Moving to a new city, making new friends, and starting a new journey of education can all be daunting experiences, which is why there’s nothing wrong with feeling anxious or stressed at university.
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We have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to health and wellbeing at university, have a look at the latest blog posts from our student bloggers.
HOW TO UNLEARN PREJUDICE AND STAND COURAGEOUSLY
Amidst the chaos and confusion of this year, we have all been forced to reflect not only on ourselves but the society we live in. When George Floyd was murdered on 25th May, at the hands of US police officers, shockwaves were felt across the globe and the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement encouraged people to start an important dialogue on race and belonging. Often, people avoid discussing racism due to fears of making mistakes, dislike for discomfort and the refusal to re-educate themselves. However, I believe that for anti-racist change to be enacted, we all need to be vulnerable enough to unlearn our past assumptions and brave enough to learn from the experiences of others.
Using the well-known adage, I believe that the first step to recovery is acceptance. We must all accept that prejudice lives within each of us, regardless of how it is expressed or contained. The root of this prejudice lies in our ignorance of others and our lack of awareness and understanding of their life experiences. As theorists Benedict Anderson points out in his seminal Imagined Communities, we are all conditioned to believe that we belong to specific groups and within these groups we develop a distrust for those who are unlike us or not part of this constructed community. These groups are socially constructed in the same way that stereotypes and assumptions are.
When studying at the University of Exeter, I witnessed the institution face countless racism scandals. The most notorious being the 2018 case of the Bracton Law Society (BLS), which saw a WhatsApp group chat leaked. The leaked messages showed some student committee members writing racist, sexist and Islamophobic messages in the chat. As one can imagine, the university reputation took a hit but the BLS Scandal was one of many incidents of racism reported on campus. In 2019, a similar issue arose after an unofficial university students page was created and soon attracted racist neo-Nazi messages. Whilst the university had no control or involvement in the anonymous Facebook page, many students, including myself, began asking senior management to address the obvious problem within our campus.
In light of the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, five students, including me, formed an anti-racist collective called the Unlearn Collective to address racism within our campus. Our multi-racial collective penned an open letter which included a list of demands such as greater transparency in investigations of racism, a commitment to decolonise the campus and the creation of an anti-racist pledge for new staff and students to sign. I then filmed a news report for BBC Spotlight with the hope of conveying our Collective’s message and encouraging signatories. To our surprise, over 400 people signed our letter and joined our campaign to create a more inclusive university.
We deliberately named ourselves the Unlearn Collective as we were encouraging the people to acknowledge the instilled prejudices they may hold and be open to unlearning and unpacking that flawed mentality. The process of unlearning involves people engaging in honest and sometimes uncomfortable dialogue. As I often say, Education is key. We must all be proactive in the fight against racism and willing to listen to the lived experiences of marginalised individuals. Those seeking to educate themselves should not only read vital anti-racist texts, but also engage with diverse local and national histories. Only through knowing our past can we learn to move forward.
We all have a collective responsibility to fight prejudice wherever we may find it. No matter how difficult it may be, we must continue engaging in anti-racist dialogue and stand courageously against all forms of discrimination. In the words of activist Darcus Howe, ‘we must become the shapers of our destiny’.
By Bryan Knight
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WHAT’S MOVEMBER ALL ABOUT?
You may have noticed several things going on this month: your American friends getting very tense, everyone else becoming equally tense with another lockdown and…a strange shadow starting to form of the upper lips of some of your friends. Yes, it’s that time again – Men’s Mental Health Month! The time where the moustache comes back into fashion and many people begin to look like some notable people in history.
Movember is a fantastic fundraiser which has contributed to numerous charities from Men’s Suicide Awareness to Men’s Mental Health and Prostate Cancer Charities. This year the event is more important than ever, with research showing that loneliness in the first lockdown impacted four in ten men’s mental health. But how did it all start?
The origins of Movember
The idea of Movember was born in 2003 in the Gypsy Bar in Fitzroy, Australia when two mates (Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) began talking about recurring fashion trends. They joked about the moustache, a fixture in past decades, and how it could be brought back.
Inspired by a friend’s mother who was raising money for Breast Cancer they decided to talk their mates into growing a moustache for Men’s Mental Health Awareness and Prostate Cancer. They designed the first Movember logo, sent around an email titled ‘Are you man enough to be my man?’ and found 30 guys willing to take up the challenge. They each chipped in $10 to ‘Grow a Mo’ and followed these rules:
- Start with a Clean Shaven Face on the 1st
- For the entire month of Movember, you must grow and groom a moustache
- Beards, goatees and fake moustaches don’t count
- Use the power of the moustache to create conversation and raise funds for Men’s Health
- Each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman
The first 30 Mo Bros grew their moustaches with such enthusiasm that the following year the concept of Movember was formalised. Movember was registered as a company with a website and the rest is history. The idea spread around the world and now hundreds of charities use Movember as a campaigning device to spark change.
Our top 3 moustaches
Just to give you a couple of ideas here are some of our favourite Mo’s. Challenge yourself to try something new or settle back into an old favourite, its up to you.
How to take part
This year there are 4 main campaign ideas:
- Grow a Mo – Whether patchy, lopsided, itchy or epic your Mo can raise funds and awareness for men’s health
- Move for Movember – Run or walk 60km over the month. That’s 60km for the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour, every hour across the world
- Host a Mo-ment – Gather your friends and host an event – virtually or in person – to raise funds for Men’s health
- Mo Your Own Way – choose your own epic adventure to raise funds for Men’s Mental Health
Whether male or female, old or young we can all get involved this Movember and support male physical and mental health. Visit the official Movember website for more information: https://uk.movember.com/?home
By Ilona Cabral
4 FITNESS INFLUENCERS TO FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM
Since gyms and indoor leisure centres were officially closed on March 21, many of us have relied on online workouts to keep us fit. According to the government, gyms are on track to reopen in the coming weeks. But when they do open, they will look very different. This poses the question as to whether gym goers will return. Working out from home has given us the freedom to roll out of bed and get active, without the monthly fees.
This 25-year-old personal trainer/model posts regular home workouts through her Instagram page, as well as offering advice on food and meal plans through IGTV videos. If you are interested in healthy eating, as well as hitting the gym, her account is definitely a visit. As well as posting on her Instagram account, she also offers lengthier versions of workouts on her YouTube Channel, so make sure to check that out too! In addition to this, she also has a free to download (pay for subscription) app called Tone and Sculpt, which allows its users to track their progress. The app offers a personalised service, providing a workout guide catered to the persons own specific needs and goals.
Instagram handle: @krissycela
Instagram followers: 1.8m
YouTube account: Krissy Cela
App: Tone & Sculpt
First gaining recognition for documenting her fitness, dieting and healthy lifestyle in 2016, the 23-year-old has gained over 1.2 million followers. Offering her expertise on all things fitness and healthy living, Megan also includes snaps from her private life and even offers fashion and styling tutorials. In addition to her Instagram account, she also runs a successful YouTube channel with a playlist focused on workouts that you can try out at home.
Instagram handle: @meggangrubb
Instagram followers: 1.2m
YouTube: Meggan Grubb
Maeve Madden is a Irish fitness blogger, personal trainer and qualified nutritionist. As well as posting snippets of her “Team Queen” workouts on her Instagram account, she also offers free weekly Instagram live sessions. She is an advocate for body positivity, often sharing post bloat snaps of herself with her followers, and has even written a book called, “Beat Your Bloat”. Her bubbly personality really shines through and allows her followers to feel confident and comfortable.
Instagram handle: @maeve_madden
Instagram followers: 244K
Another Irish personal trainer and fitness instructor to follow is Ciara Madden, who has been featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With 5 years of teaching experience under her belt, she has grown her “Body By Ciara” business to offer live workouts, online nutrition and has even launched her own range of fitness accessories. To access the Body by Ciara Squad it costs just £15 per week, giving you access to 25+ live workouts and making it well worth the small price tag.
Instagram handle: @ciaralondon
Instagram followers: 188K
Instagram squad: @bodybyciarasquad
Make sure to follow these amazing fitness accounts, as well as subscribing to their YouTube channels, for everything you need to keep you motivated and healthy whilst at home! As well as checking out these great fitness accounts, you can download apps such as BetterMe and 30-Day Fitness for all the at home workouts that you could possibly want, catered to you, and all on your phone.
By Chlóe Williamson (Student Blogger) and Alice Jones (Brand & Partnerships Executive)
THE STUDENT LIFE COACH FREE CHECK-IN SERVICE
University life can come with its challenges. Students may experience stress while trying to juggle impending deadlines, part-time work and a social life. This, combined with the new lockdown measures, can make it feel all the more overwhelming. However, there is no need to struggle alone. Here we speak to The Student Life Coach, Rachel, who has recently launched a free check-in service for students struggling during these uncertain times. Read below for tips on how to manage your general wellbeing, as well as how you can access this service.
Tell us about yourself
Hey! I’m Rachel, The Student Life Coach. I am a mental health nurse with an additional degree in Psychology. I have supported hundreds of students struggling with a variety of complex and diverse mental health and wellbeing issues to get to a place of stability and happiness.
I am a wife and mum and generally a happy, fun, optimistic person. I live by the philosophy of having one chance at this whole ‘life’ thing. So we MUST get our mindset right and create opportunities to thrive and achieve crazy, wonderful things.
What was the driving force for you to start ‘The Student Life Coach’?
I understand the highs and lows of studying at University after being a student for six years. Moving away, meeting new people, trying new things, the increased academic pressures and much more. I hear you – it’s A LOT.
As a mental health nurse I have seen the impact of this from a professional perspective and again from working within a university. There continues to be a year on year increase in the number of students needing extra support to manage their mental health and wellbeing whilst at University.
Often students feel daunted at the prospect of seeking help face to face or over the phone. I wanted to eliminate those barriers and the scary ‘waiting room’ experience and create a super easy to access service that can done from the comfort of your own home.
What services are you offering?
The Student Life Coach is here for moments such as:
‘I don’t know what to do’, ‘I don’t know who to talk to’ ,‘I feel like I can’t cope’
The opportunity to speak with a mental health nurse without a specialist referral, is rare. I offer this opportunity before students reach that point where they are really unwell. Through individual sessions I provide support with a variety of issues such as:
Anxiety, stress, depression, struggles with motivation, concentration, budgeting, making friends, how to combat loneliness, confidence, thoughts of self-harm, self-esteem and much more.
I offer a FREE 20 minute online check-in chat per student. For more in-depth support and advice, I offer 1 hour individual sessions. After each session you will receive a bespoke action plan made just for you to guide you through managing your identified issues. These sessions can be booked as regularly as you like, depending on the level of support desired.
Can you share any key tips to those struggling with their mental health or general wellbeing?
- Be honest with yourself
- If you feel yourself sinking. Tell someone. Don’t bury your head in the sand. The sooner you tackle the problem, the sooner you can get back to a good, happy place
- Procrastination is NOT your friend
- No one knows how you are feeling but you. So no one can judge how you handle things because they are not you
- Don’t be hard on yourself when you’re already having a rough time
- Remember to speak to yourself they way you’d speak to a good friend. Show yourself compassion and kindness
- Hold yourself accountable to your goals. No one can do this for you. Have a note pad by your bed and set yourself small, realistic goals for the next day
- Success comes from taking that first step. Even if it’s a teeny tiny one
- If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and panicked; take a moment to pause. Deep breathing works wonders to calm your mind and your body. After all they are both connected
- Mindset is everything. Learning tips and tricks into switching up your mindset from one filled with anxiety and dread to optimism and happiness will lead you to continual success throughout your life
For more info or to book a session, visit www.thestudentlifecoach.co.uk or hit me up on Instagram @thestudentlifecoach.
The Student Life Coach
MASK OUR HEROS INITIATIVE
We want to make a difference. That’s why we’ve launched ‘mask our heroes’, an initiative to help protect our doctors, nurses and care workers who are displaying immense bravery and saving our lives every single day during this difficult time.
There is a real shortage of PPE in our health care system so we have found a way to source some internationally and bring it into the UK within days. We have now agreed terms to buy thousands of much needed masks and hand sanitiser gels and donate them to our front-line.
This situation is beyond urgent and time really is of the essence. The more we raise, the more we can buy. The quicker we raise it, the quicker we can deliver it. Please help us raise as much money as possible so we can start giving back. All donations however big or small will be truly appreciated.
The Fusion Team
Please visit our page and donate.
TOP 5 MINDFULNESS APPS
With the current social climate it is vital to take care of our mental wellbeing, and what better time to do so by downloading a mindfulness app? I have downloaded and explored 5 different mindfulness apps, ranging from meditation to journaling, which can help to improve your mental health, sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Cost: 7 day free trial, then £28.99/year
Calm is the ‘Editor’s Choice’ of mindfulness apps on the App Store, and for good reason. The moment you open the app, you are met with a simple “take a deep breath” and a scenic background of your choice. It is easy to navigate around and doesn’t bombard you with incessant pop ups or ads, it simply exists to calm the user. Its personalised benefits offer the user an individual and unique experience, ranging from building self-esteem to reducing stress and anxiety. Stories and music are also on offer, but like most apps, a lot of content is only accessible with the paid subscription. Regardless, there is still enough for free to explore!
Cost: 7 day free trial, then £9.99 monthly OR 14 day free trial and £49.99/year
Headspace, another ‘Editor’s Choice’, is one of the happiest apps I’ve ever downloaded. Offering science-backed meditation, ranging from 3-minute solo meditations to live group ones, Headspace offers an exciting and simple introduction to mindfulness. It also provides physical workouts and exercises with a strong element of gratitude, which is what mindfulness is all about after all. This is the perfect app for those beginning their mindfulness journeys.
The Mindfulness App
Cost: 7 days free, then £54.99/year
This app is more meditation-based than the previous two, offering a 5 day guided meditation practice to begin with. If, like myself, you struggle with guided meditation however, there are also silent versions to suit all needs, with the timings ranging from 3 minutes to 30 seconds. It’s a good app for emphasising the importance of routine in mindfulness, offering an alarm system to encourage the user to take time out of their day to have a quick meditation. The premium subscription offers over 250 guided meditations by renowned teachers and more personalisation.
Breethe: Meditation and Sleep
14 day free trial, then £79.99/year
Breethe works to focus on people with sleeping problems and troubles with fatigue during the day. It is fairly common in times of stress or uncertainty for exhaustion to hit during the day, even if we feel we have slept fine, but Breethe is there to combat this. With day and night meditations, music, and personalised recommendations (even guided meditations for specific life situations), this app certainly offers a lot for improving wellbeing through mindfulness.
7 day free trial, then £27.49/year
Reflectly is a mental health online journal that tracks your daily thoughts and ramblings. Sometimes, getting your feelings out in words helps us to make sense of our confusing inner dialogues, and the calming and simple nature of Reflectly allows us to do so. The mood tracking works to dismiss negative thoughts and focus on what really matters in life, using positive psychology and mindfulness to help your inner dialogue become less damaging and more peaceful. Premium offers unlimited text, personalised insights and new daily
Mindfulness apps are a great way to pass the time and take control of ourselves, especially during a time of uncertainty and the reliance of technology. Personally, I would recommend Calm the most due to the price range (should you choose to take the premium subscription) and the amount on offer for non-subscribed users, as the unpaid benefits of the app will certainly suffice for mindfulness users on a budget. In comparison to Breethe, which has a much higher yearly subscription, Calm offers a wide range of activities from meditation and breathing techniques to stories to listen to before sleep, proving the popularity of the app. It may even be worth making use of the 7 day trials on every app to get a nice introduction to mindfulness.
By Imogen Killner
As the saying goes: healthy body, healthy mind. While you’re staying at Fusion, you’ll have access to a wide selection of exercise facilities and fitness classes to suit every workout preference. Open 24 hours a day, our gyms are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, and our personal trainers are on hand to help you achieve your fitness goals. The range of classes includes yoga, Pilates and aerobics, bringing people together for weekly workout sessions.