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Run by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisers network or UMHAN, Thursday March 4th marks this year’s University Mental Health Day (UMHD). The drive behind the day is to make student mental health a university-wide priority, and to increase conversations about student wellbeing and mental health.

Student mental health has never felt more important than in the current context. A survey by the Office for National Statistics in December of 2020 found that of the 2000 students surveyed, 57% reported a worsening in their mental health since the onset of coronavirus. More than one in five (22%) said their mental health was much worse, whilst 63% said COVID-19 posed either a big or significant risk to their mental health.

To mark this year’s UMHD the University of Chester have a number of events and activities taking place on Thursday. Check portal for further information and links to join in with sessions.

Given where we currently are, I thought this blog might be a helpful space to share some tips about what we can do to look after our mental health as we nudge tentatively towards the easing of lockdown restrictions.

1. Take things at your own speed.
We are all going to feel differently about this next phase and, as ever, there is no right way to do things. In times of uncertainty we can gravitate towards comparison with others; but this is often unhelpful, as you are not comparing like with like. You are an individual with unique experiences and thoughts and you have the right to do things according to what makes you comfortable. In keeping with this, understand that others might want to do things differently than you and be respectful of their boundaries.

2. Think about how to maintain positive aspects of your routine from lockdown.
Whilst many elements of lockdown have been challenging, as time has gone on some of us have developed or discovered routines and activities which have proven helpful for our wellbeing. If something is working for you it is important to think about how you will keep space for this, as it can be all too easy to get caught up in change and to revert to default settings and behaviours that perhaps were not serving us previously.

3. Allow yourself space and time to feel whatever this next phase brings up for you.
Our emotions serve as messengers, communicating to us, and it is important that we pay attention to them. Emotions can feel big and overwhelming at times, but if we try to deny or suppress our feelings this can do more harm than good and cause our responses to grow. No emotional response is wrong, and how you feel about a situation will depend on so many factors. Try to observe your emotions and avoid attaching judgement to them where possible.

4. Focus on remaining present through mindfulness and meditation.
The end of lockdown may trigger ruminations about what we have been through during this pandemic and lots of catastrophising about what might happen next. We can neither undo the past nor predict the future, so the best use of our energy is here in the now, taking things one day at a time. Mindfulness and meditation do not mean spending hours alone in a darkened room, any activity that allows you to focus can be useful.

5. Stay connected and keep talking.
Remember you do not have to navigate this on your own. Whether it is friends or family, online information or professional guidance, there are lots of sources of support to help you make sense of what happens next.

As ever, we are here to support our students with any and all aspects of student life. Whilst we cannot currently be present on campus, we continue to support our students in a remote capacity and can offer appointments either on the telephone or through video sessions on MS Teams. To get in touch you can email infopoint@chester.ac.uk or call on 01244 511550 and speak to one of our team to arrange an appointment with one of our advisers.

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