“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

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.

 

Bristol’s cultural scene goes digital!

Missing Bristol? Whether you have left Bristol or are here under lockdown you can still take virtual tours, join in live steams and access collections from some of the city’s iconic cultural venues.

There are lots of great resources and events that are accessible, right from your desktop or smart phone, to make you feel connected to our Bristol community, and beyond.

We have put together some of Bristol’s top cultural resources to access watch online:

1. University of Bristol Special Collections – This holds more 5km of books, archives, photographs, and artefacts dating from the eleventh to the twenty-first century. Visit the Online Archive Catalogue and explore what’s available.

2.  The Watershed – Watch amazing livestreams from the comfort of your own sofa. Find out films are available on the Watershed website. You can also stream films you wanted to watch at the Watershed for free with a trial of BFI or MUBI.

3. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – There is a variety of online exhibitions, from Japanese prints to British tattoo art. Discover these exhibitions on the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery website.

4. Bristol Old Vic At Home – This opens the curtain to a digital theatre platform which features some of Bristol’s most-loved theatre shows and work by exciting emerging artists. Visit the Bristol Old Vic At Home website for more information.

5. Bristol Cathedral – Take a virtual tour of Bristol Cathedral and find out more about its history and heritage.

6.  Film and TV programmes filmed in Bristol –  The Pale HorseSanditonPoldark and Doctor Who all filmed scenes in Bristol (click on the links for more information). See Visit Bristol for a map of movies filmed in Bristol locations too.

What are you missing about Bristol? Share your favourite memories, places to go and photos of Bristol by using #WeMissYouBristol on Twitter and Instagram. We’ll retweet our favourites and look forward to visiting them again after lockdown!

Digital learning resources available for you!

Although this is a difficult time for everyone, we are here to ease the transition to online learning and provide you with all the technical support and advice you need.   

There are plenty of useful online resources available to you.  

These include:  

  • Study from home – looks at ways to manage your time and workspace, how to work towards learning outcomes and how to get the most out of online study.
  • Online open-book exams guidance  – looks at ways to prepare for and answer open book exams effectively.
  • Student laptop and mobile clinic goes virtual – The laptop and mobile clinic is a free service to help current University of Bristol students who are having problems with laptops, tablets or smartphones. The clinic will run weekdays from 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm.
  • Study Skills blogs
  • Dissertation Writing Retreats and Study Loungesboth aimed at offering students an online environment to work “in the same space” as others. Throughout May, there are lots of workshops including specific ones about online study and online exams all bookable
  • Online tutorials, including help with maths and statistics – offer a great opportunity to discuss your work in a confidential, safe space with an experienced and professional tutor. 
  • Accessing IT systems from home – quick links to the University IT systems such as Blackboard, Collaborate, specialist software and more. 
  • Study Skills sessions – enhance your academic skills with our range of self-help online resources, get quick advice at our 15 minute drop-in sessions with Bristol Futures Advocates, choose from a range of workshops or book a one-to-one tutorial with a Study Skills tutor.
  • Free library online resources  – access free online resources, including ebooks, ejournals, and databases to help support you.
  • Top tips for working from home  – Bristol SU provide some useful tips for working and studying remotely.  

There is further information on the Teaching, Assessment and academic guidance webpage.

 

24/7 wellbeing services available for those in need of support

In these strange and uncertain times, it’s understandable that many of you will be feeling anxious, sad or even a little bit scared, which can be tough to say out loud. Don’t forget that there are many support services out there for you, with some offering a listening ear 24/7. 

TalkCampus 

TalkCampus is here if you need someone to talk to, about anything, anywhere, at anytime. The app enables you to message fellow students from all over the world, day and night. You can share your worries and thoughts with those going through the exact same struggles as you. 

This is a safe place where you can talk anonymously and get support for your mental health and whatever is on your mind. 

Download TalkCampus for free today using your University email address and make things a little bit easier. 

Alongside the app, TalkCampus have added 18 self-guide meditations for you on their Soundcloud, with a blog to supplement them. 

Big White Wall 

People come to Big White Wall for support with a range of mental health and wellbeing issues – from anxiety, depression, stress, to lifestyle changes and relationships problems. This digital support and recovery service provides an anonymous online community for you to share your thoughts and feelings with others who may share the same troubles.  

This safe space is monitored by trained professionals who are available 24/7. There are also lots of resources and learning activities available to help you deal with a variety of difficulties and challenges. 

Use Big White Wall today and receive support from an online community day and night. 

Shout Crisis Messenger 

Shout is a UK text service for anyone who needs to talk. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. The service is available 24/7, with a team of volunteers helping those in need to go from crisis to calm. 

Text Bristol to 85258 to be connected to a trained volunteer. 

If you feel you need further support than what is offered above, head over to the Wellbeing pages to find further resources and services.  

 

Staying active while staying put

We’ve been in lockdown for nearly 4 weeks now, so understandably some of us may be feeling a little cooped up. Staying active, even for 30 mins a day or less, will give big benefits to our fitness, and overall health and wellbeing. At a time when so much is happening that we can’t control, putting things in place for yourself that you can rely on become even more important. Here are our top tips for staying active while staying put. All of these activities can be done in very small spaces, and with a minimum amount of equipment, so give them a go!

What you’ll need:

  • A yoga mat. If you don’t have one, a towel will do the trick as well.
  • Make-do weights. Use books, water bottles – anything you can get your hands on.
  • Resistance bands. If you don’t have anything to hand, you can do these moves perfectly well without them.
  • Plenty of water. This one’s crucial. Hydration is key so make sure you have plenty of water to hand.

Now to get you started – here’s some inspiration to get you moving, right in your living room:

Exercise regularly

Put in a schedule in place for yourself to exercise regularly throughout the week. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session though; there is a lot happening right now that’s hard to keep up with. As long as you put in an effort to exercise as much as you can, you’ll still get massive benefits.

Reach out to your wellness community

Link up with your friends and family via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or Facetime, so you can work out together, if you’re home alone. You’ll be much more motivated to stick with something if you’re doing it together.

Try something new 

Have you always been a runner, or a cyclist? While you can still strap on your trainers and keep doing just that, consider using this time to do lots of core strengthening exercises / yoga to increase your flexibility and avoid injuries.

Find something for you

There is so much out there for you to try, from Yin Yoga (which is very slow-paced and very restorative), to very intensive HIIT classes that include lots of high-intensity exercises that can be performed on the spot.

Look at what suits you – and just start, somewhere

Don’t feel bad if you’re not performing like a fully-fledged athlete right off the bat. Fitness has to be built up. There are amazing services out there that will help you, and that are hosting online sessions delivered by local providers. Try MoveGB, FIIT or Freeletics. Make sure you share your experiences too, so people can find out more about them that way too.

Be patient and kind to yourself

Don’t try and do too much, all at once, especially if you’re new to regular exercise. Take it slow, especially at the start of your new exercise programme, and build up very slowly. There are lots of modifications that you can do to make exercises more accessible for you. As always, if you have any underlying health conditions that prevent you from exercising or aren’t feeling well – give high intensity exercise a rest for a while!

We’d like to pull together exercise activities for you to keep you moving – what would you like to see? Tell us what would help you staying active while staying put.

Ways to curb lockdown boredom

Hi guys, my name is Elaura and I’m a second year History student! Here are some of my tips and recommendations on how to stay productive and positive during the COVID 19 lockdown!

It’s now the third week of national lockdown from the COVID 19 pandemic and we’re all starting to become climatized to life indoors. At some point during this experience, we will all have days where we struggle a bit more and find it difficult to think positively and be productive. So, it’s important that we all look out for one another and find ways to make the long-haul of self-isolation manageable and enjoyable if we can help it. I’ve used this space to share some ideas on how to stay positive, things I’ve found to do with my household to pass the time, and things you can incorporate into your routine to boost productivity.

Things to try at home

Work out

Exercise is a pretty obvious one that I’m sure everyone is doing, but scheduling time to do a routine with family members, or even by yourself, helps pass time, release endorphins and make you feel rewarded after. There are loads of YouTube follow along videos, Live streams from channels via Uni Days and 30 day challenges you can find and try to complete!

Virtual Pub Quiz

As of last week, Jay Flynn created an online pub quiz via Facebook that turned into a massive success. I did it with my family and it was really good fun, I think he’s doing another one soon so keep an eye out!

Online Board games

Something I’ve really enjoyed doing with friends over group calls is play online versions of board games. You can find pretty much anything online from Chess, Pictionary, Cards Against Humanity, the list goes on. It’s great fun and a nice break from chatting about coronavirus.

Bake/cook

Baking is a brilliant way to pass the time if you’re able to get the ingredients right now, if not then offering to cook for your family, cooking new meals for yourself, making the most out of what you have in the cupboards and getting creative is a brilliant way to practise self-care as well as sustainability.

De-clutter your room

Now is a great opportunity to have a real sort out of your space. Dedicate time to sorting through clothes, products and other items to make room for new things when we’re able to go outside.

Read/Watch films

There’s now no excuse not to dive into the pile of books you bought and never got around to reading or start watching all the classic films you’ve been recommended. As a film fan, I recommend downloading the app Letterboxd and creating a Watchlist to get through. Similar apps for books can also be found- this is a great way of keeping record of things you loved and want to recommend to others.

These are just some things I’ve done that I’ve found work for passing the time well and mixing up my daily routine. Give some a try if you’re struggling for things to do, and hopefully it’ll encourage positive thinking and productivity around Uni work! Remember to keep safe and be kind to yourselves!