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Five ideas to look after your wellbeing at this time of the year

22 December 2016

Happy holidays


By Cathy Bailey, Staff Wellbeing.

Winter can be a tough season for many. It’s darker and colder outside and our energy levels can naturally decrease. We might welcome some quiet and rest after a busy first term, but this space may be difficult for some. It can be a lonely time of year.  For others, it might be hectic, with increased work, family and other engagements.

When there are added pressures and stressors, it’s important we look after ourselves. Here are five suggestions to help you take care of your wellbeing:

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about connecting your mind to the present moment without judgment. This might sound straight-forward, but can feel challenging in practice, particularly when life is busy. However, there are many proven benefits. For example, better focus, concentration and emotional reactions to situations as well as improved relationship skills – all likely to be helpful.

To try mindfulness, you can use the resources on Bangor University’s mindfulness page or you can try Calm’s simple mindfulness meditation website. Apps such as Headspace, Stop, Breathe & Think, and Calm also offer guided mindfulness practices.  Research suggests even ten minutes of practice a day can have great benefits.  We’ll blog again about New Year opportunities to try mindfulness at the University.

2. Exercise

In winter, we may want to spend more time on the sofa, eating stodgy food and watching TV. Whilst these may occasionally be helpful and even beneficial, keeping a level of activity can help you feel better mentally, emotionally and physically. The NHS discusses the benefits of exercise on mental health.  Identify an activity that works for you and make doing it a priority.

3. Thinking habits 

Noticing when your mind has drifted to an unhelpful place can be another useful strategy. For example, maybe your mind is dwelling on an impending visit from the in-laws, ruminating on all the unhelpful things they did last time they came and all the annoying things they have ever done. Notice how you feel as you think this way.  If you notice your mind lingering, try asking yourself, “is this helpful to think about?”. If not, can you put all that stuff into a mental box? Would a different perspective help? What would be more helpful to think about right now? By bringing your mind to thoughts which are more helpful, your mindset will improve which will help control your stress levels.  The STOPP skill can help develop different perspectives.

4. Relaxation

It’s important to take time to relax to counterbalance periods of increased stress. Making sure you build in relaxation periods can help you rejuvenate and build your resilience ready for next year. What relaxation time are you going to build into the next few weeks?  Mind, the mental health charity, have some ideas.

5. Self-care 

It’s an important time to be kinder to yourself. Doing so can help keep you at your physical and mental best. What can you do to improve your self-care? Whether this is making sure you get enough sleep, having a bubble bath or eating less mince pies, making self-care a priority can help you flourish. For more inspiration, TED has a self-care playlist.

Take action

We’ve given you five ideas, but an important step is to commit to something specific. Think about which of the five ideas you can use and try writing down at least one achievable goal and an accompanying action you’ll take within the next seven days. Notice the difference this activity makes to your wellbeing.

We will be promoting a new range of wellbeing workshops and initiatives for staff within the University; please see our intranet page for details in the New Year.

If counselling support would help, this is provided for Cardiff University staff by Care First, the University’s external counselling provider.

Wishing you health and happiness.

The Staff Wellbeing Team