Anxiety and its antidotes

Going away to university is often said to be the best years of a young person’s life, and yet the number of UK university students who report a mental health concern is now five times what it was ten years ago (Not By Degrees, Institute for Public Policy Research, 2017). Anxiety and depression are by far the most common mental health issues among UK students, according to a 2016 YouGov Survey. The growing concern over student anxiety prompted UK mental health charities Babylon Health, Student Minds and Nightline to collaborate on a project where powerful quotes gathered from anxious students were turned into illustrations “as a way of shining a light on the issue and bringing anxiety to life”:

Read more ›

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Happy National Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!

Rainbow flagsHappy National Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!  (Someone really should come up with a catchier name). 
May 17th was chosen to celebrate gender and sexual diversity after the WHO declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder on 17 May 1990.  While acceptance of human diversity has made slow progress over the years and 43 countries now recognise homophobic crimes as hate crimes, 70 countries worldwide still criminalise consensual sexual acts between same sex couples held in private, 9 of which execute those they find to have had same sex activity, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.  Life for many people who do not fit the arbitrary mould of what is considered acceptable in these places is made very difficult in order to flatter the prejudices of those who fear even slight differences between people.  Violence against trans people alone claims hundreds of lives every year.
This prejudice and persecution is well known to all those who are racially, religiously, cognitively or sexually different from the majority of those around them.  Many people are a victim of their own fears and believe the rest of the world is at fault for not conforming to their narrow view of what is ‘normal’.  Sadly, this seems all to be part of what it is to be human.
You can find out more and follow current concerns and trends on the May17.org website.
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Closure and re-carpeting of Library Area 1A (10-31 June 2019)

Vacuuming carpetWe are continually working to refurbish the Library so that it is as pleasant a place to work in as possible.  The next stage of this work is to replace the carpet in Area 1A on the first floor of the Library.  This work will begin on 10 June.  The work is expected to last for up to three weeks.  While this refurbishment work is being carried out (ca. 10-31 May 2019), there will be no access to the:

  • Map Library – including the large format scanner
  • Library Bloomberg terminals
  • Printed books and DVDs with shelfmarks between 346-690

Please plan your work around this upcoming refurbishment work.

There are Bloomberg terminals in the Business School computer rooms, the Map Librarian will still be available on request from 9am – 5pm weekdays, and it will still be possible to reserve, recall and return all books during this period.  Any books returned to the Library that would ordinarily be shelved in Area 1A will be temporarily displayed on shelves in or near the Library Atrium.  Ebook versions of many books are available to read online and are available through both the Library Catalogue and Discovery Service.

Major subjects affected

The shelfmark range affected includes the following major subjects (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Business – including Accounting, Leadership, Marketing, Management (all kinds)
  • Criminology
  • Education
  • Engineering (all kinds) – including Communication systems
  • Geography – including GIS, Physical Geography, Social Geography, and Disaster Management
  • Health Policy & Services
  • Health sciences – including Anatomy, Dentistry, Exercise Science, Medicine, Nursing, Nutrition, Pharmacy, Physiology and Radiography
  • Human Resources
  • Languages – including English language dictionaries, thesauri, and other reference works
  • Law (all books not in the Law Reference Collection with shelfmarks beginning 346-349)
  • Linguistics
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Mathematics – including many books on Statistics
  • Penology
  • Policing
  • Sciences (Astronomy, Biology, Biochemistry, Cartography, Chemistry, Cosmology, Physics)
  • Social work – including Social Policy and Social Care
  • Surveying (all kinds)
  • Tourism
  • Typography

Temporary stairwell closure

The central concrete stairwell will close temporarily at the start of the works but will reopen as soon as possible.  While this staircase is closed, please use the wooden stairs from the Atrium to reach Areas 1B, 1C, and either the wooden stairs or the concrete stairs beyond the grey doors leading up from the Atrium to reach the second floor.  For your own safety, please observe the barricades and keep clear of the building site.

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23 wellbeing things. No. 23, Learning from life

Trees reflected in a pondPeople are a lot like ponds – both reflect without even knowing they are doing it.  Unlike ponds, people can work to improve their ability actively to reflect and learn from life experiences – what went well and what you might change if you did it again.  The habit of reflective practice helps you get to learn and develop, find better ways to do things, and get to know yourself better, particularly how you learn and what causes you difficulties.  This makes you well-placed to overcome those things you once found difficult.

Self-awareness is powerful.  When you know yourself well, you can find ways to handle tasks and people more easily and with less effort by instinctively changing your approach to suit your strengths.  Self-awareness is also now a “soft” skill increasingly sought in leaders and managers.  In short, it is just a good habit to get into, and lets you traverse life more easily and calmly.

A colleague has written a very interesting blog post recently discussing the technical aspects of how to do reflection in more detail.  Probably more detail than you ever wanted to know, but that is typically what happens when you start a conversation with an academic skills tutor!  It’s well worth reading or you can find books on reflective practice to relax with at home or in the Library after your exams end.

 

That’s all for now, folks!

That concludes this blog post series.  I hope that at least some of these 23 wellbeing things have been helpful to you, made you think differently about the way you work or given you new insight into creative ways you can squeeze both more fun and success out of life.  Let me know in the comments below if there is anything you do that you find useful or that you would like me to blog on, explore, explain or muse about.

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23 wellbeing things. No. 22, Finding the right fuel

BBQ chicken wrapYou have very likely heard your body compared to a car engine at some point in your life, probably at school.  The analogy is a crude one but useful.  Car (like computers, exams and all else that humankind has ever created) work well only when the right things are put into them in the right proportions and kept topped up so that they never run out of anything they particularly need.  “Garbage in, garbage out” as the computing saying goes.  Cars need fuel that works well with the whole engine, burns smoothly to supply power over a prolonged period of time and leaves no ugly after-effects, while the car also needs plenty of water to keep its radiator working and the engine cool, as well as a few other things that are car-specific – every analogy necessarily breaks down sooner or later and this one broke just now. Read more ›

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23 wellbeing things. No. 21, How to enjoy life (all of it)

Xbox controllerIt is vitally important to reward yourself regularly, especially when you are working intensively.  Make time each day just for you, to do things you really enjoy.  Treat yourself to a good book, a spell of gaming, a scented bubble bath, or a brutal game of squash – whatever’s your thing.

All of life should be enjoyable.  It is neither wise nor helpful to put off being happy until tomorrow.  This serves only to make you less happy today, and an unhappy you is going to then be pining for happiness postponed rather than concentrating on what is in front of you now.  Live every moment and make each day worth living.

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23 wellbeing things. No. 20, When in danger or in doubt…

… run in circles, scream and shout

~ attr. US Navy, 1940s

Spring in Ravelin Park

Exercise does wonders for mind and body.  Moving around lubricates everything, relaxes muscles that otherwise will tense after a long time spent sitting still.  It also releases lots of happy mood chemicals called endorphins and encephalins into your brain that make you feel better about life.  These compounds target the same receptors as heroine, albeit with a considerably more mellow high and without being nearly as addictive.

Essentially, you were made to move and when you do things that are good for you, your body rewards you with a feel good high.  This really doesn’t have to be an organised trip to the gym for a formal workout.  Just walking briskly around Ravelin Park will trigger the effect without getting you too puffed out and tired.  The downside of sugar is that the concentration and euphoria fades after only a few minutes, leaving you craving more, whereas if you are anything like me, you won’t be craving too much more exercise after a few laps of the park but will be feeling loosened up, settled and ready for a nice sit down and some more revision.  Being outside and seeing all the varied shades of lush, restful green is soothing for the mind as well. Read more ›

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It’s the end of the year – try some reflection

Silhouetted man reflected in waterHow did your academic year go?

Do you normally judge your success and contentment by the marks you get?

Have you ever thought that you could learn from your mistakes as well as your successes?

Reflection

Reflection is mighty important in all areas of life. When studying you are often in the midst of what you are reading or being tasked to do. Pausing, zooming out and getting a bird’s eye perspective is a very crucial step. I particularly like the term ‘contemplating life’. Let’s do some contemplation. Read more ›

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23 wellbeing things. No. 19, Add a splash of colour to your life

Colouring pencilsAfter focusing on one topic after another, even with breaks, the mind can tire.  There is only so much that the mind can manage before it starts to collapse under the weight of new knowledge and everything starts to slip and slide around.   There are several ways to deal with this, meditation is one, while mindful colouring is another.  The importance of colouring is that it uses your mind in an entirely different way, gently, and still inviting you to notice what is happening in the body while you cover – the pressure on the pencil, the texture of the paper, and the act of colouring.

Colouring resets your focus within minutes allowing you usefully to return to work with your monkey mind – the smaller, older, more priordial part of your brain that wants to jump up and down, panic and scream at exam time – to calm itself by noticing over several minutes just what it is doing to colour the page.  This brain training is subtle but powerful.  It can make you calmer, happier and perhaps even nicer to know.

You can download and print colouring sheets from several websites.  Colouring pencils can be found in most good stationary stockists, or you could just shade in the spaces with a standard pencil for a subtle, shiny, greyscale effect.

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23 wellbeing things. No. 18, Join the 6%ers

Comedy/tragedy

To some extent, the life we experience is down to how we choose to approach it.

Some people are mood hoovers.  You must have met them or indeed proudly be one!  Mood hoovers find life miserable.  Not that anything in particular is wrong or troubling them, nor that they are depressed or deeply unhappy, only that they notice all the little things that don’t work properly, they fuss over all the little things that are not quite perfect, moan alarmingly about things that all turned out right in the end but might not have done in a parallel universe, and are convinced that nothing will turn out well.  Luckless, joyless, pessimistic and dour, the mood hoover has the capacity to bring down any prevailing good mood.  Let’s face it we’ve all been there at some point, we’ve all been that person in the room – only happy when thoroughly miserable.  The thing is, mood hoovers not only make dismal company but they don’t enjoy life much themselves either.

Most people, for the most part, are in the middle of the scale – between the extremes of pessimism and joyful ecstasy at being alive.  Welcome to being “normal”.  It’s a little dull here.

Consider then, what life is like for the top 6% (according to positive psychology research) who wake each morning and decide, arbitrarily, that today is going to be excellent.  They have no reason to expect the day to go well, no special secret to success, they just decide that if they have to live today and do certain things, they might as well set about them expecting them to be the most exciting and wonderful experiences imaginable.  Lucky, happy, enthusiastic, joyous and enjoying the ride, these people seem to have it all made.  Their enthusiasm is infectious and can sweep the majority along, get more done and make doing it a whole lot more fun, make them likeable, and ease the way the day pans out.  The most radiant 6%ers can even outshine the hard vacuum of joylessness surrounding a practiced mood hoover, although if you are just heading out to reach the top 6%, such might be best avoided for a while.

So you have a choice – you can wake up and decide to wallow in misery, pointing out the grey lining to every silver cloud, meander through life without incident, or decide that every day is going to be a good day to live, and throw yourself into it with the expectation that everything will be the best it can possibly be under the circumstances, looking excitedly for the silver lining to every grey cloud, and enjoying everything good that comes your way.  It’s all in your approach to life, and while feeling bad can affect you temporarily, positive thinking can make you healthier, happier and better in all sorts of ways.

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