Taking care of your Mental Health and Wellbeing on a PhD

This week, one of our PhD students Charlott shares her insights into approaching the challenges of a PhD in a way that promotes a healthy body and mind.  If you’re not a PhD student, do keep reading, as there are plenty of tips and insights applicable to all academic programs and for life after study too. 

We particularly like Charlott’s point about reaching out and talking to someone if you’re struggling, especially with national TimeTo Talk Day just around the corner on the 1st of February! 

Thank you Charlott. 

I have always wanted to do a PhD. During my undergraduate I was taught by inspiring people who showed me the magic of research and after skipping a Master’s degree due to financial reasons, I started my PhD at King’s College in January 2016. At this point I was so full of excitement and confidence from the undergrad exams I had aced, that I was certain I would equally breeze through my PhD. I knew it would be a challenge, but this knowledge was more of a vague notion, rather than my own conviction.

Fast forward to the Upgrade Proposal, several months into the program:

My supervision circumstances had changed, I moved to another lab and was scrambling to prepare a decent upgrade proposal. Despite the efforts of my supervisors all those things combined took a toll on me.  I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I was expected to do, unsure if I had done enough reading, if I understood everything, if I was good enough, if I was a failure after all. I never had to deal with not being successful academically. The uncertainty, the loneliness, the not-being-top-of-the-class-anymore, I wasn’t prepared for. I stopped going out as much, I ate badly, I slept badly, I worried all the time about every aspect of my life and my work suffered.

I am telling this story not to discourage anyone from doing a PhD, but to point out how important it is to take care of your mental health. While I have come a long way from the anxious student described above, I admit that doing a PhD is still not always easy. This is why I have created a list of things that can help to keep you sane until your doctorate (and hopefully beyond):

Expectations vs Reality

Many people have unrealistic expectations when starting out on a PhD and that’s perfectly fine, even necessary. To embark on a big task like this you need confidence, a strong believe in yourself and maybe even a little naivety. Those things are great to have, but familiarise yourself with other people’s experiences, and be aware that when things are getting difficult, it’s not you, it’s the very nature of a PhD to be a pain in the buttocks from time to time.

Talk to someone

I decided to add this point quite early on, because whoever you are and whatever your situation is; if you feel you’re not coping, you’re lonely, or you just have an off day: talk to people. Obviously, this can be to friends, family, your pet, random conversations in the office kitchen or corridor. Talking to other students about their messed-up experiments can put everything into perspective again.

Portrait of two beautiful young girlfriends sitting in modern coIn addition to this King’s College provides counselling services (including same day appointments with a Mental Health Advisor), which helped me a lot when I first experienced anxiety and didn’t know what to do with myself. The NHS offers counselling services, which usually require a longer waiting time, but have helped me immensely. Note, that those things might take a while, but you can always contact charitable organisations, such as the Samaritans, at any time of day (more details below).

Meditation

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When someone suggested meditation to me, my first reaction included heavy eye rolling. I couldn’t really picture myself sitting in an incense filled room going “ooooom”, when my anxiety barely allowed me to sit still as it was. But then I stumbled across the Headspace app and it helped me massively. I would recommend trying it out for anyone who ever felt that their heads were full to the brim with thoughts, worries or anxiety. The app offers a huge range of different guided meditation sessions, including 1-3 minute emergency ones, anxiety related mediation or just sessions that you can listen to before a nerve-wracking presentation. I know that this won’t be for everyone, but give it a go before resorting to eye rolling.

All the things you know already

I know, I know, healthy eating and exercise are being shouted from the rooftops everywhere. And I am the first to admit that I am not great at following my own advice here. BUT, eating in a way that provides you with enough nutrients and getting some movement in are huge mood busters for me. I will never skip all the biscuits or go running every day of the week, but having comforting home cooked meals, rather than pizza every night and going for a walk during your lunch break do make a huge difference. Don’t overdo it with the good intentions if you’re a bit of a lab bench potato, just try and incorporate some movement throughout your day, get out into the fresh air and eat an apple here or there. Healthy body, healthy mind and all that.

Don’t overdo it!

I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned: don’t overdo it. Sometimes, when I felt just overwhelmed with work, I would react to it by staying in the lab for 12 hours a day and spending my weekends thinking about work / actually being at work. A PhD IS hard work, however burning yourself out is not going to help anyone. Try to make a plan of the work you have to get through, treat your PhD like a job and go home when you’re done for the day. It seems obvious, but a lot of students feel peer pressure to basically live in the lab and you really really don’t have to! Yes, there might be the occasional weekend or late shift, but always make sure to get enough free time and do something nice for yourself.

Summary

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, you’re doing great
  • Make time for yourself, friends and family
  • Have a plan, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t all go smoothly (it never does!)
  • Treat yourself with whatever makes you feel good
  • Stop and actually listen to your body and brain, they have a lot of clever things to tell you
  • Just try to enjoy it, remember: it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Useful contacts

 

 

New Year New Start: The KCLSU Advice Service

NYNS_Materials_WebpageFooter (007)We hope that you’re enjoying New Year New Start!  If you’ve been to one of the chill-out zones, you might have noticed that one of the KCLSU Academic Advisors was on hand to deal with exam-related queries and concerns. 

This blog entry comes from Adina Bernstein, Advice and Support Outreach Coordinator for KCLSU who fills us in on how their advisors can help with academic concerns and even shares how she looks after her own wellbeing at busy times of year. 

A day in the life of KCLSU Academic Advice

KCLSU Advice supports more than 1,300 students each year, many at exam time. We provide confidential, independent, impartial advice for all King’s students on plagiarism, exam misconduct, complaints, appeals, and when their fitness to practice is called into question.

Here’s what a typical day might look like in our office:

 I get to the office at 8.30am and log on to my emails straight away to check the Academic Advice inbox. Things can get quite busy during the exam period as we aim to get back to every student within two working days; this can be an anxious time for students one of the best things about the job is being able to reassure people at a difficult time.

 Most of the people who get in touch during exams have some sort of Mitigating Circumstances (or “mit circs” as we usually call them) which affect their ability to study and sit exams. Mental and physical health really affect students’ ability to study, as do family and personal circumstances. If there was one thing I could tell students it’s that we really do welcome them contacting us even if they’re not sure whether they have mit circs. We will never judge you or tell you what to do and can advise by email, phone, and Skype as well as face-to-face.

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 When a student comes to me with mitigating circumstances, I usually help them by going through the form they have to fill in and letting them know what evidence they need, such as a note from a doctor. This is usually a simple process once you know how to ask for it, and we can empower students with the knowledge and confidence to ask for what they need. It’s really positive to know I can help students get their mitigating circumstances granted at this stage as this usually means they won’t have to go through an appeal.

The  exam period is certainly one of our busiest times, and one of our most rewarding in terms of the work we do with students, but all of our other work still continues at the same time.  It’s really important for me to take care of my own wellbeing at this point in the academic year, so I work hard to balance new and existing cases and remind myself to take the advice I give my students and take a break!

You can speak to one of the KCLSU academic Advisors this week at the New Year New Start chill-out zones.  More information here

They are also contactable all year round in term time by telephone and email.  More information here

New Year New Start – My Experience of Coaching

Welcome back and a Happy New Year!  As 2018 begins some of you may be heading into exams and even more will probably be thinking about goals and resolutions for the new year.  To help you start the year in positive style and offer some moral and practical support during exams, King’s Wellbeing and KCLSU are running a New Year New Start campaign with a variety of activities.  More details available here

This week, we also have a testimonial from one of our coachees about their experience of wellbeing coaching and how it helped them to set and reach positive goals.

My Experience of Wellbeing Coaching

I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all want to be the absolute best versions of ourselves. In our ever-changing, fast-paced and competitive society we ceaselessly strive to be better and do better. While this is an admirable attitude to have, it can come at a cost.

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Over the past few years, there has been a lot of movement towards wellbeing – you may have even heard the words wellness and mindfulness being thrown around. There are so many ideas on what this entails and how you should achieve it in your life that it can all get a bit confusing! It is time to demystify it and show how simple yet important it really is.

What is wellbeing?

In a nutshell, wellbeing is a physical and mental state of being happy, healthy and comfortable in your surroundings/career/studies/life!

How does this coaching service differ from counselling?

When recommending this service to a few friends, one of the most frequent questions was: is this a counselling service? The answer is no.

Whilst both services aim to help you move forward positively in life, counselling provides a deeper level of emotional support to help you better understand your current emotional state and find coping strategies to deal with the challenges in life.  Depending on the approach, it may also look in more detail at past events for a better understanding of the present.  Wellbeing coaching looks to the future and allows you to build tangible, attainable goals for personal development  in order for you to achieve your happiest and more successful self.

As well as this, wellbeing coaching is for everyone – you can be happy and healthy and still benefit from this service! When I started using the service, I wasn’t unhappy or struggling with anything in particular.

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Going into my final year at King’s, I wanted to make sure that I was maintaining a healthy work-life balance and making the most out of my time. This is exactly what the service has helped me to achieve! Rather than telling you what to do and how to manage your life, the highly-trained wellbeing coaches engage in conversation with you and help you to come up with actionable solutions and tools that will ensure you reach your personal goals and positive change. For example, I wanted to make sure that I was getting enough study-time in during the weekdays whilst still allowing time for myself to rest, exercise and socialise. Keeping up with my studies and still getting enough sleep and me-time is so important to me, and having not been so good at maintaining this balance in the past, I knew that this was an area that I could definitely improve in.

pexels-photo-261909 (1)What wellbeing coaching has allowed me to achieve is identifying my optimal studying hours and making the most of these so that the workload is manageable rather than daunting. What’s more, coaching helped me to feel more confident in my present self and to look to the future with excitement rather than worry.

How can YOU benefit from this service?

University life comes with its challenges for every student – managing academic study, being in control of your finances, and maintaining healthy and happy relationships to name a few! Having to juggle everything can get a bit much sometimes, and every once in a while you need a bit of support and guidance.

Wellbeing coaching is all about setting goals for your future – emotional, physical, academic or professional! This service is incredibly empowering and eye-opening as it helps you tap into your inner resources in order to elicit positive and healthy change in your life

To find out more about wellbeing coaching click here

To find out more about the KCL Counselling Service and Mental Health Advisors click here

Anti Bullying Week 2017: Interview with a KCL Harassment Advisor

Jack-KilkerAs you probably know by now, this week is Anti Bullying Week 2017.  Throughout the week, we’re focusing on the importance of recognising, respecting and celebrating our diverse identities and experiences and empowering ourselves and others. It’s also crucial to know how to seek out support when we need it. Earlier in the week, we sat down with Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator and Harassment Advisor Jack Kilker, who explained to us how he and his fellow advisors can support KCL students on campus.

Can you explain to us what a Harassment Advisor does?

As a Harassment Advisor, it’s my role, as part of the Harassment Advisor Network, to provide information and guidance to students who make contact with us through the It Stops Here portal. Our aim is to be supportive and non-directive, and we work to provide a confidential service, meaning that we do not share the details of anything discussed with us with anyone else, unless we have to for the safety of others. We are there to listen, to understand, and to provide students with a number of options which they can follow in order for them to choose what they feel is most appropriate for them.

What type of issues can a student come to a Harassment Advisor with and how can they reach out?

Anything! It’s not a Harassment Advisors job to tell a student what does or does not constitute harassment or bullying, or to tell a student how to feel. If you feel that you’ve been in any way harassed or  bullied, (if you don’t know what those terms mean, here’s a handy guide) then please do speak to an Advisor, even if you decide that you don’t want to take your report any further.

You can speak to us by making an appointment through the It Stops Here portal.

Help, support, advice, guidance signpost.What can students expect when they meet with a HA?

We have a service users agreement which we all work to, and this sets our clearly what a student can expect from us, but also what we expect from a student using our service. We’re not a professional support service, nor are we the people you make a formal report to, and we cannot advocate on your behalf. We’re a first point of call, and someone with a lot of information to provide, who can help you work out what it is that you want to happen next for you, and how to go about it. At our most basic, we’re also just someone to listen and to help you decide what to do next

 What made you want to become a Harassment Advisor?

When I was at university, Harassment Advisors weren’t a thing. Even in just a few years, higher education has started to make so much progress and become so much more proactive about educating students and staff on what harassment is, and what we can do to try to stop it happening. Being a Harassment Advisor really appealed because I’ve been working in roles like this for a few years now, and I’ve collected a bit of knowledge about harassment along the way, and I think it’s important to use that and give it back, to try to make sure that we’re all working towards a society where harassment doesn’t exist anymore.

I also think it’s important that students who want to speak to an Advisor have as many options of people to speak to as they can, and can always be seen promptly. As a gay man, it’s important to me that if a student should specifically want to speak to someone like them about what they’ve experienced, that I can provide that for them. I’m also a Harassment Advisor for staff in the School of Law.

The theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is ‘All Different, All Equal’.  What does this mean to you and how can we best ensure an inclusive campus?

alldiffallequalThis is such an important theme. Difference has always historically been seen as a bad thing, a reason to divide, a reason to other. Thankfully, in some parts of society, this is very much starting to change – difference has become, or is becoming, something to recognise, something to celebrate, something which can make us powerful. The idea of equality should not be far behind this. It’s something which is central to my work, to my politics and to my identity, and it’s something which we should all have a shared interest in working towards.

I think education is central to inclusivity. That could be through having a diverse curriculum and a diverse range of perspectives presented, so that individuals can learn about their own history and identity, but also about those of others, and recognise how the two differ and interact. It could be education in terms of naming harassment, bullying and discrimination, naming differences and naming our own experiences. If we understand systems of power and oppression, and if we have ways of naming, identifying and recognising this oppression, as well as our broader experiences, then we can start to call these out, to educate others, and to dismantle these systems. Education can give all people the power to recognise inequality, and understand the reasons behind it, and then enable them with the tools to work against this inequality. This is why education, in its many different forms, is so important.

Last year’s theme was ‘Power for Good’.  What is yours and how do you use it?

I love the idea of ‘power for good’, and the ownership that places on each individual to use their skills and experience to try to make a positive change. I think my power for good could be that I’m a good listener, I like learning from others and hearing what they have to say, challenging them, and using their knowledge to develop my own.

Any diversity and inclusion-related book recommendations?

Oh, I could go on, I have quite a few favourites at the moment!

To read, I have to say two. Fiction-wise, I would recommend ‘Call Me By Your Name’ written by André Aciman. It’s a love story between two men in 1980s Italy, one in his mid-twenties and the other in his late-teens. It explores romance, maturity, bisexuality, coming out, acceptance, and eroticism, and is absolutely beautifully written. It also doesn’t focus around some sort of ‘shock-horror he’s gay’ narrative or moment, it exists in world in which the characters understand themselves and their sexuality and work within that, rather than focussing on the reactions of those around them, which is really refreshing for anyone who’s read a lot of queer literature.

In terms of non-fiction, it has to be ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This is a powerful, challenging and incredibly honest account of Eddo-Lodge’s experience of race as a black woman and feminist. With an understanding of intersectionality at its core, this book accounts for the several years since Eddo-Lodge wrote a blogpost of the same name (‘Why I’m No Longer…’), and the responses she’s received to this from people of all races across that time period. It also builds on the original blogpost and discusses the emotional labour placed on people of colour, and especially on women of colour, when justifying and explaining racism to those who do not experience it.

Thank you Jack!

Remember, if you feel that you are experiencing bullying or harassment in any form, you do not have to tolerate it and there is a wealth of support on campus, both practical and emotional.

Anti Bullying Week 2017: Diversity and Inclusion at KCL

nicole walshTo kick off Anti-Bullying Week 2017, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Nicole Walsh helps us to reflect on this year’s theme of ‘All Different, All Equal’.   In this interview, Nicole considers how her role intersects with the aims of Anti Bullying Week, the value of diversity on campus and things that we can do to build a safe and inclusive community at KCL.  

Can you tell us a little about your role, Nicole?

I am a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and work as part of the central Diversity & Inclusion team which sits in HR. As part of this, I lead on the It Stops Here project, which is King’s campaign to promote King’s as a space that is free from sexual violence, bullying and harassment, and am further reviewing and developing our work on BME Student Success. My role primarily involves collaborating with various faculties and departments across King’s to support them in their work on diversity and inclusion for students and staff, which includes providing technical expertise around our legal compliance to the Equality Act 2010 but also supporting them to embed the values of diversity and inclusion into everyday practice.

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How do you think this year’s theme relates to diversity and inclusion and your role in particular?

Anti-Bullying Week is directly related to my work on It Stops Here. It Stops Here is a collaborative campaign by King’s College London and KCLSU to build an environment for all of our community so that they feel welcome, supported and safe regardless of who they are. This means ensuring that our staff and students have a shared understanding of consent and are adequately equipped to respond and intervene safely in situations where they see someone experiencing sexual violence, bullying or harassment.

As we know that bullying is often related to an intolerance of difference, particularly in regards to individuals who possess some of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, it is important to understand the relationship between diversity, difference and bullying. As an institution, we need to ensure every member of the King’s community is treated with respect, and their whole, authentic self can contribute fully to the university.

What are our responsibilities as members of the KCL community in creating a campus free from bullying and harassment?

I think we all have the responsibility to take the educational opportunities provided, and create our own, to challenge our own views and perspectives, and become aware of our own behaviours. We should intervene when we see peers or colleagues experiencing unwanted behaviour or attention and ensure to interrupt conversations or jokes that promote a culture of bullying and harassment. One way to get involved at King’s is to take the It Stops Here Pledge and undertaking some of the training we offer.

Why is it so important to celebrate difference and diversity within the university community?

As a global university, difference and diversity is a heart of King’s and the work that we do. Celebrating difference allows us to challenge preconceived ideas of who gets to go to university, and who gets to succeed at a university such as King’s. The more we are able to celebrate and centre difference, the better we will become at creating an environment where people feel they can bring their whole selves to our community.

How can we do this as an institution?

As an institution embedding diversity and inclusion into all of our work and decision making is key to being able to celebrate difference as well as to regularly challenge not only ourselves as individuals, but our institutional structures and processes. The way we work, sometimes just by unquestioned routine, can perpetuate institutional bias and disadvantage or marginalise certain staff or students that we work with.

We need to question how we’ve come to the decisions we have and where something doesn’t work- we need to have the courage to speak up and challenge it, in order to create an environment that enables everybody to not only be themselves but also allows them to thrive.

Last year’s theme was ‘power for good’.  What is yours and how to you use it?

Working in the D&I team is my power for good. It allows me to partner with teams and departments across the university and access the wealth of knowledge that we have available here at King’s, both in the research that is developed here and the brilliant professional services we have behind the scenes. Our team, with the support of the King’s community, is taking action to prevent bullying, harassment and sexual violence, creating a safe environment for staff and students which is something that I am incredibly proud to be a part of.   

 Do you have any top tips for reading around the theme of D&I?

As someone who is a huge fan of audio books, The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla is a book I would highly recommend. In the audio version, each essay is read by the respective author which brings the struggle and humour to life in a personal and powerful way.

Thank you Nicole!

Anti Bullying Week is a national campaign run each year by the Anti Bullying Alliance.  Please see the King’s Wellbeing website for a summary of Anti Bullying Week 2017 at King’s and sources of support if you  are concerned about bullying and harassment. 

Four Ways to Boost Wellbeing during Placement

Managing competing priorities is certainly something that all university students can identify with.  As the semester gains momentum, with academic work, social events, extra-curricular commitments and everyday tasks such as laundry and financial management, it can feel like a lot of plates are spinning in the air!  When we’re busy, especially with deadlines and placements, it can be so tempting to let some of our self-care activities drop to recoup some time for time-sensitive commitments.  However, if we want to be at our best, perform at our best and stay well in the long-term, it’s wise to prioritise our self-care.  This week, one of our Positive Peers share their four tips for wellbeing on placement.

As a disclaimer: I’m not a wellbeing expert, I’m a fourth year medical student who is making it up as I go along. . . but bear with me here, because in this blog I want to show you (and reassure myself!) that that’s okay, because maintaining wellbeing is something to be continually striving for and adapting in order to cope with what’s thrown at you.

When I began clinical medicine last year, being on placement myself and having conversations with friends about our experiences made me realise that although we were mostly enjoying ourselves and loved sharing anecdotes, it is also a strange and often difficult time. I became involved with Positive Peers because I wondered if anyone else felt the same way, and because I firmly believe that it makes no sense to follow a career aiming to improve other people’s wellbeing if you don’t think about how to maintain your own. As I enter my fourth year, the distance from the hospital I’m on placement at from the central London campuses means I am having to adapt how I am involved. . . welcome to this blog!

The reality is that being on placement has changed how much I can be involved in things that I love doing and has affected my wellbeing. As well as being a Positive Peer, all the other clubs, sports team, societies and events which provided such a well- needed break from medicine for me (and were a big part of what I enjoyed about university in the first three years!) are also more difficult to get to and commit to being involved with regularly. Long travel times and long days (hello, waking up at 6am, 45 minute journey and 7.45am start!), as well as the usual nasty transition back to university, learning things after a lovely lazy summer, the shortening days and cold weather have left me feeling exhausted, and really needing to focus on things I do to look after myself. Here are just a few:

download1. Reading! I would love this whole blog post to be about what I’ve been reading and recommending books I love and why*… suffice to say reading is something that always makes me feel better and there’s nothing better than having a good book to look forward to finishing at home.

images2. Good food cheers me up, and experimenting with new dishes and ingredients always feels like an accomplishment. Dedicating some time to cooking a meal is relaxing, as it requires your entire focus and gives you a tangible end result! Meal prep is an over-discussed phenomenon on the internet… but it cannot be denied that pulling out yummy, pre-made lunches out of the fridge is so satisfying!!

mloda-kobieta-cwiczenia-fitness3. I never fail to be amazed how much better going for a run or a gym class makes me feel…even if finding the motivation to do it is a huge struggle, it is worth it every single time!     (If you’re interested in the benefits of exercise, this is a great read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/03/exercise-depression-disease-death-sit-less-move-more)

people-2567915_960_7204. Last and most important: get things in perspective! When I’m feeling overwhelmed I find that it’s nearly always helpful to talk to someone else. I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of friends; one friend in particular never fails to cheer me up over a good phone chat. I can moan a little about my day, but conclude that it’s really just “all the usual stuff”, and reassuring her that actually I’m fine made me realise I’m fine too.

Do you find any of these things helpful? What changes have placement made to you, and how have these affected your wellbeing? I would love to know whether any of this strikes a chord with you; questions, comments, thoughts and suggestions are all so welcome! Maybe one of your comments will even inspire my next blog post J

*Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 10/10

 This post was written by a Positive Peer. The Positive Peers are health students who support other health students through wellbeing initiatives. Find out more about them here!

Beating the Post-holiday Blues

So, we’re delighted to see you, but we’re more than aware that you might have mixed feelings about coming back after the summer break or a study abroad year.  To help ease the transition back to uni life, our Student Money Mentor Claire gives us her take on practical things to do to help settle back in and ways to lift your mood. 

dogUni has started again: time to set the alarms, dig out the notebooks and find where on earth you put your King’s ID. (Yes security is still tight so you are going to need it to get anywhere and everywhere around campus)

Post-holiday blues is a real thing, but there are ways to make your transition back to Uni a little bit smoother.

Here are some tips for when you go back.

Focus on the Good Times

The most common question you will be asked when you come back and see your friends again will be ‘How was your summer?’. Do not reply with ‘It was too short’, you are simply setting off on the wrong foot and focusing on the negative rather than the positive. Relive the fun times you had while you retell your tales of summer picnics, reunion dinners and much needed time in front of the TV. No one wants their first conversation to be centred on wishing for something they don’t have, so embrace the fact you had a break and crack out those holiday pictures on Instagram.

If you are super nice, bring a box of homemade cookies to share around – no doubt you will make someone’s day and spread some joy. You can never go wrong with cookies.

Be Prepared

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It may be painful to contemplate as you’ve barely stepped back onto campus, but scrolling through all those emails you’ve blissfully ignored over the summer will save your life. It is stressful starting a new year, but if you plan what you are doing and know what is going on, you can keep that stress to a minimum. I would invest in a diary or a planner to write everything down, or use the calendar on your phone to track when you have seminars or lectures. That way you won’t be panicking at midnight the day before, trying to find a friend who is still awake and can tell you where you are supposed to be at 9am.

Be Social

Humans are social creature (most of the time, maybe only once fuelled with coffee if morning aren’t your thing). Sure you went home for a few months, ate everything the fridge, enjoyed not having to do your own washing, and relaxed while your family pampered you, so give them a call every once in a while. It is very easy to get caught up in our own busy lives, but even if it is once a short chat every other month, your friends and family will appreciate hearing your voice. The easiest way to feel better if you have post-holiday blues is to be around people who don’t. Their happiness is contagious and is all you need to pick yourself up.

 keep calmSo yes going back to uni can be a drag, but ultimately you will love it. Like going back to anything you have left for a while, getting into the routine is the hardest part, but once you are in the swing of things, the good times will simply wash over you.

If you find that you’re struggling to make the transition back to uni, please don’t suffer in silence.  Reach out to a friend, or your personal tutor.  You might also find these professional services and peer-led initiatives useful:

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.