Nicola Heath, Psychology Subject Advisor
This blog was originally published in March 2020 by Phoebe Davis and Lucy Carey. The content has since been updated by Nicola Heath.
World Mental Health Day is on 10 October and is a time to reflect on our own mental health and ways we may be able to improve it. In this blog I’ve shared some research and ideas that might help you think about how to stay calm and be kind to yourself.
We know that being a student can be stressful at times and you’ve probably been told to try and think positively about a situation. In fact, that might not be bad advice at all. Work published by Vikram Chib found that changing your view of a stressful situation can reduce panicking and improve performance. You can read more about this in an article published by the British Psychological Society. So thinking positively about mock exams, presentations or that tricky lesson might actually help. In other words, ‘fake it till you make it’, and it just might work.
Another way of coping with difficult emotions is to balance them out by experiencing more positive emotions, like hope, gratitude, joy, excitement, and inspiration. Positive emotions have been proven to develop resilience and help manage stress during times of change.
Practising gratitude can be very powerful and lead to long term benefits. You can start small by taking the time to say thank you to people who have genuinely been kind or helpful. Why not make a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day and placing them in a jar or write them in a journal?
Think about what makes you happy, and try to do those things where possible. Sometimes we don’t really acknowledge the things we enjoy, but if you’re doing something you like, really take the time to appreciate it in the moment. If putting up Christmas decorations in November inspires you and brings joy, don’t let anyone stop you! There is nothing wrong with buying Christmas duvet covers in September, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween throughout the whole of October.
Remember stress and anxiety are feelings that everyone will experience from time to time. Everyone reacts differently to these emotions and that’s okay – we want to help you manage that stress though, and here are some tips:
There are resources available on the Mental Health Foundation’s dedicated World Mental Health Day website. And advice is also available from the NHS website, which talks about five steps to mental wellbeing.
Feeling stressed is not the same as feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. Here are some symptoms you might have if you are finding it difficult to cope:
If you are experiencing symptoms like these, there are people who can help you. Talk to your family, a teacher who knows you well, a friend or your GP.
If you don’t want to talk to somebody face-to-face, here are some organisations that can help you:
Be kind to yourself and others. It’s normal to have days where you don’t feel like yourself. Chances are, at some point you’ll speak to someone who’s having a bad day, and that’s okay. We don’t have to be cheerful all the time but be kind to everyone (including yourself) and soon there will be something else to focus on and be joyful about.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @ocr_psychology. You can also sign up to subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
Nicola joined OCR in 2022 as the Subject Advisor for Psychology. Prior to joining OCR, she taught psychology for over 10 years and had various other responsibilities in that time including being Head of Year. SENDCo and Subject Leader for PSHE. Nicola has a personal interest in mental health and wellbeing and enjoys reading, baking and spending time outdoors to relax.