University Mental Health Day 2020 – building resilience

Today is University Mental Health Day, the national day for student mental health run jointly by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisers Network.

As the university’s mental health and counselling manger, I am encouraging students and staff to get involved in the local events which taking place, to help promote awareness and to share information about the support which is available to help students manage their wellbeing. I am hopeful that we can work together to change the often negative narrative around student mental health.

Volunteering imageAcross the university partnership we can tackle stigma together and create a campus culture where talking about mental health is something we can all do. One in four of us will experience mental health problems in our lives so, if you haven’t been directly affected yourself, it is likely that you will know someone who has experienced mental health problems.

The topic of student mental health and wellbeing is one I am very passionate about.  It’s known that students of any age can be at risk of experiencing poorer mental health and wellbeing due to factors relating to academic, social and financial pressures. I feel strongly that mental health is everybody’s responsibility and, as mental health and wellbeing affects every aspect of student life, I want to encourage you to do your best to look after yourselves.

Resilience

shutterstock_292953377Quite often we hear the term resiliency being banded about, but what is resilience and how can we further develop this it?

Resilience comes from the Latin word meaning to ‘jump back’. It is the ability to return to an original form or position after being bent, compressed or stretched. When applied to humans, it is our capacity to cope with adversity or disappointment and bounce back when we encounter setbacks.

Some factors which may influence our levels of resiliency are:

  • Our developmental experiences in childhood/adolescence
  • External factors such as having positive relationships with others, having a faith or other kind of commitment and engaging with activities
  • Internal factors such as how we choose to interpret events, manage our emotions and regulate our behaviour

Walk1Being resilient doesn’t mean a person won’t experience difficulty or distress, but it helps them cope better when problems occur. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered problems or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience may involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait which people either have or do not have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions which can be learned and developed in anyone. There are lots of factors which can contribute to our resilience:

  • Having close relationships with family and/or friends
  • Holding a positive view of self and confidence in our own strengths and abilities
  • Developing the ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Developing good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Being willing to seeking help from people and/or resources
  • Noticing and appreciating nature – living in a more mindful way
  • Engaging in exercise
  • Seeing yourself as resilient (rather than as a victim)
  • Coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse or drinking alcohol excessively
  • Helping others – such as volunteering or doing a good deed every day
  • Finding positive meaning in your life despite (difficult circumstances or traumatic events)

Increasing resiliency

So, it is possible to increase your levels of resiliency. What are some of the ways we can do this?

  • Keep things in perspective and train yourself to think positively
  • Regard setbacks as challenges and learning opportunities, rather than paralysing disasters
  • Be committed to the activities and people you value
  • Focus on what you can control, rather than worrying about what you can’t

It is also helpful to focus on the positive aspects of yourself. A great way to do this is by keeping a positivity journal. Spend a little bit of time reflecting on:

  • What do I like about myself?
  • What characteristics do I have that are positive?
  • What are some of my achievements?
  • What challenges have I overcome in my life?
  • What skills or talents do I have?
  • What do people say they like about me?
  • How would someone who cares about me describe me?
  • What bad characteristics do I NOT have?

Stress  

Another way to increase resiliency is to regularly review your stress levels and look at ways to manage this. Engaging in things you enjoy and socialising can be a great way to reduce your stress levels.

Allie_Scott

Allie Scott, Mental Health and Counselling Manger, University of the Highlands and Islands

For more information on mental health and wellbeing, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/students/support/health-and-wellbeing 

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