Posted in Intern advice, Uncategorized, Written by Lauryn

Practical ways to battle assessment anxiety

How many times have you heard the same tips?

‘Just breathe!’

‘Make a plan!’

‘Keep calm!’

While those might be useful to some people, I know that for me they’re annoying at best and completely useless at worst. I’m Lauryn, and if you’ve read some of my blog posts here before you’ll know I have chronic anxiety and an autistic spectrum condition. Basically, I don’t do well with ‘keep calm’. Nowadays, my assessment life is much less stressful thanks to the DDSS, who have put in adjustments for me such as yellow SpLD stickers that flag up that I have a communication difficulty and help getting extensions when I need them. (If you have a diagnosed condition – or think you might have a condition that is yet undiagnosed – definitely contact the DDSS. They can help massively with stuff from support in seminars, exams, and just general university life.) However, I still know how stressful assessments can be, and wanted to share some practical tips and tricks that have helped me in the past. Especially right now, with everything that’s happening, it’s important to take care of your mental health when you’re tackling uni work, so hopefully some of these can help you.

 

Grounding exercises

When we panic, sometimes we feel completely disconnected from reality. I’ve found that especially now, being at home all the time, I end up staring at the walls and feeling super separate from everything around me. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is especially useful for combatting this. It works like this. In your head name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This helps you connect back to the present, and stops you spiralling.

 

Image result for breathing gifs

 

 

Blowing on your thumb

Okay, I promise I’m not tricking you! Hold your thumb a little way away from your lips and blow gently on it. For a less subtle but more effective version of this, put your thumb in your mouth and blow on it with your mouth closed. Blocking your airway with your thumb activates the vagus nerve (which is responsible for those pesky butterflies currently flapping around your stomach and making you panicky), and calms you right down. Just do this safely – apparently some people have been making a deadly challenge out of it by using it to stimulate hypoventilation which, aside from being a terrible idea, isn’t going to help your nerves much!

 

Chewing gum

Chewing gum can be beneficial for many reasons; firstly, it prevents that dry mouth caused by anxiety. Secondly, eating (or the action of chewing) can affect Cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in the body and trick you. Panic is all fight or flight, and eating is a ‘safe’ behaviour – animals in the wild don’t stop for a snack while they’re being hunted! Lastly, pick a flavour of gum that’s linked to anti-nausea. Anxiety always makes me feel super sick and flavours like peppermint and spearmint will ease those feelings much more effectively than bubble mint or strawberry!

Gum GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stop and plan

Assessments can be scary and sometimes the thing we really need to do is slow it all down. Essays questions are great for this. If you’re doing an essay subject like Literature, writing out a plan for your essays can really help. Set yourself a decent chunk of time aside for planning and collecting your thoughts. As counterproductive as it sounds – ‘why am I wasting my limited time like this???’ – it’s really useful to slow everything down and think ahead. How many times have you been telling someone a story only to forget where you were going with it halfway through? The last thing you want is to do that in your assessments, so plan where you’re going to go with your points. I like to make a plan like this:

  • Intro
  • Paragraph/point 1
  • Paragraph/point 2 – or counterargument
  • Conclusion

It’s a short but simple essay plan that can be adapted as necessary. For Literature, I generally write two essays in 3 hours for my exams. That’s an intimidating task. However, by doing a bit of mental maths, I split it up like this:

  • 15 minutes to read through my questions and choose which I’ll do
  • 15 minutes to plan my first answer
  • 1 hour to write my first answer
  • 15 minutes plan my second answer
  • 1 hour to write my second answer
  • 15 minutes to read over my work

That, to me, feels a lot less intimidating than “write solidly for 3 hours” does, and generally, coming up with a plan makes me feel much more in control and confident.

 

Be realistic

Obviously, you want to pass your assessments and get brilliant grades. You should strive for that, and let it motivate you to work hard and complete a piece of work you’re proud of. However, things happen. For reasons outside of our control, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Now more than ever, there are so many things out of our control. Some of you may now have caring responsibilities to take on at home, or have to spend your time looking after younger siblings. The university is so aware of this, and wants you to succeed. The new ‘safety net’ policy will ensure you don’t suffer any detriment because of current situations.

Aside from this, sometimes our nerves do get the better of us and we don’t perform the Self Care GIFs | Tenorway we think we should have or could have. It’s easy to beat yourself up at times like this, but remember: you survived. Things right now are really difficult and sticking it out is brave in itself. Sometimes, we find ourselves saying “Everyone else does it, so it’s not an achievement.” but that’s not true! Different things are challenging for different people and tackling something you find difficult head on is no small feat. Treat yourself to a day of watching Netflix or bake some cookies!

 

Good luck to everyone right now. Remember these tips and hopefully it might make this trying time a little bit less difficult.

 

Lauryn

 

Posted in Intern advice, Uncategorized, Written by Sanchari

Volunteering experiences and Charities

If you’re looking for different ways of being involved in a charity or gain some volunteering experience, Sheffield has loads of opportunities for that. The Students’ Union itself has a Volunteering Office where you can sign up for different kinds of opportunities; whether it’s for outreach events or helping refugees or homeless people in the city. Based on your preferences, they can send you email about different opportunities available and you can sign up for them. But if you are looking for something beyond that, here are some of the societies in Sheffield that does some great work and also, mentioned here are some other ways external to the University that you can help and make the world a better place.

Bone Marrow Society

Sheffield Marrow is a student branch Anthony Nolan for the UK stem cell registry. For some patients with blood cancers like leukaemia or lymphoma, their last chance of survival may be a stem cell transplant. Some patients may find this match within their family, but a staggering 2/3rds of patients rely upon the kindness of a stranger having joined a stem cell register somewhere in the world. They hold regular sign up clinics in both the Students’ Union and some halls of residence. Signing up takes less than 15 minutes and all that is required is a sample of saliva. You can look out for their events throughout the year by following their page and help save thousands of lives!

Teddy Bear Hospital Society

This society is run by a group of medical students running events for children that aim to reduce fears and anxieties around hospital and GP visits, as well as working to educate children on leading a healthy lifestyle.

They hold one main event each February at Weston Park Museum, where last year they saw more than 800 children and their teddies visit! Children take their teddies to be weighed, bandaged, scanned in their fancy MRI machine, as well as learning about healthy living, road safety and exercising. 

Throughout the year they organise a variety of other events with schools, playgroups, beaver troops and more, which are great opportunities to get involved with.

Wellbeing Cafe

The Wellbeing Cafe is based in the Students’ Union, with a proactive focus on wellbeing. They use surplus food to create a healthy pay-as-you-feel meal every Monday during term time. Everyone is welcome, staff and students, as they want it to be a space where everyone is equal. You can use the space for whatever you need it to be – there is no pressure to eat, or to socialise with others.

The main purpose is to form a space that aims to holistically tackle some of the key welfare issues for students, by creating a feeling of community and overcoming isolation.

BUMMIT

Bummit is the world’s largest, student organised, charity hitchhiking group and a sub-committee of Sheffield RAG (Raising & Giving).

They currently run two main events per year. The goal of these events is to hitchhike to a pre-determined location within a given time limit and raise as much sponsorship through doing so as they can.

Last year they raised over £60,000 for charity.

During this adventure, you will be able to travel in teams of 2 or 3 from Sheffield to a pre-determined city in Europe via a mystery half way point (to be revealed at set off), and so many places in between. What better way could you spend your Easter holiday than travelling across Europe with friends, raising money for charity?

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus situation, the charity hitchhike didn’t take place this year but if things are settled, you can get involved with it next year!

Charities

International charity:

  • Cool Earth – Cool Earth is a charity that works with local people to halt deforestation and climate change

Local South Yorkshire charities:

  • Rotherham Abuse Counseling Service – Provide important support to anyone who has been a victim of abuse.
  • Men Up North – A local charity trying to battle the current male mental health crisis.
  • Roundabout – An amazing charity tackling the homelessness epidemic.
  • Paces – A wonderful charity who support people with neurological conditions – especially children.

These are just some of the ways I’ve come across to be involved in some charities and fundraising. If you know of any other good ones, please leave a comment below this blog post! 😀

Finally, because of these unfortunate times that we’re in (HINT: Coronavirus!), some of our students and staff members are working relentlessly to 3D print face masks and shields for the NHS workers in the iForge (The Diamond). If you can help them in any way possible (since they really need more funds to carry on), please check this link out and donate whatever you can to save lives.

Funding for NHS Workers

Please stay safe and stay healthy! ❤

Love,
Sanchari