student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

Mental Health is not Extra-Curricular

Campaign (May 2022)

Mental health is not extracurricular, and we need to remember to look after ourselves and set boundaries with our work. Your degree is important, but here is your reminder that you are more so, and your wellbeing has to be the priority. Whilst everyone’s experience will be different, this page is here to try and bring together our advice as a sabb team, top tips for managing this stress, tell you about the feel-good freebies we are giving out this exam period, and direct you to support.


Feel-Good Events Advice & Tips

Mental Health Survey!

The University have a responsibility for our wellbeing, and our academic experience is not separate to that. This is your chance to share thoughts on how your academic experience impacts your mental health and how you want this to change. You could also be within the chance to win £100 for your wellbeing!

Have your Say

Feel-Good Events

We are running some free feel-good activities during exam season to give you the opportunity to take a short break from your studies. Everyone is welcome to just pop along.

 

Wed 25 May

Outside Luthers' Bar, 11am - 3pm

Join us out on Luthers' Terrace, where there will be food (incl. curry chips & nibbles), Pimms & other non-alcoholic drinks, as well as music!

Previous Events

Robinson Library & SU, Wed 18 May

Take a break with a free ice-lollies and stress toys!

Robinson Library, Wed 11 May

Take a break with a free fruit, and leave with some flowers!

More Activities
 

Advice & Techniques

Below is some advice from our Sabbs on calming an anxious mind, some pep talks about exam burn-out, as well as some study resources you might find helpful.

 

"At the peak of exam stress, it is so normal to feel overwhelmed and it can be easy to forget about your needs. When you know you have so many topics to cover, or that a certain mark will get you that 2:1 you are aiming for; it can seem impossible or even lazy to take a break and put yourself first. This culture is not ok, and we must remind ourselves that it is important to have balance.

From my experience, burning out and recovering is not something we can risk. It is also not the way to achieve, and I wish I had given myself more positive times in the day to breathe for the sake of both my health and my degree.

Don’t cut out all the enjoyment from your life. It’s tempting to decide you’ll just shut yourself away for a couple of weeks to knuckle down and “focus”, but this is counterproductive - it’s impossible to focus without giving your brain rest by doing other activities.

Student minds recommend that you should take frequent breaks. Psychologists say we can only concentrate properly for 30-45 minutes. When you do take a break make sure you don’t stay at your desk, you could go for a walk or even just make a cup of tea.

Find activities that help you relax. Maybe it’s a hot bath, watching a TV show, or creative activity. Schedule this downtime into your timetable."

Abbie Hutchinson (President of the Students' Union)

See the sky before the screen

A self-care tip that really helps me when I am struggling is to make sure that I start my day in a positive way.  Getting into the habit of creating a moment to take a look at the sky when we first wake up is a simple way to help ground us in the new day.

Making yourself a cuppa and watching the sky is not only relaxing, but it helps us to change gears in the morning and wake up naturally. This habit also stops us from drowning ourselves in information from Instagram or tik-tok first thing which is just not the one for our wellbeing and we all know it.

If you want to take this further, this time is also a good time to set an intention for the day ahead. It is important to be mindful of the dialogue that we have with ourselves during exams, and by setting a positive intention. This is not a demand of yourself; it is purposeful awareness of how you want to experience something, which usually includes yourself. Intentions are different to goals because they do not have a destination but rather are based on your day-today experience.

You usually set them in a positive framework not in the place of lack or something being missing. So rather than setting an intention which is judging your current self like ‘I don’t want to be afraid/anxious in my exam’ you could say, ‘I am feeling strong and confident in every way’

Intentions have love and kindness running through them, which is what makes them such a powerful tool for improving your mood.

The Calming Hand is a particularly helpful tool when you suffer from feelings of panic. It also works well with episodes of breathlessness, when you feel like your breathing is out of control.

  1. Recognition/ Acceptance Firstly recognise the signs that you are starting to panic. Hold your thumb firmly and remind yourself of what to do next to regain control. This will help to calm your breathing
  2. Sigh out Sigh out, as this relaxes your shoulders, arms, and upper chest (remember to flop and drop). If possible try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in
  3. Inhale Take a slow and gentle relaxed breath in, focusing on filling your lungs with air
  4. Exhale Then, take a slow and gentle relaxed breath out, until your breath comes to its natural end. Relaxed breathing helps to relieve the sensation of breathlessness
  5. Stretch hands, relax and stop Stretch and relax your hand, as a reminder that you can and will regain control. Hand stretching is helpful when having an episode of panic; you can do it without anyone around you knowing.

After completing the Calming Hand coping strategy, your feelings of panic and/ or breathlessness may not go away instantly. You may need to repeat steps 1-5 again. It may take longer for the panic to go away. When the panic settles, it is advisable to practice Breathing Control.

This technique will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations. You can do it anywhere – in your seat at the library.

Take a deep belly breath to begin.

5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.

4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel and say out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.

3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing, or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.

2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favourite smells.

1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favourite thing to taste.

Take another deep belly breath to the end.

It is important to think about how far you’ve come already. Let’s appreciate how incredible you all are and the adversity you have had to overcome to be where you are today. Regardless of your course or your stage, just by being here, we are the cohort who have been accepted into university and undertaken a degree despite a global pandemic. We are kick-ass. So, remember you are already amazing, and no one can take this achievement away from you. Even if you stop or fail exams at this point, you are not ‘throwing away’ your past success.



Study Support from the Library


Newcastle University libraries are committed to making sure that mental health is not extracurricular and here are some of their resources:

Want to tackle stress with action? The Academic Skills Kit might help to calm some of your nerves.

 Online Sessions & Academic Skills Drop-ins are available in the library (as well as the Frederick Douglas site).

Whilst not everyone will study in the University Library, if you do, you should run a program called Study well@NCL, which is aimed at helping to improve your experience.



Need Support?


Whilst anxiety and stress are natural emotions during exams, it is important to recognise when these emotions become disruptive to our day and unhelpful to us.

Find Out More