How stressed are UK Students in 2019? Guest post by the Natwest Student Living Index

 

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(Image: Natwest Student Living Index)

The NatWest Student Living Index 2019 has launched recently,  delving into both stress and mental health for students at university.
https://personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/students-and-graduates/student-living-index.html

University-age students are more engaged with mental health and wellbeing than ever, and the study found that 1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health support.

Other noteworthy findings from the survey include:
• 71% of students say that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs (gym classes, yoga, meditation, mindfulness)
• 40% of students are concerned about their financial situation following university
• 45% of students find their university degree stressful
• 1 in 4 UK students find managing money stressful

The 2019 NatWest Student Living Index revealed that close to half of all UK students feel
extremely stressed by their degree studies. 1 in 4 students in the UK described managing their money as extremely stressful, while only 6% felt they received sufficient money management support from their university on average.

NatWest’s Student Living Index 2019 asked students from 35 top university cities about all aspects of student life, including the amount of wellbeing and mental health support on offer for students at university in 2019.

Is their degree the cause of the stress? On average, 45% of students in the UK feel extremely stressed by their degree  Cambridge (60%) and Durham (57%) students are the most stressed by their degree studies.
Have Universities supported students with mental health resources?

1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health resources, while 71% said that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs.
Interestingly, while students in Poole feel the most stressed by money management, the city also came last when students were asked about the availability of affordable well-being programs:

 53% of students in Poole said their university offers affordable well-being programs, this is the lowest ranked city and 18% below national average.

 Less than 1% of Students in Reading and Stirling feel supported by their university when managing their finances.

 94% of students in Aberystwyth feel their university offers affordable well-being programs

Are you a student in the UK? Read more about the findings here:  https://personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/students-and-graduates/student-living-index.html

Spring Rebirth: Waking up my Mental Health by Eleanor

 

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(image: Eleanor Segall)

Its that time of year again here in England. The candy- floss pink cherry blossom are on the trees. The sky is a cornflower blue and the sun is streaming down, just waiting for the odd April shower. And I was outside to see it and enjoy it today.

Why is this a victory? Because over the winter I was mildly depressed and hardly leaving home. The lack of light had really got to me and I just wanted to curl up inside with a blanket. Now the days are getting longer and the spring is here, I am thinking about rebirth, waking up anew and starting afresh.

I am writing my book still (cover and title to be revealed) and I will be starting a new job in PR soon. Tonight, Rob and I are going out to celebrate that over dinner. Our wedding is 3 months today 🙂 and coming round fast.

Theres a lot to do, plan for and a lot of change (mostly positive but still a shift). I know that this is not a bad thing however this week I did start feeling overwhelmed. That was because my step grandpa passed away and we had to go to Wales for the funeral, followed by a week of mourning in our home. It was a challenging week, he will be so missed.

Yet what I have learnt from life is that there may be constant intensity or ups and downs, with everything happening at once but we have to learn to try and go with it.

Going with the flow is not something I do well. I get anxious, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, sad like any other human. I hope and I pray and I try to see signs from God and the Universe. Getting fresh air and sun is good for me and you too .

Ultimately I am learning life is a blessing but I need to guard my mental health carefully (and thank goodness for medication and a strong support network)

How are you this Spring?

Eleanor x

Loving Yourself: 4 Tips for Living a Body Positive Life: Guest blog by Emma Sturgis

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(image: Emma Sturgis)

Starting to live a body-positive life all begins with you, the individual. It can be challenging with so much pressure from society trying to dictate our lives. It becomes easier when you block out all negative forces and decide to start loving yourself and your body no matter what others have to say.

Loving yourself no matter what will increase your happiness and your overall peace in life. Here are four tips to help you down the body-positive life and feel total peace of mind about your body and physical appearance.

Work on Self-love

A significant number of girls have been through the trauma associated with body shaming, especially in high school. Some have taken the weight of the shame to our adult life where we lose our confidence and tend not to love ourselves as we should.

Many women and girls suffer from poor body image for years, or even through their entire life. The first step into living a body-positive life is by loving yourself first. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and no one is perfect. You just have to own your flaws and flaunt your strengths.

This can often be easier said than done, especially with years of social conditioning. You can achieve self-love through daily practices that make you feel your best physically and emotionally. Tell yourself every day that you appreciate your body and all it does for you.

Eat Instinctively and Respectfully

You don’t have to starve yourself to fit into that wedding dress within an unrealistic time-frame. Diets don’t work and neither does overfeeding any time you are stressed, sad or angry. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what your body desires to look great.

If you feel that you are struggling to keep an eating routine and your mental health is worsening, accept the problem and seek inpatient eating disorder treatment. under a psychiatry team or your local doctor.  

 

Change Your Perspective on Exercising

Most of us quit taking exercise and going to the gym because we hate working out. Exercise can be fun when we redirect the focus from it being a weight loss challenge to treating your body correctly and healthily.

You don’t have to attach any pressure or targets to your daily workout routines. Do exercises that are fun to you and even make it a social event with your friends. Once you start viewing exercise as healthy for your body , you will begin to love it. You will enjoy exercising because of how it makes you feel, endorphins from it will make us feel happy. You may even feel proud after a work out!

 

Pamper Your Body

After all the stress and pressure that your body endures, it deserves to be pampered and treated right. Get some good fitting outfits, wear the best lotions, go for therapeutic massages and take frequent hot tub baths. Fall in love with every curve while you look straight into the mirror.

This will allow you to connect with your body instead of feeling detached and negative toward it. You can make these things part of each day. Carve out some time from your busy schedule to pamper yourself, even if it includes simply putting on your favorite perfume. It will give you a simple confidence boost to carry through your day. Always take time for yourself and don’t let your daily tasks take priority over caring for your physical and mental health.

Once you change your mindset, the journey to living a body-positive life will be so much easier. You don’t have to lose 20 pounds to start loving yourself and your body. You are much more than your physical body.

Knowing your worth is a gift to yourself and your body. Eventually, it helps you rediscover your true self. You will be able to go forward in the world with confidence and give your amazing gifts and what you have to offer, to the universe.

This blog was written by freelance writer Emma Sturgis from the USA 

How Walking and Audiobooks have helped my Anxiety and Depression: Guest blog by Tan at BooknerdTan

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(image: BetaNews)

For most of my life I have had relatively good mental health and considering the rather…’turbulent’ upbringing I had I’d say that was pretty much a miracle. All came to a head in June 2018.

I was in a job that was incredibly stressful for minimum wage, I had a toxic boyfriend who did nothing but make me feel worse about myself and I had an abuser resurface into my life completely unexpectedly. All this happening at once lead to some kind of mental breakdown and I couldn’t function for around 4 months. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t go to work – I could barely eat or string a sentence together. Everything I heard was white noise, everything I saw was in slow motion and I was just completely numb.

I went to seek help with my doctor and was prescribed medication (which I am not currently taking as of the New Year) and was referred to Birmingham Healthy Minds service. This is a service which I cannot recommend enough – I was really scared of counselling after previously having a bad experience when I was younger, however I’m really glad I went ahead and gave this a go.

The best thing about this was that my counsellor was not passive (unlike my previous experience), in fact he gave me so much advice that will stay with me forever. I relied heavily on my friends during this time and they were an amazing help, but sometimes it is nice to offload some of your worries on to someone who is essentially a stranger. It allowed me to say things which I may not necessarily feel comfortable telling my family or friends.

Ever since I went and spoke to someone about my condition, I have been looking for the best ways in which to cope on a daily basis. The main way I keep my anxiety at bay is with a combination of walking and audiobooks. This has done wonders for my anxiety. I have always been a big book nerd; I read every day, manage to polish off on average 100 books a year and run my own book blog so it’s safe to say that I am a major bookworm!

I’ve constantly heard and read about exercise being an amazing coping mechanism for people dealing with depression. I have close family members who also suffer with depression and confirmed to me that exercise is one of the main things that relieves some of their symptoms. Having this information only told me one thing – get to exercising!

I live in a really pretty village so I decided to put my headphones in, pick an audiobook and walk. Walk until I couldn’t feel my legs. 3 hours later I came home and was elated. Body numb, blood pumping and feeling a tiny bit more positive than when I left the house.

My anxiety got to such a point that I wasn’t able to breathe properly. I was always taking short, sharp breaths and it never felt like I was in control which exacerbated my anxiety. Walking allowed me to think about and control my breathing therefore lowering my anxiety somewhat. Combining walking and my favourite hobby (devouring books) helped me so much more than I ever expected and am so thankful for it.

I recently wrote a blog post about how audiobooks helped me control my anxiety and was overwhelmed by the response it got when I shared it on my blog. Not only by the amount of people who are dealing with anxiety themselves, but how happy they were that they found the post and are willing to try it out to see if it helps them too. It’s that kind of response that reminds me of why I love blogging and sharing my experience! I hope someone read about my experience and it was able to help them.

Every day is still a learning curve but I’m definitely getting there. Going forward, I hope that everything I have learned in the past 9 months will aid me in keeping my anxiety and depression at bay and be able to handle it as best possible when/if it arises again with a vengeance.

I am always hopeful that if I ever feel the same way again, I will be able to see the signs a lot earlier, implement the coping mechanisms I’ve acquired and nip it in the bud before it manifests even further. I hope that somehow my experience can help someone else out there cope a little better and make them realise that it is possible to come out the other end even when you’re at your darkest.

 

This guest blog was written by UK book blogger and writer Tan at https://booknerdtan.wordpress.com/

5 Tips for a Mental Health Emergency Plan: Guest blog by Emily Bartels

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(image: http://crmhfoundation.org/self-care/)

 

When it comes to emergency plans, usually we think in a more physical sense, but did you know that mental health emergency plans are important?

Mental health emergencies can be quite stressful, and if you’re in a mental health industry or have any personal concerns about your own health, providing the right help is important.  Here, we will outline important tips to help you create a mental health emergency plan that will suffice.

 

Have a Support system

If you tend to get overwhelmed when an emergency happens, a big way to help reduce the trauma from it is to have a support system. Whoever you are and whereever you work, your own personal triggers and issues are still there. If you’re having issues coping, find a support system- a friend, family member or therapist that can help.

You may want to come up with a plan to help your  responses to situations, especially when disaster strikes. If you do have anxiety and depression, do make sure that you have people that can help around you or reach out for help from a doctor or therapist.

 

Prepare For Emotional Reactions

Another big thing that emergency evacuation plan Melbourne  (in Australia) does point out, is you need to make sure that you have the right idea of what might happen.  You should know when you have chaotic reactions, and what you struggle with when disaster strikes.

Focus on what will help, what might happen when you do suffer from an incident, and make sure to communicate it to others.

Processing information is quite hard in a stressful situation, such as fear, anxiety, depression, or even a panic attack, and you should make sure that, with the group of people you trust or the medical profession, you do speak about what happens. It’s also important to make sure that you properly communicate to others.  While panic attacks and sad emotions do happen, you should know that you probably will be upset about whatever will transpire. But that its OK to feel this way.

 

Be Prepared to communicate

A large part of a mental health plan is to make sure that you communicate your needs. If you need to, make sure that you explain any mental health needs, such as medication you might need, in an emergency, with loved ones.  Its vital to your wellbeing  even when stressful to communicate. Letting others know can help them and you prepare for the worst and take action if needed. You aren’t alone.

 

Keep Contact information on hand

Pharmacies can help you get emergency medication, but making sure that you have the contact information for your provider, any diagnoses, and dosages of medication are important.  Make sure to let some people in your support system know, and also keep those phone numbers on hand in case if the emergency lines are overloaded.

 

Create a Recovery Bag

If you have extra medications, a comfort item, and anything that you can use to help in the case of an emergency or crisis, put it in a small emergency kit, which you can use if you need to attend hospital or appointments.  Remember, emergency kits aren’t just for physical health aspects, but also for mental health.  You need to make sure you’re prepared both physically and mentally for any issues that might transpire so that you’re not suffering.

Mental health during an emergency often isn’t focused on as much as say other aspects of your health. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts don’t always go away, and you need to be prepared for that, and reach out for help so you can recover well.

Creating a plan to try and prevent or reduce this from happening with your medical team will help if a mental health emergency comes about. From there, you can get the help that you need in order to stabilise yourself, look after yourself and recover again.

 

This blog was written by Emily Bartels, freelance writer with an interest in mental health and wellbeing.

How Meditation can improve our Mental health and wellbeing: Guest post by Jennifer Bennet

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(image: Erriko Boccia at Unsplash )

Ahead of tomorrows World Mental Health Day, we are publishing articles focusing on our mental health.

Meditation has long been a tool used in mental health counselling and it is one that has been proven to be highly effective with coping with stress and anxiety as well as depression and other mental health issues. Medication is often a vital treatment for mental health issues, but meditation is also an ideal practice to integrate into a daily routine to help as well and the benefits of meditation are outstanding.

A great deal of our lives in general are spent lost in our thoughts and dealing with our personal feelings. Why not use that time for meditation instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and behaviours?

Besides the fact that taking time for meditation opens your mind to a little peace and quiet, there are so many benefits of meditating that can help mental health issues. Here are five of the best reasons to start meditating today so you can have a happier mind to help with mental health issues.

 

  1. Meditation helps clear your mind so that you can sleep better at night. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the stresses of life and keep a good reign on emotions during the waking hours.
  2. Meditation helps manage unhealthy behaviors by helping a person focus on viable solutions to problems. When we focus on just one issue and take time to carefully think about it in a positive way, it is easier to find a solution than it would be to randomly try numerous things to no avail. Mindful meditation allows a person to take time to delve deeply into a situation while focusing on how to resolve an issue wisely.
  3. The production of the hormone cortisol, which is known to weaken the immune system in the body, can be slowed down through meditation. When you have a better immune system, it’s easier to feel less stressed and be able to enjoy life better.
  4. Sitting down to meditate at least once every day can lead to having a better grasp on emotions. When you focus on objective ways to solve problems and face things in life, it is easier to control anger, depression and other emotions.
  5. Meditation helps keep your mind in the present instead of revolving to the past where you may have faced a bad relationship or other hardships. When you let go of the negative things that have a grasp onto your thought process, it is easier to move forward and face life with a renewed sense of self. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life including work, relationships and home.

 

How to Meditate

Some people believe that you must have scented candles, incense and soft music to meditate and while those things can certainly help ease your mind to help you find a peaceful calm, they are not at all required to find your way to inner peace and meditation. Here are some simple steps provided by the Taylor Benefits Insurance blog that you can follow to begin your journey into meditation and a firmer grasp on your own mental health and well-being.

 

Set a time

Let’s face it, when we don’t set an alarm to wake up in the morning it’s easy to oversleep and miss out on work and other important things in life. The same goes for meditation. This is an important step to take and once you decide to start meditating, it’s a good idea to try to set a time to do so each day. If you need to set a physical alarm, then get that alarm set and plan to sit down to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. Consistency is key when you are meditating and it’s a good idea to make time for it every day. This will help keep your mind focused, so you can find your inner peace and start focusing on your problem-solving skills to lower your stress and find a little happiness that you may have forgotten about.

 

Breathe

When you meditate, take time to breathe deeply. From a siting position, sit straight and tall and breathe slowly but deeply. Be sure to wear clothing that won’t restrict breathing, so you can breathe freely during your meditation time.

 

Comfort is Key

No matter where you choose to meditate, try to make it as comfortable as possible. Whether you have a little space in your bedroom or even in the kitchen, pile up some comfy pillows or sit in your favorite chair and let yourself relax completely.

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Before you sit down to meditate, take time to choose one thing and only one thing to focus on during your meditation time. Meditation is not the time to let your mind wander in circles. When we can face one issue at a time and clear them from our mind, its easier to take steps to move forward with life with a sense of peace.

 

Pick Your Mantra and Focus

Now this is where you are going to take a slight step back and say, “What?” Something common to chant as a mantra is simply, “Om” which sounds like you are saying “Oooooooommmmmm” repeatedly. If that one does not work for you, then find a different mantra to chant during your meditation time. What you choose should help you feel relaxed.

While chanting your mantra, find a spot to fixate your eyes upon so you can focus clearly. This can be a candle if you have one, a spot on a wall or even a tiny flower placed across from you. The key is to stay focused throughout the meditation time.

While chanting your mantra, think positive thoughts such as visualising yourself winning a marathon (if you run), earning a promotion at work, completing a major assignment or whatever you feel you need to accomplish in your personal life.

Some people choose CD’s that have been prerecorded with slow, relaxing music on them. A great choice if you want to hear soft sounds would be a nature CD playing sounds of the forest or the ocean. Others prefer silence during meditation. Make some positive affirmation cards to place in your meditation area to help motivate you. These can include simple poetic phrases or even small sentences to help bring your inner peace. You could even listen to a prerecorded meditation CD or a YouTube video to help guide you throughout your meditation.

There is no set way to meditate and what works for one may not work for another. The most important thing is that you take time to meditate, get to know your true inner self and as you move forward you will soon find your way onto the healing path of inner peace and renewal as you learn more about yourself, your feelings and the strength of your own mind.  

 

Jennifer Bennet is a writer on wellbeing and an expert on meditation.

Dementia and Brain Health Decline: Can the MIND Diet help?: Guest blog by Eve Crabtree

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(image: Spotebi)

With more and more people each day taking steps to combat, prevent and manage their mental health, being as healthy as possible, both mentally and physically, is something that’s important to us.

That’s one of the reasons that many people are turning to the MIND diet to maintain brain function and prevent brain health decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

MIND Diet: What is it?

The MIND diet, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was created by researchers from a variety of universities in 2015. It aims to reduce the chance of developing dementia and a decline in brain health that is often associated with older age.

Elements of the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) were combined to create the MIND diet. The reason these two diets were chosen above others is because both have been scientifically proven to have significant health benefits.

What was the aim of the study?

The MIND diet, Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was created by researchers from a variety of universities in 2015. It aims to reduce the chance of developing dementia and a decline in brain health that is often associated with older age.

The study involved over 600 participants and took 3 years to complete. The participants, all of different ages, builds, heights and weights, were asked to follow the diet for the full 3 years whilst data was collected by the team of researchers.

Upon completion, it was immediately found that following the diet had a positive impact on the mental health and physical health of the participants.

One study found that of 923 older people that partook, those that followed the MIND diet closely had a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those that only followed it loosely.

Additionally, even those that only moderately followed the plan cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by an average of 35%.

What foods are encouraged on the MIND diet?

The MIND diet encourages followers to consume 10 main foods that make up the majority of their food intake each week. These foods are:

  • Fish
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Other vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Berries
  • Wine
  • Beans
  • Whole grains

These foods have been recommended because they are low in saturated fat but high in good fats, protein, fibre and vitamins. Eating a varied selection of them each day provides your body and brain with everything it needs to be healthy.

What foods should be limited on the MIND diet?

Along with all other diets, the MIND diet recommends that followers consume a restricted amount of processed foods. This includes:

  • Red meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter and margarine
  • Sweet treats
  • Fried food

Researchers encourage limiting intake of these foods because they are high in trans and saturated fat – both of which have been linked to numerous diseases including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

What are the benefits of following the MIND diet?

Along with slowing brain health decline and minimising the risk of getting dementia, the MIND diet has also shown to benefit physical health and wellbeing, reduce harmful meta-amyloid proteins, and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.

 

  • Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Oxidative stress is caused by unstable molecules, known as free radicals, accumulate in large amounts in the body and cause damage to cells.

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to infection or injury. Although beneficial in small doses, if inflammation isn’t regulated correctly, it can become harmful.

The vitamin E in many of the foods in the MIND diet benefits brain function by protecting it from oxidative stress. Furthermore, omega 3 fatty acids in fish are known to lower brain inflammation and reduce loss of brain function.

 

  • Harmful Beta-Amyloid Proteins

Scientists have previously suggested that plaques, build ups of beta-amyloid proteins, are one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques collect in the brain and disrupt signals between brain cells, eventually leading to brain death.

Trans and saturated fats can increase beta-amyloid proteins in the brain which is why the MIND diet recommends limiting these foods.  

The bottom line

Several previous studies have been carried out that have shown the impact of eating healthily on mental health and wellbeing as a whole. Not only has a healthy diet and regular exercise proved to improve brain function, reduce stress, and improve memory, it also has a positive effect on the body eg weight.

Due to the fact the MIND diet involves eating a variety of good fats and nutrient rich foods, we can hope that it will improve general mental health and brain function as well as reducing brain health decline and combating dementia.

However, this is purely based on opinion and the results of this particular study: further research is yet to be carried out to analyse the extent of the impact the MIND diet really has on the brain.

The brain is complex and we await the results of more research over the coming years.

Eve Crabtree is a writer and health expert.