With deadlines getting well under way, it is especially important to take time to take some time out to relax and take care of one’s mental health. I spoke to Alexandrina Fleming, a first-year student and Yoga Society teacher, and Miriam Chappell, the SRC Wellbeing officer, about mindfulness and positive mental health practices during the current deadline season.
Ms Fleming has been teaching Yoga Society classes this year and says that yoga is amazing for strength and the flexibility of body, mind and soul. She emphasises that mindfulness is holistic and that focus, engagement and willingness to listen are integral to achieving it. Starting the day off well is very important. One can begin the day by meditating for ten minutes, followed by making a plan for the day to help stay focused on one’s goals. She likes to have a nourishing, balanced breakfast such as mashed avocado on rye bread with lemon and pepper. Nourish your body with whole foods and have a wholesome, fresh diet. Each of us has the opportunity to make healthy choices every time we eat, and we should be conscious of where our food comes from, how it is cooked and what its nutritional benefits are. Exercise can be doing yoga, going for walks or running with a cross country club. Making delicious, nutritious food and taking time to exercise are both great ways to take time out for yourself and your health. Having a healthy body and a healthy mind makes such as difference, so aim to exercise everyday.
Having time to oneself allows for a chance to recharge and be quiet. Ms Fleming suggests going for a nice walk, sitting by one of the beautiful beaches in St Andrews, enjoying a great cup of coffee or getting lost in a novel. These things bring joy into everyday life and allow us to recharge and refresh. As well as this personal aspect of mindfulness, engaging with every conversation one has and thinking about consciously trying to be present are also important. If we can become less reliant on distractions, such as technology, then we can focus better on what is happening in the here and now. She recommends appreciating the small things and aiming to love and embrace each day.
Whilst working on coursework, think about perspective and balance. Though it is important to honour deadlines and get work done, remember to take time to care for your mind and body. Additionally, take time to appreciate the wonderful opportunity to learn here in St Andrews. Knowledge is power, and engagement with learning is hugely important. Always keep in mind that while we strive to do well, failures or successes alone do not define a person.
Ms Fleming shared this Ralph Waldo Emerson poem as something that helps her to stay mindful:
Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
Miriam Chappell is the Union’s representative for mental health, sexual health, fitness and safety throughout the year and during activities including Raisin Weekend and May Dip. She says that the main thing when it comes to deadlines is the importance of having a routine. Be clear about what you want to achieve with your time: schedule in breaks, make time to see your friends, exercise regularly and eat and sleep well, at regular times. Planning and having certain expectations helps one to achieve consistently.
Ms Chappell also stresses that we must know our limits. For example, she needs to get eight hours of sleep a night, as this helps her to work effectively the next day. She says that managing stress is one of the biggest challenges of university life, so if someone is ever under too much pressure and needs time off, she advises that he or she takes it. There are plenty of people who can provide help, and it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we get the support that we need.
From speaking to Alex and Miriam, it is clear to see that having a healthy body and healthy mind is essential as a student. By following their recommendations, we can all become more mindful, of ourselves and each other.