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Think Healthy

Think Healthy

Welcome Mental Health

Positive mental health is not only an important part of university life but is an important factor for life beyond DCU.  Everyone has mental health and we all fall somewhere along the mental health spectrum.  This means sometimes we are on top of the world and feeling really positive and at other times we are feeling isolated, having problems coping and in crises.  It is normal to have good days and bad days and also moments in life where we feel stressed and unable to cope.  Stress is not always a bad thing either and often stress is what gives us focus and determination to get a job done.  However what is important, is to recognise when your mental health is causing problems to normal functioning, interacting or affecting your academic studies, and also to know when to ask for help,  There are many support services available to students in DCU when you need a listening ear, advice or when you are having difficulty coping.  In this section we will give you some tips on different areas of mental health to help build your coping skills and resilience.  Topics focus on emotional wellness, stress, anxiety, depression, exams, time management, sleep and connecting.  Each section gives you strategies to effectively manage your mental health in these areas and signposts you to the additional resources and supports on campus and also off campus.  Follow the links on the menu on the left to get started.

Emotional Wellness 

In this section, we will explore ways to maintain and develop emotional wellness, and explore common emotional difficulties students can experience- stress, anxiety, and depression.

Maintaining and developing emotional wellness

To develop emotional wellness, it is necessary to try to have some balance in your life between professional/academic pursuits and personal time. It is important to recognise that life is challenging by its very nature, things will not always go our way.  It is also important to take on challenges, take risks and recognise that mistakes are normal and necessary for personal growth. Accepting change and transition as a natural part of life is vital, although remember it can take time to adjust to change. It is not necessary to be on the same ‘timeline’ or path as others so try not to compare yourself to peers too much. Remember to allow your emotions to impact you, to share your feelings with others and to learn how to respond to your emotions.

Check out the tips below as your ‘5 a day’ for your emotional wellness!

1. Connect
Connecting with others is important not only for emotional support but also for helping us to develop a sense of belonging and self-worth. Sharing how we feel with others helps us to feel more understood and we often find that we are not alone in our experiences. Take time to strengthen relationships with people close to you and to broaden relationships with your wider community. It is also important to connect with and take time for yourself. What can you do today to connect?

2. Give
Do something nice for somebody every day. It feels good to give and everybody has something to offer. You could smile and thank the bus driver, help a classmate, or give a friend a compliment- the possibilities are endless! How will you play your part?

3. Take Notice
Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Trying to understand more about the world and other people can help you to be more empathetic. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you. Try out mindfulness to become more aware of life as it is happening or take a walk in nature.

4. Keep Learning
Learning new things helps to make you more confident. Seek out new experiences to have or new things to learn each day. There is so much on offer here at DCU.

5. Be Active
Physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and to boost mood. It also improves self-esteem and helps us to learn and work better. How can you include some physical activity into your day today?

On campus resources

Pathways to Success
'Pathways to Success' is a 4 week programme that enables students to set goals, build resilience, self-confidence and create a strategy to creating success in their life. This is a great programme as it enables students to take time for themselves and look at what they want from their life.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course runs once a semester. This 4 week programme introduces the central principles and practices of mindfulness and aims to increase your awareness, knowing that the more tuned in you are to yourself and the world, the wiser your choices, decisions and actions will be. For full information visit /www.dcu.ie/counselling/mindfulness-lunchtime-course.shtml

Live Well
‘Live Well’ is a workshop series designed to help you examine what you do and build knowledge and skills to improve your lifestyle, routine and well-being. Session topics include: Sleep & Routine, Work/Life Balance, Stress Management, and Communication & Connection. Keep an eye on the Student Support & Development events page for the next workshops.

Practical and Evidence-based List of Tips for Well-being, Prosperity and Mental Health
The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) has compiled a practical and evidence-based list of tips for well-being, prosperity and mental health. Whether you want to learn to be more content in general or are struggling to cope with a challenging situation, it is worth checking these out.

Off campus resources

Little Things Campaign
Littlethings is the national mental health and wellbeing campaign by the H.S.E.'s National Office for Suicide Prevention and a coalition of more than 30 partner organisations. The campaign focuses on sharing evidence-based, simple and powerful day-to-day steps – little things that we can all do to protect our own mental health, and support the people we care about. Find the littlethings that protect your mental health!

Steps to Positive Mental Health
This one-page document provides a quick overview on covering the bases for positive mental/emotional health.

Dealing with Negative Emotions
This guide provides a brief overview of ways to identify negative emotions and suggests ways of dealing with them.

 Stress

What is Stress?

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Some stress is good for us as it motivates us to put in the effort to perform well, however stress needs to be monitored and managed.  For students, there are many potential sources of stress including:

  • Heavy academic workload and upcoming deadlines
  • Exams
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Illness and/or absence from college
  • Balancing college and home life
  • Long commutes
  • Financial stress
  • Friendship and relationship difficulties

Effects of Stress

The physiology of stress is the activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response, where our body responds to a threat or a perceived threat and prepares to act. This release of stress hormones- adrenaline and cortisol- prepares the body for mass physical exertion.  The effects of these hormones on the body create the feelings of stress/anxiety, e.g. butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, faster heartbeat, muscle tension, shallow breathing, and difficulty focusing on anything other than the threat.  More long-term or chronic stress can lead to health concerns such as low mood, fatigue, high blood pressure, and increased susceptibility to illnesses.

Strategies to manage stress
  • Learn to know the signs that you are getting stressed. Common signs include anxious thoughts, difficulty paying attention, difficulty winding down, tiredness, irritability, and physical signs like shallow breathing and muscle tension. Being able to notice when you are getting stressed can enable you to intervene early.
  • Try to figure out why you might be stressed. The clearer you are on the cause, the easier it can be to manage. When we are stressed, we don’t tend to think as clearly as usual, therefore it can be helpful to talk things out or get things on paper to help you clarify the source(s) of stress - this can help to guide you about what to do next. It’s far better to evaluate your situation and make a plan of action- this helps you feel more in control.
  • Consider if there is any way you can reduce the stress e.g. can you cut down on commitments to make more time?  Consider if you can change how you think about the source of stress- can you look at things in a more balanced, less extreme way, for example, instead of thinking “I’m never going to be able to do this essay”, try “I’m going to spend half an hour reading the assignment brief and thinking about what I know so far”.
  • Figure out what helps you to relax – like going for a walk, deep breathing, watching some TV, chatting to a friend, participating in a hobby- and make sure you include those stress-busting activities in your day and your week.
  • Practicing relaxation on a regular basis improves your body's ability to "turn off" your stress response.  It is well known that deep breathing can help calm the nervous system.
  • If you are feeling stressed, try to share this with somebody like a friend or a family member – as the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • If you are experiencing stress frequently and it is becoming problematic for you, seek support from on campus or off campus resources, for example you might consider attending the Student Advice Centre or the Counselling & Personal Development Service.

On campus resources 

Stress Management – Leaflet

Student Support & Development
If you are experiencing stress in college, call into the Student Advice Centre on either the Glasnevin or St. Patrick’s Campus and speak to a Student Advisor who can help you tease things out and may direct you to relevant supports such as the Health Centre, Counselling & Personal Development Service, Student Learning, or upcoming SS&D programmes. Check out the Student Support & Development website for an overview of the resources, services and events available to you.

Student Learning
If your academic workload is a source of stress for you, consider checking out Student Learning and the available resources and workshops. You can also book a one-to-one appointment with a writing tutor or study skill specialist.

Off campus resources

 Managing Stress- Brainsmart BBC
This video explains the physiology of stress and suggests some tips for keeping it under control.

Stress Management Strategies: Ways to Unwind- Wellcast
Check out this video for advice on how to tell when you're stressed out and simple tips to relieve tension quickly. From little things you can do everyday to promote relaxation to strategies to cool off when you're in the heat of the moment, this video has advice on the best ways to sit back and relax.

TED Talk - How to Make Stress Your Friend
In this interesting TED talk, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to a important mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Anxiety 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety may best be described as an experience similar to fear. This fear may be due to something either specific or unknown. Students may experience anxiety in relation to stressful events such as exams, deadlines, public-speaking or certain social situations. Anxiety can be difficult to understand- what makes one person anxious may not create the same response in someone else.  Anxiety is a very individual experience however common signs and symptoms include:

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Not being able to be still and calm
  • Difficulty concentrating

While anxiety is an everyday feeling we all experience, it can become a problem when there is no obvious reason for that anxiety, or when anxious feelings persist for more than a couple of weeks. If anxiety is interfering with your everyday life, you should meet with a professional such as a GP or Counsellor to explore your concerns and determine the best intervention options for you.

Strategies to manage anxiety

  • Bottling things up can increase how anxious you feel. It can be hard but if possible, try to talk to somebody e.g. a friend or family member.
  • When you’re feeling anxious, remind yourself this is an uncomfortable feeling and it will pass. Try to distract yourself by thinking about something different or doing something to take your mind off things.
  • Try to understand what is triggering your anxiety if possible. Here are some useful questions to help you reflect:
    • How could I see things differently?
    • What would I say to someone else in this situation?
    • How important is this?
    • Is my reaction in proportion to the event?
  • Watch your self-talk (the messages you are giving yourself). Anxiety can cause us to think in extremes such as“I can’t do this, I will fail, I’m not good enough,” – watch those thoughts – is there a way of looking at things in a more balanced way? What would I say to a friend who was thinking this way?
  • There are loads of ways to relax but some of us need to learn how and to ensure you protect sufficient time to allow yourself to relax. Different things work for different people. If you aren’t sure what works for you, give yourself time to try out a selection different activities that can be relaxing such as yoga, relaxation tracks, going for a walk, listening to music, reading, colouring or crafts, taking time in nature etc.
  • If exams are a source of anxiety for you, be proactive. Start your revision early. Focus not only on preparing the material for the exams, but preparing your mindset by ensuring you have a balanced study schedule, exercising, and taking breaks. Support yourself by reminding yourself of the work you have completed and also practice testing yourself with past papers in exam conditions.

On campus resources

Student Health Service
If you are experiencing anxiety, consider attending the Student Health Service to discuss this with the Health Service staff.

DCU Counselling & Personal Development
If you are experiencing anxiety, consider attending the Counselling & Personal Development Service who specialise in supporting students to understand and address anxiety. The Service offers one-to-one and group-based interventions such as the Student Empowerment and Life Skills Programme.

Student Support & Development
Keep an eye out for Student Support & Development events that might suit your needs. For example, if you are anxious about your next steps after college, be proactive and look for Careers events or if you are worried about exams, head to a Revision Strategies workshop for guidance.

Off campus resources

Centre for Clinical Interventions
This website provides free information packs on a range of areas related to mental health. There are helpful information packs on Coping with Social Anxiety, Health Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety and Perfectionism.

SAM app
SAM is an application to help you understand and manage anxiety. The free app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from University of the West of England. It is available on iOS and Android.

Headspace
If you are interested in giving mindfulness a try, check out Headspace, a programme that helps you to understand and practice mindfulness. The first ten sessions are a free trial and you can decide after that if you want to take it further.

AnxietyBC
This site provides worksheets on tools and strategies that can help with anxiety such as ‘Calm Breathing’ and ‘Realistic Thinking’.

Depression 
 

What is Depression?

Sometimes the challenges you experience as a student, along with what is going on for you in your life can become too much for you to handle, and you might find yourself feeling down or depressed. While it is common to have bad days and to feel down, if you notice that this is occurring frequently for you, it may be helpful to seek support from a professional. Depression is a very individual experience however common signs and symptoms include:

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, sadness or guilt.
  • Lost interest in work, school, hobbies, or people
  • Crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Tired even after a sufficient period of sleep
  • Inability to think clearly, concentrate, or retain information
  • Change in weight and changes in eating patterns
  • Restlessness or agitation

Depression is brought on by a combination of stressors and difficulty coping with these stressors. For some, depression can also be, in part, biologically based. Whatever the cause, depression is treatable through a variety of activities and interventions including exercise, counselling, and medication. Even if you think you might be depressed, that’s reason enough to do something about it- it is always good to meet with a professional such as a GP or Counsellor to explore your concerns and determine the best intervention options for you.

Strategies to manage low mood or depression

  • Although it is difficult when your mood is low, try as much as possible to aim for a balance of regular exercise, regular healthy meals and enough sleep as these help you to function well. Sometimes it is common for these elements to drop off if we are going through a rough patch, however looking after these basic needs can help you function better.
  • A common reaction to depression is to withdraw from others, but this can intensify feelings of isolation, so try to reach out to others.
  • Exercise helps to release several feel-good chemicals from the brain – so try to incorporate some exercise into every day to boost your mood.
  • When your mood is low you may be overwhelmed by everything that you have to do. Try to be kind to yourself- prioritise what is most important and set clear, achievable goals for yourself. Meeting these goals can help to lift your mood and make you feel more in control.
  • When you’re not feeling great, think “What thing can I do that might help me in the here-and-now?”

On campus resources

Student Health Service
If you are experiencing low mood or depression, consider attending the Student Health Service to discuss this with Health Service staff and to determine a plan.

DCU Counselling & Personal Development
If you are experiencing low mood or depression, consider attending the Counselling & Personal Development Service who specialise in supporting students to understand and address mood difficulties. The Service offers one-to-one and group-based interventions such as the Student Empowerment and Life Skills Programme.

Clubs and Socs
There are over 120 clubs and societies available in DCU, covering an extensive range of interests from A to Z! Clubs and societies hold regular events across the academic year and are a great way to meet new people and have fun. The Mental Health Society holds the Mental Health Hub twice weekly during semester. This offers students a chance to chat to others and have some tea in a relaxed environment.

 Off campus resources

Centre for Clinical Interventions- Coping with Depression
This information pack is designed to provide you with some information about depression and suggested strategies for how you can manage your mood.

Aware- Life Skills Programme
Aware provides support & information for people who experience depression. The Aware Life Skills Group progamme is a free educational programme based on the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) offered to adults aged 18 and over

Lift Activities
When our mood is low, it is harder to do the things we need to do. This guide suggests a method to help us get the things we need to do done, by incorporating ‘Lift’ activities.

Time Management  

University life brings many demands on our time and there are often particular ‘stress points’ in the year with lots of deadlines and exams. Learning to manage your time is a skill that will benefit you throughout life. Knowing how to use your time well facilitates a greater balance between work and leisure/rest activities leading to greater health and well-being.

 Strategies to develop time management skills

 Organisation

  • A good place to start is to have some kind of an organisational system where you record deadlines, commitments and tasks. Some students use a diary/planner, a notebook, or an online calendar. Google Calendar is a helpful application as you can sync your timetable to it and you can use the mobile application when you are on the go!
  • Keep track of all deadlines in a diary/calendar- this allows you to see how much time you have before a deadline and the distribution of deadlines for different subjects.
  • Write your classes, tutorials, and commitments into your schedule- this allows you to see clearly your ‘free’ time and any gaps. Schedule in non-academic activities too! Protect time chunks over the week for academic work/library time. Work when you work best.
  • Write a to-do list- get what you need to do out of  your head and capture it on paper or on a screen  where you can see it all in one place. Try not to panic if the list is long- it’s better on paper than in your head. It’s easier to make sense of it and prioritise once things are visible in front of you.

Goal-setting

  • Goal-setting helps us use our time more effectively. SMART goals help us clarify what we need to do and where we need to start. SMART stands for:
  • Setting SMART goals is the key to becoming a smart student. Smart students makes the best use of the time spent studying. Check out DCU Student Learning for more information on SMART goals.
    • Simple
    • Measurable
    • Action-Based
    • Realistic
    • Time limited

Managing procrastination

Procrastination or ‘putting things off’ is a common and natural experience for people. Too much procrastination can lead to problems completing work, performing well in exams and can lead to a lot of stress. Try these tips to help you get started.

  • Take Action: Sometimes just doing something creates the mood and momentum to continue, so decide to just do something to get you going.
  • Salami Technique: Slice a bigger task down. For example, a long reading assignment in a difficult subject can seem intimidating and easy to put off, divide it into shorter sections and take breaks and reward yourself between them
  • Five minutes: Spend just 5 minutes on a task, and then see if you’ve managed to make headway on it.
  • Remove distractions: put your phone on the other side of the room, use a social media blocker, find a quiet area.
  • Make commitments: An common excuse is "I work better under pressure". So create pressure. Tell people you plan to get something done, and then they'll ask if you got it done.
  • Get the hardest bits ‘over and done with’ early OR start with something that you like to get you started.
  • Set achievable goals and reward yourself for achievement.

Routine

  • Ensure there is sufficient time in your routine set aside for academic work, home life, rest and leisure activities. Although difficult, it helps to strive to strike some balance in your activities. We are not designed to function non-stop without a break. If we are well rested, we can be more likely to use our academic time well.
  • Try to 'work smart, not long'. This involves tight prioritisation - allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task - and trying not to get caught up in less productive activities.
  • Make commitments. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the time, however sometimes making a commitment can help us stick to our goals (like signing up for a 4 week exercise class or planning to go to the library at 9am with a friend).
  • Save time at home! Cook more than you need so you can freeze leftovers for another day.
  • If your routine is busy, multi-task! Invite a friend for a walk to catch-up as well as get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Take responsibility for your time. Learn to prioritise and say ‘No’ to some things if your schedule is too busy. Ask for help if you can.
  • Try to get some balance in a busy day, even if it is a quick phone call to a friend, or listening to a podcast you like on the way to college.

On campus resources

Student Learning
DCU Student Learning offer workshops on time management throughout the year as well as resources you can use on their webpage.

Pathways to Success
'Pathways to Success' is a 4 week programme that enables students to set goals, build resilience, self-confidence and create a strategy to creating success in their life. This is a great programme as it enables students to take time for themselves and look at what they want from their life.

Live Well
Live Well is a workshop series designed to help you examine what you do and build knowledge and skills to improve your lifestyle, routine and well-being. Session topics include Sleep and Routine, Work/Life Balance, Stress Management, Communication and Connection. Keep an eye on the Student Support & Development events page for the next workshops.

Off campus resources

 Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent way to use time effectively. It involves removing distractions, choosing one task to work on, setting a timer for twenty five minutes, and focusing on that task until the timer goes off, then taking a five minute break.

Wellcast- How to Manage Your Time Better

Wellcast: How to Stop Procrastinating

Video- The Science of Productivity

  Connecting

Attending university brings a whole new social environment to navigate and get familiar with. For many students, university can represent a new start and an opportunity to develop new relationships with others. The university social environment can also bring many challenges such as getting to know a lot of new people, developing new relationships, and working in groups. When things are challenging, it can often be helpful to use the supports of the social environment around you. As the common saying goes, a problem shared can be a problem halved. Similarly, being there for somebody can be an enormous support. How you connect and interact with others has a big impact on your health and well-being, including using good communication skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a solid support system. We’ve put together a few tips below to help you build positive social connections while here in DCU.

Strategies to develop and maintain social connections

 Getting to know people

  • Get to know other students in your classes. You don’t have to get to know everybody, but familiarising yourself with a few people or making a few new friends will help to build a sense of belonging. Go to class early so that you can sit and chat with others around you.
  • Introduce yourself to other students. Sometimes this can involve pushing yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone but it pays off!
  • Think about some ‘small talk’ topics that you can use when meeting someone for the first time e.g. where you’re from, what course you’re doing, and what interests you.
  • Listen to the other person and show interest in what they are saying. You may find a common interest or ask questions to learn something new.
  • Take the initiative. If you want to get to know more people, put yourself out there a little and take a few risks. Perhaps suggest a walk over lunch or a coffee.
  • Get involved! Join a club or society in college. While this can be daunting, clubs and societies are full of friendly students eager to welcome new members. Clubs and societies revolve around shared activities/interests and it can be easier to get to know people through doing things with them- it means you have lots to talk about.
  • Volunteering can be a fantastic way to meet new people as well as to give something back.
  • Getting to know people can be awkward at first but this is a normal and temporary feeling. Not everyone will become your best friend but you can still have fun and enjoy their company. Remember that it can take some time to build friends and connections, be patient and keep trying.
  • Keep an eye out for students who may not know as many people and reach out to them.

Being a good friend

  • Friendships take time to develop and require give and take from the people involved.
  • Rather than saying, “let’s hang out soon!”, actually get something going by being enthusiastic about it and make it specific e.g. “let’s go to the cinema next week!”
  • While college life can be incredibly demanding, try to ensure that you make time for your friends and the people around you. At busy periods, try to make some time for friends as it can be a good stress reliever.
  • Be a good listener. In this age of distraction, often we are distracted by our phones and gadgets or our own concerns. This can make us miss information and cues from the people we are with. To improve your listening skills, try to give others your full attention.
  • If you are concerned about a friend, talk to them and gently express your concerns and offer assistance.
  • Be the friend that you would like to have!

Group work

  • Group work can be extremely positive but can bring challenges when a team of different people with different working styles come together to work on a project.
  • In a new group, take time to get to know each other, clarify the task and set some ground rules.
  • Appoint a Chair for meetings and a Secretary to take notes of actions/responsibilities to distribute after the meeting. Consider rotating these roles among group members.
  • When providing feedback, try to be constructive rather than negative.

Looking after yourself

  • Relationships with others naturally bring challenges at times, particularly in group work situations. Understanding different communication styles can help you to understand your contributions to situations.
  • Assertiveness is a way of communicating that expresses your needs, opinions and emotions while respecting the rights of others. Studies show that people who are more assertive tend to have better health outcomes. Aggressive communication is communicating in a way that puts your own needs first but violates the needs of others. Passive communication is communicating in a way that put others needs before your own. Learn more about assertiveness in the ‘Resources’ section.
  • Practice being assertive with “I” statements e.g. “I know you’re busy at the moment, but I would like your opinion”.
  • If there is an aspect of your social life that you feel you could improve, try to set a small goal to work on that area and review it regularly.
  • Reflect on your relationships. Do the people you spend time with help make you feel good? You deserve to be treated with respect and you need to treat others with respect if you want to have the most meaningful relationships possible.

On Campus Resources & Support Services

Students Union
The Students Union offer great support to students as well as organising regular events. You can also get involved and contribute to student life!

Clubs and Socs
There are over 120 clubs and societies available in DCU, covering an extensive range of interests from A to Z! Clubs and societies hold regular events across the academic year and are a great way to meet new people. The Mental Health Society holds the Mental Health Hub twice weekly during semester. This offers students a chance to chat to others and have some tea in a relaxed environment.

Student Support & Development
If you feel that you experience difficulty connecting with others, you might wish to speak to somebody about it, such as a Student Advisor or the Counselling & Personal Development Service in DCU. Check out the Student Support & Development website for an overview of the resources, services and events available to you.

Fact Sheets- Counselling & Personal Development
The Counselling & Personal Development Service has leaflets available on a range of issues including assertiveness and family difficulties.

Student Learning
Student Learning has online resources to support you in group work and with presentations.

Off Campus Resources

 Wellcast- How to Break the Ice

Succeed Socially
Check out this resource for some extra tips on how to make friends and develop meaningful relationships. 

Wellcast: Guide to Maintaining Relationships

Assertiveness Guide (Get Self Help)
This guide gives more information on assertiveness and communication styles.

Sleep
 
Getting a good night’s sleep as often as you can is proven to have a positive impact on how you feel.  Our ability to be resilient to stress is greatly influenced by sleep. We also don’t learn well when we’re tired.  Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, concentration, problem solving, and memory.  Sleep is often the first thing to be sacrificed when we are under pressure but one of the things that most helps us handle that pressure. Below is a summary of well-known practices called ‘sleep hygiene’. Try to think about your own habits when it comes to sleep and see if any of these suggestions can help you.
Strategies to support good sleep

Prioritise Sleep

  • Sometimes we don’t prioritise sleep amongst other demands we face day to day. For adults, the recommended hours of sleep per night is seven to nine hours.
  • Studies have shown that college students frequently get less than the recommended level of sleep, which can have negative effects on academic performance and an overall sense of well-being.
  • The first step for many people in getting more sleep is understanding that you need to give yourself enough time to sleep. 

Sleep Routine   

  • Try to get up and go to bed the same time every day, even on weekends. The body "gets used" to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if this is relatively fixed.
  • Where possible, avoid napping during the day as this can decrease the likelihood of you feeling sleepy at night. If you must nap, keep to about twenty minutes duration.
  • Try to ensure you have some exposure to natural sunlight during the day as this can help promote sleep at night.
  • It can be helpful to keep a sleep diary when you are trying to establish a sleep routine.

Diet

  • Try to eat regularly throughout the day. Going to bed too hungry or too full can hinder sleep.
  • Although you shouldn’t eat too much right before sleep, certain foods promote sleep. Such foods include the amino acid L-tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and tuna; carbohydrates, such as bread and cereal; kiwis; cherries; prawns; jasmine rice and pistachios.
  • Try to avoid drinking alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
  • Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, chocolate and some prescription and non-prescription drugs contain caffeine. Try to reduce or avoid caffeine and large amounts of sugar. When we are having difficulty sleeping, it can be natural to turn to caffeine for an energy boost however this can then make it less likely to sleep well the following night. If you can, try other methods that can help with boosting energy such as getting fresh air or taking a brisk walk.

Exercise

  • Engaging in regular exercise (3-4 times per week), particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep. Heavy input through muscles and joints in activities such as yoga, Pilates, or lifting weights is calming and organising for the central nervous system.
  • It is important not to engage in exercise too close to the time you want to go to bed.

Environment

  • Ensure your sleep environment is comfortable. If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake. A cool (not cold) bedroom is often the most conducive to sleep.
  • Make sure your room is dark and quiet. If you’re bothered by noise, wear earplugs or use a fan to create white noise.
  • Use comfortable bedding.
  • Let your body "know" that the bed is associated with sleeping. Try not to use your bed for study or watching TV.

Getting ready for bed

  • Try to establish a wind-down period before bed, rather than trying to go straight to sleep from study. Put away any activity that might increase stress or alertness (including difficult assignments) at least an hour before bed.
  • It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Engaging in a quiet activity like reading a book, doing a puzzle, or listening to music can help.
  • Some people find getting organised or ready for the morning can be help with feeling prepared for the next day. 
  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and others may help reduce anxiety and muscle tension. Click here for resources on relaxation and Mindfulness go to the DCU Counselling and Personal Development Service webpage.
  • Using a computer, T.V. or phone in the evening can be quite alerting, as they can keep our brains busy and active. Additionally, exposure to light from the screens makes it more difficult to nod off. Try to turn off screens early in the wind-down period. Reading in soft light can help the eyes to droop.

Managing anxiety at night

It is common to experience anxiety and over-thinking at night. Some ideas to try include:

  • Schedule a time to think/worry about the worrying thought(s). When this thought automatically comes into your mind, remind yourself that you’ll think of that the next day at the scheduled time and gently bring your attention back to winding down.
  • Write down the thoughts on a piece of paper or diary and deliberately put it away to be looked at the next day and gently bring your attention back to winding down.
  • Some people find it helpful to review good parts of the day. 

In bed

  • Unfortunately we cannot force sleep. And sometimes the more we try to fall asleep, the harder it can be. If you are having difficulty getting asleep, try not to watch the clock as this can lead to frustration, making it even more difficult to get to sleep. If sleep isn’t coming easily, remember that by lying in bed you are still resting which is important.
  • If you wake at night it can help to accept the wakefulness and focus on relaxing even a little and resting your body rather than trying to go back to sleep.  It can even be enjoyable letting yourself rest with nothing you have to do and still leave you quite refreshed.  Sleep often comes back when your wakefulness is not being increased by the effort to get back to sleep.
  • If you notice that your thoughts are racing, try to take a step back and observe your thoughts and notice them come and go. Some people find it helpful to engage in relaxation practices such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or imagining a calming place.
  • If you can't fall asleep, get up and do a very calming/light activity until you feel sleepy. Remember to be careful with bright lights.

On campus resources

Student Health Service
If you are experiencing sleep difficulties, consider attending the Student Health Service for advice.

DCU Counselling & Personal Development
If you are experiencing anxiety/stress affecting your sleep, consider attending the Counselling & Personal Development Service for support.

Off campus resources

 Sleep Diary

Centre for Clinical Interventions- Sleep Hygiene

Centre for Clinical Interventions- Facts About Sleep

Wellcast- How to Sleep Better

Exams
Exam time can be challenging for students. Be proactive- this involves not only preparing the exam material, but preparing your mindset too.
Strategies to help prepare for exams

 Organisation

  • Check your exam timetable carefully and print it out. Knowing when each exam is will help with structuring study. Ensure you know how to get to the exam venue.
  • Get organised early, gather your study materials and the resources you need.
  • Create a plan for when you are going to study in the weeks leading up to the exams- be realistic and ensure there is time protected for rest and leisure activities. 
  • Check out the Learning Outcomes for your modules, link these to questions on past papers and identify the topics you need to cover. Try to prioritise the most important topics on the exam. It is helpful to make a Revision Checklist listing everything you want to revise for each module before the exam, this can help to provide good direction.

Study Skills

  • Make a plan for how much study you will aim to do each day. Work when you work best - if you prefer to work in the afternoon and evening, do that.
  • Remove distractions to help with working in the most efficient way possible.
  • Break down what you need to do into manageable chunks. We find that using a timer and breaking your study into 25 min blocks and 5 min breaks can help to keep you focused.
  • Study actively! Don’t just keep reading through notes - answer past papers, use flashcards to quiz yourself, state main points aloud, or explain to a friend or family member. Sometimes people find diagrams or mnemonics a helpful way to remember lists or steps.
  • The key to retention is understanding, repetition, and self-testing. We really recommend practicing past exam questions in exam conditions. This helps you get used to that exam feeling and to practice your exam timings.

Stress Management

  • Factor in exercise, breaks and rewards for your work into your schedule.
  • If you are blocked and having a bad day - do something even it is not exam-related- completing a task can make you feel more proactive. Achieving even small things can help with motivation.
  • Try to get enough sleep in the run up to and the night before exams. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, concentration, problem solving, and memory. Be careful with caffeine – it prevents you falling asleep and affects the quality of your sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day, gradually getting up a little bit earlier everyday if you have early morning exams.
  • If you are having difficulty switching off at night time, try to reflect on the positives of the day and what you got done. Some people find writing down their thoughts or making a list for the next day helpful. Doing something relaxing or practising relaxation exercises can also work well.
  • It’s good to talk! Meet a friend for lunch or talk to a friend or family member about your worries, let them know where you’re at, and how they can support you.

On the day of the exam:

  • Eat breakfast if you can.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to exam venue.
  • It’s normal to feel anxious on an exam day. Try to view the exam as an opportunity to show what you know. Try to stay calm - listen to music or a brief relaxation.
  • Avoid anything that increases anxiety - don’t stick around to chat to people before or after the exam if you don’t want to.

On campus Support Services and Resources

U& Exams Booklet
The U& Exams booklet is a step-by-step guide to getting the exam results you want!

Student Learning
DCU Student Learning offer workshops on Revision Strategies and resources to help you structure your study.

Exam Success Week
Staff from Student Support & Development run an Exam Success Programme during Week 13 of the Semester to help students prepare for exams.

Off campus resources

Wellcast- How to Study for a Test

VARK Learning Styles

Complete the VARK questionnaire to explore what type of learner you are- whether your preference is Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic or a combination of these. This site has lots of helpful strategies to use based on your results.