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Five ways to take care of yourself at the start of the academic year

29 September 2015

The weather at the beginning of this week has been fantastic and outside the Staff Counselling offices the Student High Street (Park Place) continues to crackle with the buzz of students engaging with University life; everywhere you look, it’s a kaleidoscope of emotion and youthfulness. I personally love seeing students, those returning for another year and those arriving for the first time, descend on the area, filling it up with their energy. As Autumn takes hold, the campus is coming alive. What’s not to like?


Well, there is the possibility that you are already feeling the strain of this busy period. Freshers’ Week and the first weeks of the new term generally involve a huge effort from staff across the University. Just preparing for this period can be a real challenge. Added to this, you might have arrived at the new term after a challenging summer. You might have some difficult situations you’re trying to cope with, personally, with family or close friends, or even at work. You might not be feeling at your best. And if you’re already feeling the strain, it might be time to pause and think about how you can take care of yourself, especially as there are, with September not yet run, still some very busy months ahead. With this in mind I think it’s a good time to remind you of the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

What you can do in your workplace

We’ve blogged about the Five Ways before, but this time we’ve some specific suggestions about how you can apply the Five Ways to your daily work routine. Remember, the Five Ways – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give – are a set of evidence-based actions which you can use to promote your personal wellbeing. The suggestions below are simple things you can do in your workplace. Why not pick one or two and give them a try and see if they make a difference. Better still, pick something from each category. Remember, manage your expectations and give your actions some time to work.



Feeling close to, and valued by, other people is important right now. Take advantage of this to promote your own wellbeing. And remember, you might also be helping a colleague do the same. Try:

  • Talk to a colleague instead of sending them an email
  • Speak to someone new
  • Ask how someone’s weekend was and really listen when they tell you
  • Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
  • Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.

Be active


Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. It is essential for promoting wellbeing and doesn’t need to be intense for you to feel good. Walking, for example, is a great option and can encourage you to connect with others at the same time.

Instead of getting letting busyness control you, stop and see if you can do any of the following:

  • Take the stairs not the lift
  • Go for a walk at lunchtime (did you know there are some walking groups in the University?)
  • Walk into work – perhaps with a colleague – so you can ‘connect’ as well
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work
  • Organise a work sporting activity (or contact Staff Sport and see what they offer)
  • Have a kick-about in a local park (the University has some great green areas close by)
  • Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
  • Walk to someone’s desk instead of calling or emailing.

Take notice


With practice you can get better at reminding yourself to ‘take notice’. Taking notice can enhance your wellbeing and can help reaffirm your life priorities. It can enhance your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices.

These suggestions can help you stop and enjoy the moment and your environment:

  • Get a plant for your workspace
  • Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
  • Take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting
  • Take a different route on your journey to or from work
  • Visit a new place for lunch.

You might want to give the Headspace app a try. It’s an intuitive mobile app that makes practicing simple mindfulness techniques easy. Mindfulness has been proven to help people ‘take notice’.



Continued learning enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Setting goals, something usually related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of well-being. So, why not learn something today.

Cardiff University offers staff a discount on courses offered by LEARN, and even have some free Massive Open Online Courses.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Find out something about your colleagues
  • Sign up for a class
  • Read the news or a book
  • Set up a book club
  • Do a crossword or Sudoku
  • Research something you’ve always wondered about
  • Learn a new word.



This one is fairly straightforward: research has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.

There is an infinite range of actions you can take if you want to ‘give’, but the message is clear: doing something for others is likely to mean that you get something back i.e. better wellbeing. It’s a win-win scenario and your colleagues will no doubt be pleased to be on the receiving end of your giving.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to talk to one of my colleagues for five minutes, ask how they are, and see if they want to have a lunch-time walk with me in the Alexandra Gardens while playing five minutes of mobile scrabble (against each other!). I might stop off at the Secret Garden Café for a quick bite, if my colleague hasn’t been there before. . .

Further information

This blog has been adapted from the following sites: