Help with homesickness

We asked our Instagram followers whether they had found themselves feeling homesick or lonely over the past few months; unfortunately a large number of you said you had felt this way.

When asked what you missed the most answers ranged from the expected i.e. parents, friends, significant others, pets, travelling etc. Some of you missed more specific home comforts such as visiting theatres in Budapest, Scottish water and Melomakarona (Greek Christmas honey cookies).

Understandably we can’t bring all of your pets to campus as much as we may like to, but we do have some suggestions that may help make lockdown a little easier to bear.

For those of you missing the gym

Bristol is home to many hills, not just the steep and tiring Park Street, but actual hills complete with  greenery, dog walkers and views over the city. So for those of you who are urban explorers, why not take in some fresh air and go on a walk or a run up Brandon Hill or Troopers Hill or walk up to the BT Tower on Purdown.

The University Sport, Exercise and Health Division has recently launched Active Online, a new timetable offering instructor-led online classes, delivered live via the University of Bristol Sport app. This is perfect for those of you who are self-isolating, or don’t fancy braving the elements. The classes are free for students to attend, are equipment-free and suitable for all abilities. No advanced booking is required, simply open the app at the start-time of your chosen session.

For those of you missing loved ones and friends

Technology hasn’t advanced enough for us be able to hug through a screen, however just seeing the faces of those you love can be enough to boost your mood. FaceTime, WhatsApp video, Facebook video, Google hangouts and Zoom are all free to use and are a great way to keep in touch.

Students are also encouraged to take advantage of buddy systems being offered. The Wellbeing Network has an online form for those who are looking to find a buddy, and Bristol Doctoral College has created PGR circles to give students the change to meet other PGRS outside of their school/research group.

For those of you missing travelling

Books can be a great form of escapism, they give you a chance to imagine and explore new places like Westeros, Middle Earth and Narnia; learn more about your surroundings in books like Weird Bristol or The Women Who Built Bristol 1184-2018; or read to simply pass the time away. Why not visit the University Library webpages and see what is on offer.

For those of you who miss more conventional travel and can’t wait to get back on a plane, there are virtual walking tours available on Google Maps of beautiful cities like Havana, Cuba and Split, Croatia. You can also explore the Great Barrier Reef with friend of the University, Sir David Attenborough; dive with dolphins and Manta Rays with BBC Earth; or unleash your inner archaeologist/Egyptologist by exploring the Tomb of Queen Meresankh III with the help of the Egyptian Tourist Board.

For more virtual tour suggestions, the following links have a range locations that are worth looking at, saving you the cost of  plane tickets and potential mosquito bites!

14 Virtual Travel Tours You Need To Experience – Elle.com

Armchair Travel Experiences That Let You Explore the World From Your Living Room – Thrillist.com

Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch – Travelandleisure.com

For those of you who would like some coping/distraction techniques

Many people in our community kindly shared their tips for how they are managing the feelings of homesickness and/or loneliness during this time. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Cooking favourite foods/food from home
  • Practising Transcendental Meditation
  • Talking with family
  • Listening to music
  • Watching movies with flatmates
  • Initiating calls online
  • Netflix watch parties
  • Keeping as busy as possible
  • Playing chess online
  • Online workouts with friends

For additional resources and wellbeing support

There is also support available outside the University if this is something that may be of help to you

  • Mind: Coronavirus and your wellbeing
    • Bristol Mind are also offering courses on mental health for undergraduate students as part of Mind’s Mentally Healthy Universities Programme. (Please note: you will need a valid student number and UoB email address to register).
  • Off The Record: being resilient through the Coronavirus disruption.
  • Free Headspace Mindfulness: weathering the storm.
  • BBC article: how to protect your mental health.
  • WHO: mental health and psychosocial considerations during Covid-19.
  • NHS: guidance on relieving stress.

Meet Tony Cowley. One of the Security team helping to keep us all safe.

Keeping students and staff safe in residencies and on campus is no mean feat with a community of around 40,000 people and almost 400 buildings to care for 24/7. We talk to Tony Cowley, Security Supervisor, to clarify the role of security in residencies and why following the rules mean we’ll all be safer. 

Tell us more about your team and the different Security Services staff that students will encounter in residencies. 

I’ve been at the University for nearly two years now and I lead a team of Security Officers that provide an in-house security service across the whole university estate, which includes keeping over 370 buildings, 9 halls of residences and the students and staff therein, safe and secure, 24/7. We respond to everything from fellow student complaints to fire incidents to building access issues  no day is ever the same and dealing with such a large campus certainly keeps us busy! 

We work closely with Residential Life and Residential Facilities teams to provide an all-round service for students that respond to differing needs. As you would expect of us, we respond to matters that would be deemed a breach of student behaviour rules and regulations, which include criminality, drug use/possession, excessive noise (usually loud parties) and other anti-social behaviour. It is important that we respond accordingly and seek to reduce the harm that certain behaviours can have on the individuals involved, other students and the wider community.  But it’s equally important to remember our role in supporting our students and staff and helping to keep everyone as safe as possible. This new webpage sets out more about what you can expect from us and what we can’t do – a way to explain the relationship between Security Services and our students. 

Students may have noticed that there are also Security staff in blue or orange tabards at the halls (we are the staff in yellow and black). These are additional contract staff that have been brought in specifically to assist the residential teams with managing student gatherings that would breach government guidance and university rules around social gatherings during this pandemic.  

How can students help to keep themselves and others safe in residencies during these challenging times? 

When it comes to student behaviour and matters that might lead to disciplinary action, it’s really important for you to be aware of the rules and regulations that are helping to keep us all safe so that you can continue to live and study safely and successfully. You’ll find an overview of how students and your security team can best work together in a new agreement. So whilst at the moment you can’t have parties involving people from outside your household for example, there are still loads of virtual events and activities to explore and make new friends this way.

Keeping safe within your residences really does rely on each student playing their part to look after one anotherAs much as we would like to be, we can’t be everywhere at once, so your safety depends on you all doing your bit. All students would have received a ‘UoB: SAFE’ booklet within their induction packs at the beginning of the year, which offers advice and links to further resources.  

For all welfare and pastoral care needs, do contact your local Student Support Centre to speak to someone from Residential Life and use the wellbeing resources online.

What’s the best part of your job? 

The best part of our role here is the sheer variety of matters that we deal with, as well as the ability to help so many people within our community. We are often working in challenging conditions with limited numbers of staff, so we also need to support each other during the tough times and our teamwork ethic is key to these situationsThis couldn’t be more true as we all navigate our way through this pandemic, where we are trying our best to balance very unique situation at the halls. By all doing our bit we can help avoid further lockdown and restrictions.  

We were all really proud of our colleague Stacey who won an award for ‘Security Officer of the Year for an Outstanding Act of Courage’ a short while ago. She went beyond what was expected to manage a serious student safety issue at a halls of residence and was recognised by the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO). 

And to finish, what would you say to the students here? 

Our role is absolutely to work with you and keep our community safe. We all have a part to play in reducing the spread of the virus so thank you for sticking to the rules.  

 

A Mental Marathon

This post was written by the Founder and Director of PROJECT:TALK CIC, George Cole. George is also a fourth year medical student at University of Bristol. 

Right, stop what you’re doing. Now, get up and run. No, don’t complain, just do it! You haven’t got a choice. Keep running until you’re told to stop.

Oh, and whilst you’re running, make sure you don’t let anything slip, ok? What do you mean you can’t carry on doing your day job as effectively as usual! Find a way! Pathetic.

If this seems a bit of an obscure and unpleasant situation to you, then you’re not alone. You could think of the COVID-19 pandemic a little like this – being plunged into uncertainty, no choice in the matter, completely unprepared and unfamiliar. A mental marathon.

The undeniable truth is that this virus isn’t only having an impact on the physical health of our community; we are all being pushed to the very limits of our mental fitness, too. Not only that, but we’re simultaneously expecting ourselves to be able to operate as normal, carry on with our lives and not feel overwhelmed at all. But perhaps that’s still not enough? We love a challenge, don’t we?! So, we’re also expecting ourselves to study complex degrees, immerse ourselves in University life and achieve highly.

Now, let’s go back to the marathon… we all have different levels of fitness at the start. Whilst physical fitness is determined by things like our age, activity levels and lifestyle choices, our mental fitness varies depending on things like our past experiences, environment and resources. However, you’ll probably find that even the fittest of athletes in our hypothetical marathon gets tired, gets a stitch and reaches their limit eventually.

If we want our human subjects to travel further and faster, we could add some supporters on the sideline. Some with bottles of water, some with high-carb energy bars and some giving words of support. We’d expect our subjects to take the bottle of water and food with no shame, wouldn’t we?

So, in this mental fitness marathon, don’t be ashamed to reach out, take the bottle of water and be each other’s supporter on the sideline.

If you need to reach out for a bottle of water to help you with your marathon, it’s really easy…

PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society are offering friendly support calls, from established University of Bristol students, to fellow peers in need of a chat at such a challenging time.

So, if you’d like water (in the form of a relaxed chat or some advice from our trained peer support team) we’d love to hear from you. Just fill out our short form and one of the team will be in touch very soon!

You can also access water from the University’s wellbeing service through this quick form.

Reach for the bottle of water!

To find out more about PROJECT:TALK and help change the way we view mental health through pioneering mental fitness at the University of Bristol, you can visit our website.

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram or drop us an email at info@projecttalk.org.uk.

The weekend is here!

Wow, what a week! We hope that you’re all coping well during the current national lockdown – remember to look after yourselves and each other, and check in on your friends, family and loved ones.  

Just because we’re in lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!  

Here are some ideas for this weekend: 

Bristol Harbourside in autumn

Go for an autumnal walk with your housemates, Living Circle or one person from another household

There are so many great spots around Bristol for a (chilly) walk; Harbourside, The Downs, Ashton Court Estate…we could go on forever. Please remember to social distance if you are meeting with one person from another household.

Man on phone

Video call someone who you know needs a friend right now

Do you have any mates who live alone or know are not looking forward to the lockdown? Why not give them a call this weekend to check in? 

Set up a shared Spotify playlist and sync with your friends

Who doesn’t love dancing in their kitchen? Exactly! Get a great playlist sorted, share with your friends and hit play at the same time. You could give them a video call too and pretend you’re in your favourite club in Bristol. Motion not open? No problem! 

Have a sort-out

OK, this may sound boring but it’s good to do from time to time. There has got to be some old clothes you never wear or a drawer full of old stuff you don’t need. If you’re feeling super productive this weekend, have a sort through and get a bag of donations ready for when charity shops open up again. 

Sleeping cat

And most importantly…chill out!

If some or none of the above are your thing, just take some time to rest and chill this weekend. Whatever works for you. If that’s playing video games (we have some gamers in the Student Comms team too), binge-watching your favourite series, baking, reading or anything else, just do it! 

Weekend and future events

University and Bristol SU virtual events for the weekend, next week and beyond are listed on our website. Our Resilife Team also have lots of events listed on their Facebook page.

Here are a few of our upcoming event highlights: 

  • On Wednesday, you can Celebrate Diwali with the Bristol Hindu Society.  
  • Next week, Bristol COVID-19 experts will be answering questions on the virus. The event will be chaired by Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire and everyone is welcome to attend virtually and submit a question beforehand. Learn more about it here.
  • Join the Multifaith Chaplaincy for their annual Faith Crawl on Wednesday.
  • We’ve teamed up with Mind, the leading mental health charity, to pilot their new Mentally Healthy Universities programme. View the events here.

We hope you all have great weekends 😊 

Your Student Comms team x