Student Wellbeing Champion, Gemma, writes a reflection on the Stress-Less Big Picnic held by student support services and partners during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is a campaign that was set up to increase awareness of mental health. This year’s movement focused on the concept of ‘thriving or surviving?’ promoting the notion that good mental health is a necessary asset in enjoying life to its fullest. With the exam period looming, the University services produced their Stress-Less event to give students the opportunity to take a break, relax and have those important conversations about stress and which methods each of us actively use to reduce our stress levels.

Stress-Less Big Picnic

The Stress-Less event brought together several teams:

  • Student Wellbeing, Learning and Welfare Support (SWLWS)
  • Student Engagement Officers (SEO)
  • Campus Sport
  • Pet Respect
  • ReNew

All the services involved came together to create a serene, but fun environment. Campus Sport offer  sports sessions that students are free to participate in at their leisure. During the Stress-Less event, Campus Sport brought with them badminton and basketball equipment.

Gemma and Sophie enjoying Basketball

For me, the genuineness of this cause became apparent when the wellbeing support staff and Student Engagement Officers partook in these activities. Although dressed in their suits ready for their working day, nothing shouted ‘IT’S TIME TO RELAX’ quite like Rob (Wellbeing Officer, Health and Wellbeing team) and Martin (Head of Service, SWLWS) batting the shuttlecock to one-another on the university’s beautiful green grass, in the glorious sunshine – encouraging others to join in as well. Their engagement in the games truly set the precedence for the rest of the day.

Supplementary to these recreational activities, Pet Respect brought along their dog, Gracie, to demonstrate the power of animal assisted therapy. Gracie produced many smiles as the day went on, with many individuals taking five minutes out of their day just to say hello to her. There was a moment during the afternoon were Gracie’s expertise was put into practice as she set her sights on calming a distressed student. It was amazing to observe the bond a dog can form with those around it; her friendly, playful nature made the day.

Gracie from Pet Respect

In addition, ReNew produced an interesting activity that challenged every individual who tried to complete it. As part of their mission to educate and advise students on safe alcohol consumption, they arrived armed with their very own beer goggles; goggles that blare your vision in the same way that being drunk does! Imagine this! First you are asked to fairy-step along a thin line, whilst also balancing a tennis ball on a board of wood. Easy, right? Now you try it whilst wearing those marvelous beer goggles! When I tried this, the beer goggles had me walking towards a tree. ReNew successfully demonstrated the effects that alcohol can have. Participants were unsteady in their walking, uneasy about their changes in perception, and overall, seemed shocked. ReNew offered students the opportunity to have their drinking habits reviewed and gain advice as to whether the frequency and quantity of their drinking is considered to be risky. ReNew now operate a drop-in session on Tuesday afternoons within Student Central, available through AskHU on the 2nd Floor of Student Central.

Beer Goggles and Tennis Balls – don’t drop it!

As a Wellbeing Champion, I met a fantastic range of individuals throughout the day. Wellbeing Champions are student volunteers who work within the Student Wellbeing, Learning and Welfare Support team (SWLWS). We spent most the day reaching out to students, having conversations about stress, listening to the stories that students wanted to share about their experiences and signposting students to the variety of services on offer. Primarily, we were handing out ‘stress packs’ – bags that had been prepared and filled with advice on how to reduce stress and how to gain support. Mostly, I enjoyed talking to those around campus; some were students, some were staff and some were visitors exploring the various City of Culture attractions located on the grounds.

Wellbeing Champions, ReNew, Pet Respect & Campus Sport

The discussions that I had engaged in taught me two key lessons:

(1) a positive mental attitude can be the difference between success and dropping out of university. The student that brought this to my attention explained that it does not matter how long it takes for any of us to reach our goals as long as we keep trying, keep plodding on and have faith in our own abilities to hit our end targets.

(2) a good support network is of high significance in making the most of university life. Again, this support network paves the way to helping each student achieve their objectives. The function of a stable support network should not be underestimated. In this case, the student could recognise when he needed to take time away from his studies to maintain his own wellbeing and this foresight was achievable through the guidance provided by the Wellbeing teams.

So, how could you promote good mental health?

Have those conversations with your friends and peers about mental health, about the stresses that you face and share your experiences and problems. Sometimes, just meeting for a coffee and having a chat makes a remarkable difference in another person’s day.

SWLWS is located in Student Central where appointments with a wellbeing advisor can be made at the Ask HU desk on the 2nd floor or call 01482 462222 to book an appointment.

And remember, if you need a friendly ear or a chat, there are Wellbeing Champions on campus that can be spotted wearing bright orange university t-shirts.

How can you reduce your stress levels?

  • Meet with friends
  • Have some quality ‘me’ time
  • Take regular breaks from studying
  • Do something you enjoy, such as a hobby
  • Seek help from the support services
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Avoid unhealthy habits – Alcohol, smoking and caffeine only offer a temporary relief
  • Help other people
  • Try to maintain a positive mental attitude

If you would like more information about the Student Wellbeing Champion project, please contact the Health and Wellbeing team at the University of Hull via studentwellbeing@hull.ac.uk

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