, I failed after each attempt and each time was left feeling powerless.  I turned to food to soothe these feelings and hence added to the stress.

Fast forward to 2010. I’m living in New York City working as a social worker, and overall, feeling pretty accomplished.  They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere and to the outside world, I had made it. With two degrees under my belt and a growing career, I had it all.  Except for that feeling of failure and powerlessness that was associated with being overweight.  It crept up when I looked in the mirror, when I went shopping for clothes, and even when I made choices about what to eat.  I could no longer deny it or cover it up-I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin.  It was time to do something.  I chose to RUN.

UMHD

 

I ran my first half-marathon in April of 2010 and haven’t stopped running since.  I’ve run over 9 half-marathons in 2 different countries (US and UK). I have also run 4 marathons with Team for Kids, including this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon just last week.  Team for Kids is a group of adult runners from around the world who add meaning to their miles by raising funds for New York Road Runner’s Youth and Community Services programmes. The funds raise provide low cost-health and fitness programs to kids who would otherwise have little or no access to regular physical activity.  These programmes serve over 200,000 children in more 1,000 schools each year.

Not only have I shed the unwanted pounds and poor body image, I have re-gained control of my body, health, and life.  So when I’m asked why I run, the truth is that it reminds me that I’m EMPOWERED.  Running reminds me that I have the power to change my life.  Running reminds me that power is believing in yourself and working towards your goals.  Most importantly, running reminds me that power is not something you keep to yourself, but share with others.  Thus far, I have raised over $6,000 for Team for Kids and hope to continue to do so in the years to come.  I want to share to the gift of running with as many people as possible.  It has changed my life and I know it can change others’ lives as well.

 

Sustainability Week – saving the pennies and the planet

This week is Sustainability Week at KCL and there are a whole host of activities designed to help us embed sustainability into our everyday lives; good for our financial well-being and helps to feel that we are giving something back, which in turn boosts our mood.  With that in mind, Student Money Mentor Claire is back again with some tips for saving the pennies whilst saving the planet! 

Sustainability

It’s not that easy being green, living every day the colour of the trees…. And the colour of a £5 note.

Sustainability and saving money go hand in hand, so in partnership with King’s Sustainability, here are some tips to help you and the environment.

 1Food

We all love it, but in the UK we throw away around 10 million tonnes of food every year. More than 50% of this comes from our homes but the solution to this problem is literally at our fingertips. Firstly, we can do simple things like not cooking excessive amounts of food in one go so we don’t have to throw it away in the evening. Or keeping those leftovers in a Tupperware box and bringing it into uni the next day – not only reducing waste, but also saving you from spending a fiver on your meal at lunchtime.  The SU spaces on campus have microwaves to heat your food up.

Website like https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ are filled with ideas of what to do with left over bits and bobs in your fridge. Sometimes, though, freezing fresh veg or bread and saving it for a rainy day is the quickest and simplest option. Although don’t freeze and then defrost carrots – been there, done that…. It doesn’t end well…

2. Olio

olio

This is an app I have recently discovered and have fallen in love with. It also revolves around reducing waste and connect people in the local community. You set your location and it scans the nearby area for other Olio users. Users can post food and non-food items they want to get rid off, and if it tickles your fancy, you can arrange to pick it up. Similarly, if you have any unwanted goods, you can give them to someone who needs it rather than throwing it away – one man’s junk is another man’s gold.

 

Environmental awareness green stickers

 3. Upcycling

This is a nifty way to cut down on how much you throw away and save some money. If you are creative too and want to so some DIY, then this ticks all the boxes as you basically take something you are about to throw away and turn it into something else. There are useful websites online like http://www.upcyclethat.com/ or https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/upcycling/ to inspire you.

 If you want some more information about sustainable living and saving money, check out King’s sustainability week- you’ve still got a day and half before it ends tomorrow. There are lots of activities and talks, and even a Swap Shop where you can donate your unloved good and pick up something else in exchange. I hope to see you there!

Stomping the stigma and taking positive steps

What a great time we had interacting with students today for Time to Talk 2017!  Across the University, students and staff came together to ‘stomp the stigma’ by placing a footprint in paint over negative, damaging or thoughtless words around mental health problems and replacing them with words of compassion, understanding and empowerment in our shoe collage.  Throughout the day, we had open, honest and frank discussions about the impact of these words, how to support ourselves and each other in times of mental ill health and how to practise self-care to safeguard our physical and mental well-being.

We’ve collected some of our favourite photos from the day below, with even more photos and videos on our @kingswellbeing twitter feed and our King’s Wellbeing Facebook page.

WP_20170202_12_34_13_Pro      Stomping that stigma!stamping right waysad  stomp filtercrafts right way    WP_20170202_13_04_12_Pro

Replacing stigmatising language with messages of support and empathy

 

green shoe

WP_20170202_13_03_56_Pro  displayThe finished product!