Recently we sat down with Student Support advisors, Jamie and Beth, to talk about a wellbeing initiative they ran in January, called ‘Beat the Winter Blues’  

Listen to our conversation here, or read below. 

What was the idea behind the ‘Beat the Winter Blues’ week? 

Jamie: We wanted to run a whole bunch of wellbeing sessions, strategically in the year around revision time and exam periods for our undergrads while also lining up with Blue Monday on the 15th of January.

Beth: We’re so aware at this time of year, it’s post-Christmas, a long month, payday was a very long time ago! And then you’ve got shorter days, dark nights and grey skies. Our undergraduates work so hard throughout the year, there can be a lot of pressure on them, so we just wanted to create opportunities that were just a bit different to their day to day and to break things up.   


What sort of activities did you run?  

Beth: So a lot of our wellbeing support is based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing which came off the back of research that was done by Mind. These five ways to wellbeing are; to connect, to take notice, to be active, to keep learning and to give, so each day in the week was themed around one of these ways. But also, more importantly, because we're a small institution, it was very much a time to come together as a community as well build connection and belonging. So, we had Winter Watch Walk, which was a walk around the nature trails, we had Qi Gong, jigsaws and craft sessions. 

Jamie: And we had a talk about anxiety how to manage that from Anwen, our clinical psychologist. Then on top of that there was a whole bunch of events that were put on by wider Dyson from the Hangar team, talks around nutrition and sleep and introductions to lots of new exercises and movements. Essentially; come together have a laugh, have a joke, learn something new. I’m pleased to say we really saw this happen, you'd see conversations that were happening that you wouldn't imagine would normally happen, but because of they've come together around a jigsaw puzzle or on a mindful walk. There were different groups of people coming together and chatting about things, which is what it's all about, bringing people together.  

Beth: Yeah, and I found out things about undergrads I never knew before, and I've worked with them the last 18 months! So you really do learn new things.  


What’s the bigger picture here, why do these initiatives matter? 

Beth: We talk a lot about managing stress and managing wellbeing. And the whole purpose of these activities is just to create those small opportunities. People can get so engrossed in what they're doing that don't take the break, that I think then impacts their wellbeing more and the stress levels and the overwhelm.  So, it's just by creating these simple moments in the day that helps. A lot of the messaging that we were putting out there was; you don't have to come to the full hour, even if it's just 5 minutes, just to see a friend and chat. What that gives, is someone a sense of purpose. But actually, the conversations and the connection that comes from being in these spaces, will just help them to de-stress and it takes their mind off their study, sometimes more than the activity. It’s being about being present rather than about being consumed by work. We often say that we don’t have time for the Gym, or do crafts, but it’s these things that we don’t do that can help us the most. It gives you that change of perspective and a complete break.  

Jamie: I was in a room with maybe 20 people when we were doing a giant jigsaw, and there was a moment, maybe 15 minutes in where I just noticed the entire room was completely silent. There was not a single conversation happening, and everybody was just in the flow of doing the jigsaw, totally focused on what they were doing in the moment without any thoughts elsewhere. It was just a bit of a circuit breaker. You know, when they're here they're working then going home to study, all of their conversations with friends are around where they're at with coursework or what they're doing in the workplace. It's quite consuming and being able to provide some circuit breakers where they can just be present and go on a walk and drop the shoulders a little bit and feel comfortable, that’s what a lot of the impact is. It's very difficult to explain how it happens, but you can see it in the room, and it happens on our Wellbeing and Development days, it's almost like a magic that happens when you introduce these things. 


Do you have anything that surprised you in its success?  

Beth: I think, the jigsaw puzzle and the doodles!  We put out a giant doodle, a roll of paper, laid out on the table and people came along and doodled their messages or drawings or pictures and that's been successful. But seeing it this week where they are really in the throes of revising and revision because they've got exams, it has been leaving the jigsaw puzzles out. It's been so lovely to walk by and notice that, four or five jigsaw puzzles have now been completed. We just left them out in the kitchen area and people  have come along every now and put in a few pieces together, the feedback from that has been so positive.  

Jamie: I think it’s having the view that, it’s the long term where it really counts. We’re not just planning events that happen once where you've got to sign up and within that 30 minutes you need to better on the other end of it. It's a long-term initiative that's in place over a couple of weeks that you can just dip in when you want to, when it feels right for you and feel better for it.