Opening this blog and spotting the abbreviation MHAW, what initial thoughts did you have as to what this stands for? An accounting abbreviation? A study guide tip? MHAW is actually short for Mental Health Awareness Week, which is happening right now week 14th to the 20th May; and much like the abbreviation, this may mean many things to many people. Mental health means different things to different people, coming in a variety of forms and taking on varying degrees of importance at certain stages of our lives.
For our students, if it is studies that are causing mental health concerns, we are the friendly ear at the end of a phone call (or email) listening and providing professional guidance to ensure the Individual Learning Plan is maintained and that students finish a phone call with us feeling confident and on track with their studies. For the student, this is a real boost to their mental health – speaking with a real life human who has been in their shoes during their own studies and who has most likely suffered from the same crisis of confidence – it really can be the key to success! As well as a boost to the health of the student, believe me when I say it is a really huge boost to the tutor too, who feels a sense of pride knowing they have helped make someone’s day just that little bit better (it’s one of the key draws to the role of a tutor!!).
While chatting about MHAW over a coffee here are AL HQ (we love a good coffee!!), it soon became clear that not only did we view mental health as either stress or pressure (stress being bad for your health and performance, pressure at times being good and leading to high performance) but we also have our own ways of addressing these feelings.
Here are a few extracts from of our conversations where you’ll spot a few tips on how to improve your mental health.
AL HQ Tips on improving our mental health:
Antonio has recently taken up running as being outdoors is a real mood enhancer after a busy day in the office, running around Exeter quay with a few of the AL team is a great way to clear the mind and focused conversations on sport brings an excitement to take on more challenges…5km Rainbow run soon!!
Tutor Kate says” I find exams, and the lead up to them, very stressful. It doesn’t matter how prepared I feel two weeks before the exam one week before the exam I start to lose my confidence. I always found the best way to deal with this is to make sure I have good notes prepared and to keep them near me so whenever I am having a bit of a wobble I can grab them and read through, hopefully reassuring myself I do know what the exam is about! I don’t always need to read them but just knowing that I have the notes prepared is a great help for me to calm my nerves. Also when doing my last minute cramming, making sure I have regular breaks to think over what I have been reading always helps drum the information into my brain.”
Eleanor says “I like making lists you get a little sense of achievement ticking things off! You can organise your mind a bit by writing everything down on paper, whether it is a list, a diary entry or a little rant.
There are also a lot of self-help CBT practices that are very good for anxiety. Some are actions based, by changing your actions slightly, bit by bit you change patterns and it the effects your mood so that you are able to cope better”.
Prue is also a huge ‘list’ fan (go Team List! I love a good list!!) saying she loves to pick them off one at a time in order of importance (get the nastiest ones out of the way first – try reading “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy); that way, you feel a sense of achievement after each task completed (rather than doing bits of tasks and never completing any of them).
After a long hard week Prue said her favourite relaxation is painting whilst listening to music; working out in the garden with the birds singing; sitting down to an evening meal around the fire and watching something on TV – recently, we have been loving The Crown, Designated Survivor and McMafia!
Another top tip from Prue is ‘how to cope with exam nerves’ – when she sat her first AAT exam (after many years since the last exam taken), she found that she completely ‘froze’ when opening the exam paper and reading through through the questions (yes, this was back when all AAT exams were paper based). She could not even hold her pen properly for the first 20 minutes. In desperation, she took a look at section 2 of the paper and ‘bingo’, there was a really easy question that she knew the answer to. Completing this question started to relax her mind and she was able to complete all the other questions in the paper with ease.
I myself love to get outdoors, trail running is my big love but I have recently taken up Kayaking ( literally a few days ago!) wobbling around in a kayak trying my best not to fall into the water certainly focuses my mind!! Taking me to another place with my mental health and helping me to put into perspective any stress or pressures I may have experienced in the week.
I’m also big at talking a problem through, it can be quite a challenge for the mind keeping issues in your own mind so as the old saying goes it’s good to talk!
As you can hopefully tell, chatting about mental health awareness week sparked some great conversations and I shall end this blog with one final nugget of wealth from Simon:
When talking to a friend years ago (when I had recently started as a lecturer and making presentations), she said something that I thought was very profound.
“If you are going to be effective as a presenter, you need to have butterflies. However, you need to ensure your butterflies are flying in formation.”
You need to be sufficiently hyped up to be at the top of your game. Channel that pressure constructively to improve your performance. How many times do we leave things to the last moment and then have a huge burst of energy and focus and completely nail it? For your eyes to focus on objects at different distances, you need to apply differing levels of pressure on them. Life’s challenges are just the same!
Couldn’t have put it better myself Simon! Hopefully our blog will encourage you to have your own great conversations with your colleagues regarding mental health. For further reading and information on how to access support, please click on the following link: https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-awareness-week-2018/
Written by Chrissy Greatwood