Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Health and Wellbeing

Ralitsa, year 4, SELCS
Look after your mental health

Ralitsa Bobcheva
BA Comparative Literature with a Year Abroad
Final Year
Favourite learning quote:
In short, we can never stop reading because we can never finally know if what 'appears' in this poem is us reading or us being read.
“Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory”, Bennett and Royle

As an ​enthused linguist, I can’t help but notice how a wide array of wartime vocabulary has crept into our everyday lives, with news headlines, politicians’ speeches and even casual conversations featuring words like ‘fight’, ‘warriors’, ‘front-line’ and ‘shell-shocked’. Reading all of this military language can be an incredibly stressful experience at an already difficult time.

Looking after your mental health is more important now than ever, especially if you’re still studying for exams, or making a start on university prep. Even though scientists confirm that moderate amount of stress could be beneficial for setting you in a studying mindset, symptoms such as recurring anxiety, sleep problems and a lack of motivation are not only counterproductive, but also place your mental health at risk. Having dealt with stress management during a few exam seasons myself, I’ve learned the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing, and want to share some strategies that have helped me to achieve calmness.

In fact, as you read this, you are already applying one of my favourite mental tricks for stress relief: the so called focus-shift technique. This means taking some time in between studying stints, in order to reboot your brain by shifting your focus towards something completely different. This doesn’t mean switching to another type of work, but rather something entirely unrelated. You might read a few pages of a (non-course related) novel, or go for a quick walk.

Next, finding ways to revise online with friends is a good solution if you’re lacking motivation – a kind of positive spin on peer pressure! Even a simple division of space – the so-called “spheres” – can be extremely beneficial as it helps set you in the right mindset for completing your tasks. All you have to do is choose a spot at home that you only use for studying, and another that’s only for rest and breaks.

The current situation is also an opportunity for us to spend more time with ourselves, and observe our reactions to external stimuli. We don’t often get extended periods of time to consider our own thought processes, without one distraction or the other getting in the way. This means it can be the perfect opportunity for some self-learning. So, observe, observe, observe. Get to know the things that annoy you, and then take some time to plan how you’d like to deal with them going forwards.

Now is also a great time to try out things like mindfulness and meditation, and get to know which bits you like and which you don’t. We don’t often consider taking care of our mental health until we notice a problem, which usually happens at a moment of high stress. If you take the time now to implement a regular practice, you’ll find balancing future stress and the university exam period a lot easier.

So, four tips for lockdown survival: take breaks, separate your spaces, take time for self-reflection and try out some mindfulness techniques.

UCL has some really great support services and workshops which can help you on your journey once you join us in September. Find out more at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/support-and-wellbeing/wellbeing.