From dog-petting to desk yoga: do 'wellbeing weeks' make university less stressful?

Debt, academic pressure and social isolation are piling pressure on students, but what’s the best way of boosting mental health?

At the “doggy de-stress” drop-in on the main campus at King’s College London (KCL), students queue around the block to sit on bean bags cuddling and taking selfies with rescue dogs. The event is one of the most popular of the 90 activities held as part of this year’s “wellbeing week”, and organisers say engagement is up 47% on last year.

“We have everything from yoga classes and coffee mornings to craft afternoons and garden sessions,” explains a students’ union spokesperson. “A lot are led by student groups. It’s about boosting resilience, making connections and having safe spaces to talk in.”

With the rise of tuition fees and the advent of widening participation, there has been a steady increase in demand for student counselling services. With many students facing stresses such as debt, academic pressures and social isolation, universities are beginning to look at how campus environments can improve mental wellbeing and become healthier places.

Related: Why are students at university so stressed?

Related: Revision tips: how to avoid a meltdown in the exam hall

Relax. Take time out to do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, phoning home or having a hot bath. Don’t feel guilty about doing something completely unrelated to your studies – time for yourself is important.

Sleep. If you’re tired, worries can get blown out of proportion. Give yourself time to unwind before bed. Put down your screens and avoid stimulants like tea, coffee and alcohol.

Eat well. Making three meals a day, seven days a week can be relentless, but the right foods can help your concentration for studying. Use online meal planners and try cooking in batches or with friends to save time and money.

Budget. Stay organised and work out a realistic amount to live on – there are apps out there to help.

Don’t isolate yourself. Talking can help deal with difficult times. There are many people able to help, such as a friend, tutor, family member or university adviser. You can also go to your GP, who can talk you through the support available.

Exercise. Physical activity is a way to improve your mood. According to mental health charity Mind, taking a walk, going for a swim or joining a sports team will give you a welcome break from any issues you may have.

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