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.

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  

Dealing with grief, life-threatening illnesses, and everything and anything in-between… (now more important than ever)

This post was written for the University community by one of our students

Dear staff members and students,

These past months have been a challenge for us all – everything grounding to a halt during ‘lockdown’, disruptions to university teach, working and studying from home, and new difficulties such as quarantine. A lot of staff members and students will have had to deal with isolation from loved ones, illness in the family, and bereavement.

Facing grief and illness, or the anxiety of the possibility, has perhaps never been more widespread. Covid-19 has brought home hard truths and moved to centre stage the possibility of losing someone or getting ill. Dealing with illness and grief can be life-changing and the current restrictions add additional difficulties.

For our staff members and students to feel more supported through these challenging times and beyond, we need to encourage discussions about grief and illness and normalise the topic within our university. That does not mean only focusing on doom and gloom, but rather speaking openly about mechanisms to deal with these challenges and where to go to access support, raising awareness among the student and staff community.

Most students will deal with some sort of loss or potential loss during their university degree, whether that is a close family member, or a distant friend or relative. Staff members will most likely come across students who are struggling with a family member or relative who is ill, or grieving the loss of someone they love. Staff members and colleagues will also experience similar challenging life situations. What is the best thing to do? Below are some tips for how you can help others in this situation, or help yourself:

  • Actively listen: Listen attentively when the situation arises, concentrate, understand and respond to what is being said.
  • Check-in regularly: Drop the student/ staff member an email when you can to check in to see how they are doing.
  • Offer advice or reassurance: It might be helpful to offer them gentle advice, which could be anything from “look after yourself”, “surround yourself with friends”, “make sure you are looking after your wellbeing”, “studies can wait”, “take some time out”.
  • Offer help (but first ask them how they want to be supported): You could help them with extending deadlines for pieces of work, contacting staff members, referring them to or informing them about student or staff wellbeing and counselling, referring them to other help resources on the SU website, or sign-posting to external support services.
  • Engage in self-disclosure: this is if relevant, helpful or possible from your perspective.
  • Watch for warning signs of depression: Grief and/or dealing with illness can lead to mental struggles. Keep an eye out for concerning behaviour, like inability to function in everyday life or enjoy life, obsession with death, bitterness/anger/guilt, withdrawing behaviour, or talking openly about dying and suicide. If you are concerned speak to them and help them help by referring them to student wellbeing who can offer support and access to services including counselling.

Depending on your capacity to deal with this, please seek help and advice from others where needed.

Resources:

If you feel that your mental health is at breaking point, you can speak to the Bristol Mental Health Crisis Team.

The Samaritans: When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

University services:

  • Student Wellbeing and Student Counselling website
  • The SU Wellbeing Network – societies like Nightline and Peace of Mind (amongst others) are listed on here, with links that will take you to their webpages.
  • Internal support groups – check the SU Wellbeing Network site for the internal support groups that are running this year. Support groups appear throughout the year, so keep checking if there is not one that suits you. Also, feel free to reach out to the SU Wellbeing Network if a support group does not exist, but you think it would be useful to create one specific to your needs.
  • Wellbeing Advisors in your department
  • Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing webpages
  • Information on Staff Counselling
  • Staff Development Wellbeing Courses and Resources

Out of University:

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mind: Coronavirus and your wellbeing.
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.

Bereavement Services and Resources  

Cruse Bereavement Care: The Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. The number is 0808 808 1677 ​or email helpline@cruse.org.uk.
Bristol Bereavement Network: directory of local services for Bristol.
Good Grief Trust: an online portal of UK bereavement services, searchable by type and location.
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP): for information on finding a qualified counsellor.
The Samaritans.
At a Loss: to help signpost you to the right support.
Shapes of Grief, a podcast/blog by Liz Gleeson, Bereavement Therapist
Griefcast, a podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death, hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd.

Good Grief Festival runs 30 October – 1 November 2020, with free events related to grief and loss of different kinds. You can also register to access all the content afterwards for 3 years for £20.

Reflections as a black medical student

by Adewale Kukoyi

Reflections

During lockdown, I’ve had ample time to reflect.

To reflect on my first year at University, all the positives and negatives, the pedantic learning techniques I used and my overall perspective on Medicine. However, more profoundly, I’ve reflected on my own position, and the value I can potentially share with others from my community or background who may believe where I am is unachievable for them.

Including me, there are only six black male students in my year group of roughly 270.

As one of very few, I felt it essential to share my experiences with others from a similar background to me so that they can take the necessary steps to start their medical journey

Volunteering

The opportunity to give back arose when approached by Medic Mentality – an upcoming medical school initiative, aiming to increase representation in Medicine through mentorship services, personal statement reviews, events, and UCAT/BMAT advice. They asked me to join them on an Instagram live to discuss my experience as a Bristol medical student. Founded by Aderonke Odetunde, Maria Taiwo, Osas Ogbeide, Nehita Oviojie and Toni Oduwole (all 2nd-year medical students at UCL) aims to equip students from underprivileged backgrounds with the confidence to make the application to medical school. Despite only launching in July 2020, the scheme already has 30 mentees.

@medicmentality (Instagram)

I have also joined various organisations who work to empower younger generations through mentorship and provision of resources. I am currently a mentor with The Black Excellence Network and BME Medics Bristol Year 2 Lead. In both roles, I work with prospective medical students by providing tailor-made consultations over their applications, helping with drafts of their personal statements, and giving an insight into life at Bristol.

As well as working with prospective medical students, I also work with other current medical students, and I am an active member of the newly formed Black Medic Plexus. We are a network which prides itself in building a strong community and network for black medical students across the UK. The platform was created (and founded by the brilliant Sharon Amukamara) to create a supportive space for black medics based on community and work-life balance.

My advice

My biggest tip for black students looking to enter Medicine (or Higher Education in general!) would be to have the self-confidence to apply. There are so many mental barriers you can put yourself under, ranging from imposter syndrome (feeling of not belonging) to a lack of role-models. My advice would be to reach out to any organisations (like the ones I’m part of) for guidance, information and the belief that you are capable of excelling in your chosen field.

Finally, I would also urge any medical student to get involved and recognise the value they can exchange with others. We are in a position that is hard to access and providing any help along the way is vital in uplifting future generations.

by Adewale Kukoyi

 

Get ahead of worries this World Mental Health Day

Written by Dr Dominique Thompson

Starting university is always a big moment in life, but in 2020 it’s going to be a historic moment too. Living in a new institution, perhaps a new city, in a global pandemic certainly adds an edge to the whole process.  

So if you are feeling a little stressed (which would be entirely normal) help is at hand and you may find the new, free, online course that I helped to create, ‘Being Well Living Well’, very useful indeed.  

I was the lead GP at the University of Bristol for many years, and now spend my professional life creating useful resources to support students and their wellbeing. I’m really proud to have been the UK lead advisor for this online course, which will be available to Bristol students. 

In developing the course, we worked closely with students and professionals from all over the world, and I personally wrote the ‘Stress, Anxiety and Depression’ module based on all my years of experience and expertise looking after Bristol students.

It was really important to me to try to help future students to ‘get ahead’ of worries, understand what was happening for them, and provide really practical suggestions about how to manage anxiety or low mood. Whether you are feeling on edge, sleeping badly, want to understand if you have anxiety or depression, or wish to support a friend who is struggling, you will find the ‘Stress, Anxiety and Depression’ module helpful.

I hope you will enjoy the animations and interactive quizzes and activities which we, and our student co-creators, felt made our advice clearer and more engaging. We also ensured a diverse range of students were represented and provided for in the course.

The other modules that make up ‘Being Well Living Well’ cover a whole array of issues that students can find challenging, from perfectionism, financial worries, how to study effectively and mental health problems. There will be something to help everyone within the course.

So whether you’re just curious, or struggling – we made this for you.

You can access Being Well Living Well on Blackboard – self enrol here

 

“My Bristol community has really come together during this time”

Hi everyone, my name is Michelle and I’m a second year Civil Engineering student.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would finish the rest of my academic year online in self isolation because of a global pandemic, but if there is anything these past two months have taught me it’s that, every cloud has a silver lining. From the weekly zoom calls/meetings to the increased online group forums, my Bristol community has really come together during this time.

 

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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.

My experience of lockdown in Bristol

Hi I’m Gurjot and I’m studying Development and Security (MSc).

When life throws stones at you, you have two options. Either you can choose to get hurt by their crushing impact or if you are bold enough, you can collect those stones and build strong bridges. The Coronavirus lockdown is a challenging time but I hope to use this time to try new things and gain perspective on what is important in life.

With these positive thoughts in my mind, I decided to not to travel back to India and stay here in Bristol. Reflecting upon my time in lockdown so far, the main things I have discovered are:

Learnt new skills

Apart from completing my university assignments, I have tried to utilise my lockdown time in Bristol to polish my culinary skills, hone my guitar lessons, improve my cyber knowledge and write some new topics about life in my weekly diary.

Value time, loved ones & online community

I have started valuing the importance of ‘time’ and ‘family’ even much more in my life and become interested in doing exercise, yoga and meditation which was rare earlier. Separated by physical distances, but united in social solidarity, the online classes by the subject unit tutors and other cool events like Virtual Language Café, run by Global Lounge, etc. are proving to be great stress-busters and uplifting the collective spirits of the students.

Appreciate Bristol

As an international student, I consider myself to be very lucky to be a part of the city of Bristol which weaves magic upon you through its colourful landscapes, Banksy’s artworks and lovely, unpredictable weather.

Indeed, the one thing which I have really learned from lockdown is that we need be adaptable and respond positively to whatever challenges we face in our lives.

Stay connected

Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep our online community strong.  

You can tap into some of the fantastic online resources which will keep you connected to other students and the University! 

Social Media

Bristol SU 

Sport & keeping active