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World Mental Health Day is October 10 – a day set aside to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health issues. The focus this year is on suicide prevention. The World Health Organization encourages everyone to join them on this date for “40 seconds of action” to raise awareness of suicide around the world and how we can prevent it. The 40 seconds represents the fact that every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. Suicide is preventable; we just need to work to help de-stigmatise mental health issues.

What’s the deal with the mental health crisis?

Research shows that over a quarter of students in the UK experience mental health issues. The symptoms are severe enough for many students that it leaves them unable to complete simple daily tasks, including schoolwork. Many organisations are stepping up to turn around the public perception of mental health and mental wellness, including Time to Change and Heads Together, two of the UK’s most notable mental health awareness organisations.

How can I focus on my mental health?

It’s important that students take a proactive approach to their mental wellness, especially during the university years. Self-care is not a luxury or an afterthought—you should plan and incorporate it into your daily schedule. It’s overwhelming to think of “adding one more thing”, but by incorporating some of these self-care tips, you’ll experience reduced stress levels and find that it’s easier to complete tasks.

Even Instagram and social media recognise the importance of self-care. Hashtags like #CarveoutCalm and #SelfCareSundays urge followers to put self-care as a priority.

Here are a few simple ways to incorporate self-care into your daily schedule.

Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are two of the most effective practices for improving your mental health. Meditating for even ten minutes every day can have a profound effect on not only your stress levels but your overall wellbeing. The benefits of meditation are well-documented, with evidence that it reduces blood pressure, heart rate, as well as improves your brain health

If you don’t know where to start with meditation, use one of the many apps on the market for just this purpose. Three of the most popular apps include Calm, HeadSpace, and 10% Happier. Most of these platforms have short, guided meditations that you can do from just about anywhere. Just breathe and focus on the instructions for a mini-meditation session when you need a break or a boost. Alternatively, try incorporating meditation into your morning routine, right after you wake up, to start the day on a positive note.

Exercise

You hear it everywhere you go, but it’s true–exercise is an effective stress reducer! Working out has a multitude of benefits, one of which is reducing your stress and anxiety. When you exercise, it releases endorphins which can automatically boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed and happy. Regular exercise will help you sleep better, which can ward off many mental health issues and boost your immune system.

Get outside

One of the best remedies for stress is getting out into nature. Whether you go outdoors for a vigorous run or you sit outside and breathe in the fresh air, being out in nature can make you feel better. The benefits of nature are so well documented that practitioners now offer ecotherapy, which features guided nature walks, walking meditation, and hiking.

Take a Digital Detox

A digital detox could be just what the doctor ordered. Pick a 24-hour period each week, shut down your phone, and stay off social media sites. Use this time to focus on a school project or self-care practices. You may find that shutting down social media leaves you enough time to do both. Many people are not fully aware of how much time their phone consumes until they attempt to disconnect for a day. A recent study (documented by FastCompany) shows that people have a nearly-immediate improvement in posture and mood when they disconnect for a day.

Plan Time for Things That Make You Happy

Making time for the things that you find fun is an essential aspect of practising self-care. With your classes and study schedule, you might not be able to carve out a whole day or even an afternoon each week. However, make it a point to plan at least two hours every week where you do something not related to your coursework—something totally for you and about you. It could be as simple as an at-home facial, getting a manicure, or going to a movie. If you have a hobby you love, such as knitting, crocheting, or painting, dedicate an hour or two every week to the activities that bring you joy.

Prioritise Your Mental Health 

You may feel that taking time for yourself or these self-care activities is a waste that you cannot afford. However, you’ll find that once you put these practices into place, the more productive you’ll be in other areas of your life. Taking these breaks will boost your creativity and leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready for the next challenge. Not to mention, self-care will boost your mental health, giving you space to breathe and recharge.

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