How our community are being kind during lockdown

Every May we in the United Kingdom celebrate and observe Mental Health Awareness Week. It is a chance to raise awareness of mental health problems and the importance of taking care of ourselves. It is an opportunity to inspire action, share experiences, and end the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

This year’s theme is kindness. Being kind to ourselves, being kind to others and being kind to our communities and planet.

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, last week we asked our Instagram followers to share with us how they are practising kindness during lockdown, here are some of their responses, and some tips if you want to do similar things.

Giving food and blankets to homeless people

Understandably the current situation with COVID-19 is difficult and stressful for everyone. We miss normality, our family, our friends, travelling, getting haircuts etc. However this situation is also incredibly stressful for some of our more vulnerable members of society, particularly the homeless. If you feel that you would like to, or are in a position where you are able to, donate food and blankets in your local communities, that can be a great way of spreading kindness. Likewise, if donating money is something that you are able or would like to do, take a look at the following charities who are working hard in Bristol, in the UK and internationally.

Caring in Bristol – Caring in Bristol work in imaginative and creative ways with people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with the public and community partners to bring about lasting change in Bristol and beyond.

Shelter UK – Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services.

Habitat for Humanity – As an international charity fighting world poverty and homelessness, Habitat’s  vision is a world where everyone has a safe place to call home. They believe that a decent home helps to permanently break the cycle of poverty and allows families to achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance.

Also there are a bunch of really cool comedy shows and online quizzes that donate a portion of your ‘e-ticket’ to charity.

Cooking meals and snacks for loved ones and key workers

 

If you enjoy cooking, are trying to cook more during lockdown, or simply are bored of takeaways, the making and sharing of food is a great way to show kindness to yourself and others.

Jack Monroe has a range of recipes on their website that can cater (pun intended) to those of us who may be on tight budgets, lack time or only have access to a microwave, whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. Visit their website and see what you can cook.

Check out our previous blog post where second year History student Elaura shares her yummy ginger biscuit recipe.

The BBC Good Food website also has a section specifically designed for students, the meals are quick and cheap to make, and definitely worth a try.

Making an effort to talk to everyone

Having a quick (distanced) chat or even a “good morning!” with someone you pass in the street, park or shop can really brighten up your or their day. Of course, conversations with a stranger can’t replace the face to face contact with friends and family but it could make you feel a bit better and decrease loneliness slightly.

In the UK, we celebrate once a week with a “clap for carers“. People go to their front doors and clap in the street for a minute to show their appreciation for carers during this time. If you take part in this or there is something similar taking place in your home country, why not speak to your neighbours after and see how they are doing.

If there are elderly people in your area then you could become a neighbourly volunteer with Age UK. Volunteers can help as much or as little as they like. Just offering a phone call once a week to someone staying at home during the outbreak could mean a lot.

Other acts of kindness students shared with us include:

  • Checking in with family and friends

  • Sending cards to tutors

  • Sharing one positive thought a day

  • Shopping locally and supporting small businesses

For more kindness stories from across the UK, head over to the Mental Health Foundation website.

Mental health in lockdown

The world feels very strange at the moment, and undoubtedly the uncertainty about the length of the lockdown, our health and that of our loved ones, access to pasta and toilet paper etc., is cause for anxiety. 

Here are some tips and tricks that may ease or help you manage your worries during this time.   

Meditate

Mediation may bring forth images of incense sticks, swaths of tie-dye and people chanting. This is sometimes the case. But meditation, in essence, is simply a practise where through mindfulness or focusing on a particular thought, to achieve a calm and stable mindset. 

Just taking out 2 minutes out of your day to sit with your thoughts and breathe can be very helpful. Perhaps initially the idea of sitting doing nothing may seem odd when there is so much going on in the world, but it is important to make time for yourself and your mental health, now more than ever. 

Websites such as Headspace and Calm have resources that can get you started. There are also great videos on YouTube that can be accessed for free, such as this one

Our Multifaith Chaplaincy is also offering daily meditation in both the morning and the evening. More information can be found here.

Stop watching the news

We all want to be informed and we all want answers. But if watching the daily news is getting you down, please stop watching it. That goes for reading newspapers, watching news programmes, and to some extent consuming social media. 

This is not to say that you should delete your social media accounts or remove the apps from your phone, because not only are these fantastic channels to communicate with people around the world while we are in lockdown, but we also deserve memes and dog videos at the moment. But consider muting keywords that will bring up posts that will negatively affect you. 

Instead seek out good news such as John Krasinski’s (Jim from the US Office, Jack Ryan etc.) YouTube show ‘Some Good News’ or follow the Uplifting News thread on Reddit.

 

Take advantage of this time

You may not be feeling productive in this time and that is okay. However, try to appreciate that we may now have more time to do things that we enjoy which can be really good for our mental health. So whether that is watching films, binge-watching tv series and making wearing pyjamas, or learning a new skill or behaviour, appreciate this strange pause in time and discover or reignite some hobbies. 

But if you want to be more productive in this time, you could start by making yourself a list of achievable goals to accomplish each day e.g. making the bed, getting some fresh air, spending a set amount of time doing revision. You could also create a ‘ta-da list’, which is like a reverse to-do list – at the end of each day make a note of all the things you did that day no matter how small, and you’ll soon see how much you do without even thinking about it. 

Reach out

There isn’t a guidebook for dealing with the sort of situation we are in now, it would be great if there were. But one thing is clear, we are all in this together. So reach out to your nearest and dearest, send text messages, FaceTime, Whatsapp, go old school and send care packages and handwritten letters, take part in zoom quizzes, virtual coffee chats and share all the memes the internet has to offer.

 

Student Volunteering Week 2020 and the 5 Ways to Wellbeing

Student Volunteering Week is a national event, with Higher and Further Education Institutions across the country using the week to celebrate existing student volunteers, and to encourage more students to start volunteering. Student Volunteering Week 2020 takes place from Monday 10 to Friday 14 February.

This year Bristol SU, Bristol Hub and the Engagement Opportunities team are working together to theme the week around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, a concept developed and promoted by Mind. We’ve chosen this theme as volunteering is proven to improve mental health (Time well spent survey, 2019).

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We’ve asked Bristol SU Volunteering President Jude d’Alesio about how volunteering has helped enhance his wellbeing, education and employability.

He’s chosen three of the Ways to Wellbeing to focus upon:

Connect

In my final two years of secondary school I volunteered weekly at my local care home, listening to the experiences of residents completely different to mine. In Clifton there are four care homes, all in need of volunteers, and I would encourage anyone with an hour to spare to visit these places as the communication, leadership and empathy skills you develop will be useful in whichever field you decide to work in. From my volunteering experiences there is truly no feeling comparable to the satisfaction gained from helping others.

Give

Giving can take many forms, but in a volunteering sense, I see giving as participating in social and community life. Since arriving at Bristol, I have served on the governing body of a local school, advising the headteacher on ways to improve teaching standards, the curriculum and child safeguarding. This is a highly rewarding volunteering project and given that only 1% of school governors are under 25, many schools are eager for a fresh and youthful contribution.

Be active

I cannot stress the importance of keeping physically fit; it really is true that a healthy body helps make a healthy mind. Exercise stimulates the brain to release endorphins which create a sense of enjoyment and improve mental wellbeing. There is a plethora of physical activities available through the university, simply look at the sporting societies on the SU website for inspiration.

In addition, a considerable proportion of volunteering in the community involves getting outdoors and using your body, especially as spring approaches. These opportunities are an excellent chance to discover the city’s beautiful open spaces, meet people who help to maintain them and take a healthy break from your studies. For something more regular, Roots Community Gardening are a student-led project that meet weekly in locations around Bristol to preserve these precious and often overlooked areas.

To find out more about Student Volunteering Week and the events and opportunities available, visit the Student Volunteering Week webpage. You can also find lots of great volunteering opportunities to get involved with through the Bristol SU, Bristol Hub and by searching for opportunities on myopportunities.

 

For more information about volunteering please visit: www.bristol.ac.uk/student-volunteering

 

 

Graduation and the Global Lounge

Staying in Bristol after I graduated certainly wasn’t part of my plan. I had the dream of a post-university gap yah – travelling around Australia and New Zealand for 6 months and generally just taking some time to catch my breath. After coming straight from school into university, I wanted that break. I needed that break.

With a brain freshly fried from my 10,000-word dissertation, you bet I was excited to pack those last boxes into my Mum’s car and drive home for the summer.

A month and a half later, I was back.

So, what went wrong? Or maybe, what went right?

I guess it’s important to know that while I was studying, I worked as an International Student Ambassador. The perfect job for any student – it mostly required me to give the occasional tour and welcome new international students throughout the months of September and January. In the end, it was this role that helped me get my current job as Global Lounge Assistant in the International Office. That, and the Temporary Staffing Service (TSS). One application form, an online test, and an interview later, here we are. Wearing my multi-coloured lanyard around the campus has never felt so cool.

“But Fran,” I hear you say, “what happened to the gap yah?”

Well as much as I would like to just jet off to Vietnam for the foreseeable future, I unfortunately need the money to do so. Oh reality, you are truly a cruel master!

It’s not all bad news, turns out I’m a dab hand at writing emails and copywriting. If you want to see my latest masterpiece, check out the Global Lounge website at www.bristol.ac.uk/global-lounge.

Plus, you can’t deny that it is pretty wholesome stuff watching new students make friends. I’m glad I can be part of a team that helps make a difference to student experience. As the Global Lounge grows and develops, I have no doubt that its events will foster community and create a sense of belonging for both home and international students alike. With projects like the Language Café – set to create spaces in which students can learn and practice new languages (including English) – there’s lots of exciting stuff on the horizon for us.

The role has been non-stop too. Three weeks of our Welcome Lounge, a launch event attended by Professor Hugh Brady himself, and hundreds of emails later, there’s no denying that I’ll have a lot to talk about in any future interview.

Because that too is a reality of working with the university on the Temporary Staffing Service (TSS) – the contract is temporary. And, as much as I worried about the impending sense of doom that this would bring, the truth is exactly the opposite. It is a position that gives graduates the opportunity to apply internally for permanent roles, or, in my case, get valuable work experience and save up some money in preparation for a gap yah. It was a risk that has paid off for me.

So then, what is my advice? Firstly, don’t panic about the end of university. It’s okay to not have a plan, or for your plan to go out the window.

Secondly, as an obligatory plug, keep an eye on the Global Lounge web page for some of our upcoming events! There will be plenty of fun activities to fill your term, including the new Language Café and celebrations from Day of the Dead to Diwali.

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy the time you have here. However many more weeks, months, or years you call this city your home, take the chance to make some lasting memories. You never know what (or who) is waiting for you!

 

Written by Fran Carroll, Global Lounge Assistant

 

Find Your Balance. Part 2.

Bristol is going to be your home for at least the next three years, and we may be pretty biased, but we think it’s one of the greatest places to be a student. There is so much on offer from both the University and the city as whole.

Live it up in the Living Room 

Located on the fourth floor of Senate House, the SU Living Room is a space to relax and unwind. Look out for the Welcome Week events in the Living Room such as café crawls, meet-ups and gaming tournaments.

Give it a Go and get a wristband

From Monday 30 September – Sunday 13 October the SU will be running Give it a Go! – giving you the chance to try out different clubs, societies, networks and volunteering projects.

For those of you who enjoy nights out, nightclubs and neon – the SU has you covered! With purchase of your Welcome Week wristband you are guaranteed entry to three massive club nights as well as discounts in the Balloon Bar throughout Welcome Week and the whole of October.

International Welcome Lounge

Come and meet students from all around the world at our International Welcome Lounge. Check out our programme for the week.

The Welcome Lounge is also offering a Language Café taster session on 24 September where you’ll be able to help others practise your language (including English), and can also immerse yourself in another culture by learning a different language with native speakers

Volunteering

Want to give back to the community, meet new people and visit new places? Try volunteering! It’s a great way to learn new skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership, as well as giving you the chance to try something that you may not have done before.

Explore

Bristol has all the perks of city life with wide open green spaces only a short distance away. The entire city is bursting with culture, flavours, music and opportunities to get involved. From the alternative Stokes Croft to the bustling Shopping Quarter to the tranquillity and nature at Leigh Woods – you will never be short of something to do.

 

Next week: Find Your Potential

Top tips for getting the best out of your studies

Find Your Balance

Both this week’s posts are all about the extracurricular; things you can get involved with when you’re not studying. Getting the right balance between studying and other activities is important and will help you to get the most out of being a Bristol student.

Let’s Talk Sport

Sports are a great way to make new friends. There are over 60 sports club at the University of Bristol – from traditional team sports such as football, rugby and basketball – to the more unusual Quidditch, Korfball and Krav Maga. For those who enjoy non-team sports there is also a range of activities available including martial arts, archery and clay pigeon shooting.

“[During Welcome Week] was also the first time I met some of my best friends when I joined the women’s football club, something that ultimately made my university experience.”

– Amy Brook, Sport and Student Development Officer

If you enjoy fitness or just want to get to the point when Bristol hills won’t leave you breathless (don’t worry, you get used to the hills eventually), our Indoor Sports Centre is the perfect place for you. Located on Tyndall Avenue at the heart of the University campus, the Sports Centre is home to an open plan fitness suite, free weights, fitness studios and a double-court sports hall. Or if you’re a water baby, our swimming pool, located on Queens Road, is home to a variety of clubs such as water polo. You can even do lifesaving lessons as well as pay as you go swimming.

Get stuck in with societies and networks

University gives you the chance to meet new people, experience new things and learn about yourself. Bristol Students’ Union (SU) helps students run over 290 societies from A cappella all the way to the Vegetarian and Vegan Society. There is a society for everyone; and if you think there isn’t a group for you, set one up!

“…I got involved with quite a few societies through the SU and by the end of my degree I sat on 3 committees and made the best friends I could ask for. Starting at uni is really tough, and taking your time settling in and getting involved with everything on offer can really help you in your first couple of months.”

– Jason Palmer, Equality, Liberation & Access Officer

The Bristol SU offers networks too; these enable students to build communities and create change. For example, there is a Postgraduate Network which is a student-led initiative for all postgraduate students that gives you a chance to develop the Bristol postgrad community. There is also the PGR Hub which is run by Bristol Doctoral College, based in Senate House, where you can connect with fellow researchers from other parts of the University.  You can find out more about what’s on offer at our Welcome Fair on the Downs on 27 September.

“I enjoyed the Welcome Week Fair because it gave me an opportunity to meet new people from all over the world and make new friends as well as to register with clubs and societies which I was interested in like African Caribbean Society, Debating Club, East African Society, and Bristol Model United Nations.”

– Julius Muga Ogayo, International Students Officer

If you want to find like-minded students before you move to Bristol and Welcome Week begins, you can also join our Freshers Facebook page.

Look out for our next post later this week with some more ideas of things to do beyond your studies.