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

 

Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Uncategorized, Uni work, Written by Lauryn

Useful apps/programs you probably already have!

There’s so many great programs and apps out there for student life. From studying to organization, there’s a computer program or a phone app for just about everything. However, the prices or subscription fees for these apps aren’t always student-friendly, or maybe that ancient Toshiba laptop isn’t up to running 18 different lots of timetabling software. Luckily for you, there are loads of apps that you probably already have access to (for free!) that are super helpful. I’m Lauryn, and I’m here to show you a few of them in today’s Intern Advice.

iBooks

It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But for the first year at uni, I bought all my books for my course second-hand. You know what’s cheaper than buying a used copy of A Tale of Two Cities for one week’s worth of classes? Downloading it for free from iBooks. Not only was it super convenient to be able to read on any device I happened to have with me (no more forgetting my books for seminars!) but I could annotate and highlight passages without getting precious about my beautiful hard copies of books. If you do a subject like Literature, Classics, or Philosophy, getting your books on iBooks is a no-brainer. Some of them will cost money, but a lot of the classics are free, and you’ll be surprised by just how many are on there! If you don’t have iBooks, click here for a great list of other places to find free books for your course (and not just for humanities! There’s some great science textbooks on there too!)

a gif of Damon from Vampire Diaries sarcastically saying

OneNote

Welcome to the program that has got me through three years of university. If you have Microsoft Office, you’ll have access to OneNote and it is so deceptively useful. For my degree, I read a lot of webpages and if I printed them all out to annotate them I’d be paying off my loans for my entire life. With OneNote, I can annotate and highlight webpages, make notes on them, and organise all my different pages into their own notebooks so nothing gets lost. If you don’t have Office, SimpleNote is a great free dupe.

Sticky Notes

This one sounds so silly, but you have no idea how many times it’s saved me. I’m notoriously forgetful and often leave books for seminars at home, or remember in the middle of the night that I have a big deadline coming up. The likelihood is, if you’re a student, you’re always on your laptop (and not always for academic reasons – I see you watching Netflix in your study breaks). For me, attaching a sticky note to my desktop reminding me of deadlines, to-do lists, things I need for classes, keeps me from forgetting them. Plus, the pastel colour scheme is just such a strong aesthetic.

YouTube

Keep reading because I have such a life hack for this one.

YouTube is so useful. I use it to listen to audiobooks for class, to watch educational videos (shout out to Crash Course for getting me through not only my GCSEs and A-levels but for explaining basics like poetic meter to me), and to watch demonstrations of techniques I haven’t quite mastered.

Life hack:

Make a separate account for everything work-related. ONLY use it for studying, and switch back to your normal account for procrastination and watching Vine compilations for nostalgia. That way, your academic account’s suggested videos remain primarily educational, meaning you’re less likely to get distracted by that ten-minute clickbait vlog. Plus, you don’t have to sift through hours of revision playlists in your Watch Later to find that random Buzzfeed video you were searching for.

Box of Broadcasts

You might have heard about this from your lecturers.

a gif oCaptain Holt from Brooklyn 99 saying

It’s such a good resource, so it’s getting a mention here too. You’re welcome.

Box of Broadcasts is a great site that allows you to (re)watch and record programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels and search an archive of over 2.2 million broadcasts. It’s a subscription service paid for by the university, so it’s totally free for you to use. All you need to do is sign in with your university information and you’re free to browse. I recommend making separate playlists for work and personal use. For example, I have playlists for documentaries, my dissertation, and one for old movies I like. You can even make clips from the things you watch, label them, and get personalised email alerts about new programmes you might be interested in. For me, making clips is really useful for presentations, as I can show my audience specific parts of a film or TV show without having to scrub through the whole episode or movie to find the specific part. It looks really professional and saves precious time.

LinkedIn Learning

Another one you have access to through the university now. When you think of LinkedIn, you probably think of job-hunting, and frankly that’s moved away from LinkedIn quite a bit now. I tend to look for positions on sites like Indeed or TargetJobs. However, LinkedIn has not said its final hurrah yet. If you watch YouTube, you’ve probably seen sponsorships for things like Lynda.com and SkillShare. LinkedIn Learning is a free alternative for students, jam-packed with thousands of accessible videos and tutorials for learning new skills such as statistical analysis, deductive reasoning, or use it for developing personal skills. For example, I did the course called Time-Tested Methods for Making Complex Decisions, because I’m super indecisive. The video on that course by Maria Konnikova about how to think like Sherlock Holmes was super useful to me, and helped me see new ways of assessing situations.

a gif from Sherlock of Mary with words overlayed to simulate Sherlock deducing things about her. Words appear such as 'clever' and 'liar' in white as the camera zooms in on her face.

Access LinkedIn Learning through MUSE. Go to View All Services then scroll down to LinkedIn Learning to get started right away.

And that’s all the tips I have for you today. In a world where we’re advertised to constantly about the newest program or the most high-tech app, sometimes it’s good to remember that simple and effective is just as good. Plus, it’s a good reminder we should never underestimate the power of Sticky Notes.

Posted in All things 301, Written by Chimmy

301 Study Skills Online

Did you know that you don’t have to go down to 301 to seek help? You can work from the comfort of your room using our study skills online. This online resource is easy to navigate as it is divided into sections which you would find useful at different times in your journey through university. For students fresh into university, the University Study resources are useful starting points to get you settled and ready to take on this new adventure that is University. At any point during your degree, the everyday skills and communication resources are useful as you can only improve on those. As the name of the section implies, skills like time management, reflective practice and even communication are also useful when dealing with situations not directly related to your studies like job applications!

A study resource I have personally found useful is the lecture recordings, all its benefits are extensively covered under the University Study section. Hey now! this is NOT an excuse to ditch lectures but a good one to use during personal study time or revision just as a refresher on what was taught or to go back to that section you might have missed out when checking your phone (yes, you) or even more enthusiastically taking down notes. Given that we are well into the second semester you should be aware of which lectures would be recorded, so take good advantage of this service if it is available to you. 

At some point at university, you will be required to write an essay or a report. The writing section provides an overview of academic writing as well as information on essay structure and planning, report writing and proofreading your work. Those with maths or statics modules are not left out! MASH (as you should hopefully know about by now) is there to help if you run into any kind of problems or if you just need a refresher or help whilst revising for exams. There are online resources on almost every topic and access to additional external resources like mathcentre. 

Fast forward to later in your degree when you start working on your dissertation (or you might have already started working on it) and you need all the help you can get. There is the research section just for this, that talks about effectively planning and completing your dissertation. It also includes top tips and brief descriptions of what each section of the report entails. Additionally, the Research section includes a link that explores PhD study at the university of Sheffield and the various options and opportunities available to you as a PhD student. 

newCheck out our digital workshops on Independent Study, Academic Writing and Maths Anxiety.

All of the skills section includes top tips how to effectively develop the skill. There also links to book on to the workshops where possible or a 1:1 tutorial if you feel like you need more help. Click the image to explore our online study skills resources.

study skills online

Posted in Uncategorized, Written by Sanchari

An Egg-cellent Easter

Are you staying in Sheffield over the Easter holidays? Are you afraid that you might not have much to do around here since your friends might be leaving for home?

DON’T WORRY!

Sheffield has plenty of things for you to do over Easter. I remember the first time I was in Sheffield and honestly, Sheffield looks like a ghost town without its students. Since I didn’t have much to do, I actually went out and explored Sheffield like never before.

So here are some of the things you can see or do in Sheffield over Easter (when you are a little free from all the term-time stress).

Mayfield Alpacas Animal Farm

Who doesn’t like to play with some cute Alpacas? Entry to this park in only £4.50 which would then lead you to a world of interesting animals from all over the world. A walk around the park enables you to see the whole variety of animals that are there at Mayfield Alpacas Animal Park, with plenty of helpful and informative boards full of interesting facts about the different kind of animals. When you visit you will be able to see Alpacas from South America, meerkats from Africa, exotic birds from every continent alongside horses and farm animals of every kind.

a gif of an alpaca. The camera zooms in on the alpaca and it winks.

It also offers fantastic views across the Mayfield Valley, so there really is plenty to see.
You can take a bus (Bus No. 181) from the Botanical Gardens which goes to a stop named Sheephill Road which is just 5 minutes walking distance from the farm. The whole journey would take you around 40 minutes from the Students’ Union.

Rivelin Valley

If you would like to look and relax in nature then this would be the perfect place for you to be. The trails in this valley are relatively easier (since it’s not steep) and short too. So if you fancy a good short walk in the midst of nature, this would be your place to be. The nature trail runs along the side of the rushing river which is surrounded by attractive woodlands. Along the way you’ll pass a series of weirs, and little waterfalls with a variety of interesting flora and fauna. This great park is free to visit, and boasts a nature trail, amazing woodlands, a cafe, playgrounds, FREE water splash and paddling pool in summer. You can take Bus No. 51 near the Students’ Union to go to this stop named Blackbrook Road, and it’s a 15 minute walk from there. The whole journey would take around 45 minutes.

a photo of a small waterfall in Rivelin Valley in Sheffield. Around the waterfalls are lots of very bright green trees. It looks peaceful.

Peak District – Padley Gorge

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Peak District if you’re living in Sheffield or you’ve probably even been there at least once. But you most probably went to places like Stanage Edge and Bakewell and so on. If you want a taste of visiting Middle Earth, Padley Gorge is the place to be. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you’ll definitely feel like you’re on the sets of this film. This place has beautiful streams that you can walk through and meanwhile enjoy the forests surrounding you. The trail isn’t that steep either so it’s suitable for anyone really and it’s amazing!!

a photo of Padley Gorge in Sheffield. A rocky path runs through a forest of trees. The leaves on the trees have fallen off. The trees are covered in green moss and the sky is grey. It looks creepy.

Sports Sheffield sessions

‘I’m gonna start working out from tomorrow!’. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there at one point. If you were busy during your term time to get fit or try out something new, Sports Sheffield offers a really good recourse for that during Easter! You can try out their free sessions on Badminton or Squash and also try out the gym and swimming facilities. Just have an eye out on their page and you’ll be able to see all the updates and get fit during Easter!

So these are all the places I had visited during Easter since I had a little more time than usual during that period. If you have any other fun things to do around Sheffield, please leave a comment under this blog.
Else, get Egg-cited for Easter!!

a gif of some chocolate-dipped Peeps on top of shredded coconut. Above this, the words 'Happy Easter to my peeps' is written in calligraphy in pink, yellow, purple, and blue.

Love,
Sanchari