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Self-help

There are many different sources of self-help information.  You will find on these pages some of the advice and resources that we offer in our one-to-one appointments with students.  On each self-help page you will find:

  • a short introduction to the issue
  • some effective self-help tips which you can try for yourself
  • a list of useful resources
  • a list of books which you can borrow from us
  • information on where you can get further help

Please use the links below to access the self-help resources.

If you would like to talk to someone in person about these or any other issue, you can book an appointment with Counselling and Mental Health Support.  We offer free and confidential appointments, and you can arrange an appointment with us by filling in our short online registration form, which you can find here.  

We also run a series of workshops throughout the academic year on common issues such as study stress, relaxation and social confidence.  To find out more about these workshops, please click here.

More information about our service and the appointments we offer can be found on our webpages.  But if you would like to speak to someone in the team, please contact us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk, on 0191 227 4576, or come and visit us between 2.00pm - 4.30pm, Monday - Friday, by going to the Ask4Help point on the ground floor of Student Central, City Campus Library.

Addiction

One in three people suffer from an addiction. An addiction is a habit that is doing you harm, but you just can't seem to break. Addiction is a complex illness that affects different people in different ways. Just because someone gambles, takes drugs or drinks alcohol does not mean that they have an addiction - an addiction is a loss of control over substance use or behaviour. It is characterised by a compulsion to use a substance or to repeat behaviour (e.g. gambling) in order to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad.

An addiction can be a physical dependency, which is caused when repeated use of a substance changes your body's chemistry. It can also be a psychological dependency, which is caused when you repeat a certain behaviour (e.g. gambling) until your mind is hooked on that pattern of behaviour.

People can become addicted to all sorts of substances/behaviours but some of the common addictions include:

  • Food
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling

Where to get help

It can be very difficult to beat an addiction without support. Often talking things over with family or friends can help. Sometimes, however, it can be beneficial to talk matters through with someone who is outside of the situation who will listen with understanding and objectivity. You may simply need more information, in which case we will try to provide it. Alternatively, you may be worried about something and would like to talk it over in more depth with someone who will listen and offer you support. Confidential advice and support is available through:

Further information is also available from the Welfare and health support web pages (see Keeping Healthy Keeping Safe leaflet).  Copies of this leaflet are also available from Student Support and Wellbeing main reception.

 

Useful Links

Links to organisations and contacts external to the University are provided for your convenience, but the University takes no responsibility for the content of the sites or for the outcomes of any contacts made through following these links.

The National Drugs Helpline offers free advice and information about alcohol, drugs and solvents.  You can speak to trained advisors who can provide information about local services and can give you support.  A range of publications are also available free of charge. Calls are confidential.
Tel: 0800 776600 (freephone)
Available 24 hours, 7 days a week

Narcotics Anonymous is an international, community-based association of recovering drug addicts.  Narcotics Anonymous services are organised at local, national, and international levels and co-operate with others concerned about drug abuse in their different countries and communities.

Lifeline works with individuals, families and communities both to prevent and reduce harm, to promote recovery, and to challenge the inequalities linked to alcohol and drug misuse. You can refer yourself to the service, and referals can be made by phone on 0191 261 5610 or by email on referal.newcastle@lifeline.cjsm.net.

Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal emotional and physical response to situations which we find threatening.  The situations which people find threatening will vary according to their past experiences and their feelings and attitudes about each situation. 

Anxiety is made up of three elements: the physical sensations you experience, the emotions you have while experiencing them, and the thoughts that go through your mind at the time.

Feelings of anxiety can range from mild uneasiness to severe panic.  Although a certain level of anxiety can make us more alert and help us to perform better in difficult situations, severe or chronic anxiety can be debilitating and extremely unpleasant.     

The physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feeling sick
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling nervous or frightened
  • having a dry mouth
  • trembling
  • ‘butterflies’ in the stomach
  • sweating
  • racing heart rate

How you can help yourself

You might feel that it is impossible to change how you feel, but there are lots of things you can do which really can help to reduce your anxiety.  Try following the advice below.  You might feel a little nervous at first, but remember that facing up to anxiety is an important first step in breaking the cycle of fear and insecurity.

1. Identify and challenge negative thoughts

People who are anxious tend to exaggerate how bad the situation is and underestimate their ability to cope with it.  A tried and tested way to reduce anxiety is to challenge the validity of these thoughts and develop a new way of thinking about them.  When you are feeling anxious, try asking yourself the following questions:

Are there any good reasons to be so worried?

Ask yourself whether you are exaggerating the chance of something going wrong and undermining your capacity to deal with it.  Do the facts of the situation really support your response to it? 

What is the worst that could happen?

How likely is it that the worst would actually happen?  Will the problem matter in a month or a year from now?  And are you underestimating your ability to cope with it?

Is there another way of looking at this? 

Ask yourself if there is a more helpful or rational way of looking at the problem.  Are you focusing on your failures and forgetting your successes?  Are you seeing things in all or nothing terms, or assuming that to not succeed would be an absolute catastrophe?  Rather than assuming the worst possible outcome, consider an alternative viewpoint and decide whether it is more realistic and helpful than your initial response

What can I do about it? 

Think about how you have managed these situations in the past, and what resources you have that could help you to cope with the situation.  There is also a lot of support and advice available, so make sure you use it.  You can find further information about additional support below.

2. Try relaxation exercises

Relaxation and breathing exercises can help you to control the symptoms of anxiety, and there are lots of exercises for you to try.  Counselling and Mental Health Support offer a series of relaxation workshops throughout the year.  Why not come along and find out more about relaxation?  Details of our workshops can be found here.

3. Overcome avoidance

It is natural to want to avoid situations which make you anxious, but this strategy isn’t going to help you in the long term.  This is because avoiding difficult situations reinforces the perception that you would not have been able to cope if you had to face the situation.  Avoidance usually leads to more anxiety and makes it harder to face stressful situations in the future.

When to seek further help

Anxiety is entirely normal and everyone will experience it when they are in a situation they find stressful.  But if anxiety becomes chronic or severe it is important that you seek help.  You should consider seeking help if:

  • your fears are persistent and difficult to control
  • your anxiety is stopping you from having a normal life or from taking part in important activities.

Where to get help

You can receive support from:

  • the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team.  We can offer you an appointment with a practitioner experienced in supporting students with anxiety.  To arrange an appointment, fill in our short online registration form here.
  • your GP - they will be able to support you with anxiety and its symptoms.

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing.  

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets and websites:

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide excellent self-help leaflets on anxiety and other issues.  The leaflets are also available to download as audio files as well as other formats. You can download these leaflets here:

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Mind offers very good resources for anxiety and panic, including a downloadable leaflet, lots of self-help information and an anxiety podcast. You can visit their webpage here:

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/

Anxiety UK offer a helpline and an instant messaging (or live chat) service, and lots of other helpful information and resources. You can visit their webpage here:

www.anxietyuk.org.uk  

 

Books:

An Introduction to Coping with Anxiety (available to borrow)
Brenda Hogan & Lee Brosan, Robinson, 2007 (32 pages)

How to Master Anxiety (available to borrow)
Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, Human Givens Publishing, 2012 (248 pages)

An Introduction to Coping with Phobias
Brenda Hogan, Robinson, 2007 (32 pages)

Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia (available to borrow)
Derrick Silove and Vijaya Manicavasagar, Robinson, 2006 (160 pages)

Overcoming Health Anxiety (available to borrow)
Rob Willson and David Veale, Robinson, 2009 (336 pages)  

Introduction to Coping with Health Anxiety
Brenda Hogan and Charles Young, Robinson, 2013 (32 pages)

Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness (available to borrow)
Gillian Butler, Robinson (336 pages)

Depression

What is depression?

Depression is characterised by a persistent low mood and loss of interest or pleasure in life.  It can be distinguished from everyday feelings of unhappiness by the duration and intensity of these low moods. People with depression can find it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as work or socialising, and in the most severe cases it can be life threatening.  The symptoms of depression include:

Thoughts:

  • lack of confidence and self-esteem
  • negative thoughts about yourself or the world
  • feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • difficulty concentrating

Feelings:

  • feeling irritable, short-tempered and tearful
  • feeling restless and agitated
  • feeling isolated and alone
  • feelings of guilt 

Behaviour:

  • avoiding activities or social events
  • cutting yourself off from others
  • self-harm

Physical symptoms:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • a change in eating patterns
  • reduced energy levels

Some of these symptoms can be experienced for reasons other than depression, and we can experience some of these symptoms for a short time without being depressed.  But someone who has depression is likely to experience a number of these symptoms over a longer period of time.

What are the causes?

There are usually several causes for depression and these will differ from person to person.  Sometimes these causes can be linked to an unwelcome or tragic event.  But sometimes people can get depressed without any obvious reason.  This might be because something hurtful which has happened in the past has come to the surface.  Or it may be due to chemical or hormonal changes affecting our body.

How you can help yourself

There are lots of things you can do to help yourself overcome depression.  Even if you have seen a doctor or counsellor about depression, you should find the following tips helpful:

  • Get regular exercise

Exercise can help lift your mood.  Plan to do some exercise every day or every other day.

  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling

Don’t bottle it up.  Talking to someone about how you are feeling can help.  This can be a friend or family member, but you can also speak to a counsellor or the Samaritans (contact details are below)

  • Look after yourself

Alcohol is a depressant and can make your mood worse, so you should try to avoid it.  You should also eat well and have a good diet as this will make recovery easier.

  • Challenge negative thoughts

People who are depressed often think or expect the worst of themselves or their situation.  Understand that these thoughts are filtered by depression and are unlikely to reflect the way things really are.  If you are having negative thoughts, rather than accept these, try to:

  • challenge these thoughts by thinking of arguments against them.  It can be helpful to think what you would say to a friend who was having similar thoughts.
  • think about the things you have enjoyed or achieved recently.  This can help you to focus on the good things that are happening.  Try to spend more time on the things you enjoy.

Where to get help

If you are experiencing low mood for an extended period of time, if low mood is interfering with your everyday life, or if you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or feeling suicidal, you should seek professional help.  To access this support:

  • book an appointment with your GP.  
  • book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing. 

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets and websites:

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide excellent self-help leaflets on depression and other issues.  The leaflets are also available to download as audio files as well as other formats.

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/

Mind offers very good resources about depression, including a downloadable leaflet and lots of self-help information.

http://studentsagainstdepression.org/

Students Against Depression offer information and resources for students with depression.

http://www.depressionalliance.org/

Depression Alliance offer information, support services and self-help groups for people affected by depression.

www.samaritans.org

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year).  Many of the Samaritans' branches are also open to visitors, so you can to speak to someone in person.  You can find the details of your nearest Samaritans' branch here

The contact details of the Samaritans' branch in Newcastle are:

15 Portland Terrace
Tyne & Wear
NE2 1QQ. 

Tel: 08457 90 90 90 (available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
Email: jo@samaritans.org

Office opening hours: they are usually available to receive callers between 9.00am - 9.00pm.  A map of the Newcastle branch can be found here

Books

Overcoming Depression (available to borrow)
Paul Gilbert, Robinson, 2009 (594 pages)

An Introduction to Coping with Depression (available to borrow)
Paul Gilbert, Robinson, 2007 (32 pages)

How to Lift Depression (Fast): A Human Givens Approach (available to borrow)
Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell, HG Publishing, 2004 (200 pages)

Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse) is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or abuse by one person against another in a domestic context, such as in marriage or co-habitation. Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse.  

Where to get help

The Counselling and Mental Health Support Team offers free and confidential appointments, and we can support students suffering with domestic abuse.  To arrange an appointment, fill in our short online registration form which can be found here.

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, resources and contacts.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

 

Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Newcastle:

Newcastle Women's Aid  (Freephone 0800 923 2622 or 0191 265 2148)

24 hour safe, emergency accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence  and/or experiencing abuse and control.

Panah Refuge (0191 284 6998)

A specialist project which offers safe refuge accomodation for black and minority ethnic women and their children.

Victim Support (0191 281 3791 or 0191 295 4958)

Confidential advice and support for victims of  domestic and sexual violence and abuse, including male victims, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Safe Project (0191 273 4942)

Offers support and advice to victims and survivors of domestic violence. They also provide specialist support for victims and survivors of honour-based violence and forced marriage.

EDAN (Ending Domestic Abuse in Newcastle) Outreach Service  (07501 227 780 or 07501 227 820)

Confidential outreach and support for female victims of dometic violence and abuse.

The Angelou Centre  (0191 226 0394)

Support and advice on issues relating to domestic violence and abuse, including honour based violence and forced marriage.  Workers in the centre can speak in languages including Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic and French.

Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland (General Enquiries: 0191 222 0272, Helpline: 0800 035 2794, available 6.00pm-8.30pm, on Tue, Wed and Thur).

Support and counselling for women aged 16 and over who have been raped or sexually abused.

Domestic Violence Protection Project (DVPP)  (0191 240 4800) 

This project works with male abusers who want to change their violent behaviour.

Protecting Vulnerable People (PVP) Unit  (101)

Northumbria Police runs the PVP Unit which leads on issues relating to child abuse, domestic violence and abuse, rape investigations, management of dangerous offenders and the protection of vulnerable people.

 

National Services:

National Domestic Violence Helpline  (Freephone 0808 2000 247)

The freephone line is available 24/7 and gives confidential advice for women experiencing domestic abuse.

Men's Advice Line (Freephone 0808 801 0327)

Advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

Broken Rainbow  (0300 999 5428)

Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic abuse.

Forced Marriage Unit  (020 7008 0151)

The Foreign and Common Wealth Office's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) provide expert advice to those confronted by forced marriage.

National Centre for Domestic Violence  (0844 8044 999)

Free emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence.

Rights of Women  

Free and confidential legal advice for women on issues such as family law, criminal law, and immigration and asylum.

Respect  (Freephone 0808 802 4040)

Confidential phone line for domestic violence perpetrators, male or female.

Eating Distress

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are characterised by a distorted pattern of thinking about food and size/weight: there is a preoccupation and obsession with food, as well as an issue of control or lack of control around food and its consumption.

Eating disorders can severely affect the lives of sufferers and their families. They can leave sufferers feeling depressed, anxious, isolated and feeling that they are unable to cope with everyday tasks.  They can also cause a range of physical problems including damage to the heart, renal and liver dysfunction, impaired immunity and electrolyte balance, diabetes, respiratory dysfunction and osteoporosis.  In some cases the effects of eating disorders can be fatal.

Types of eating disorders

Eating disorders cover a range of different conditions. The most common eating disorders are: 

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia will starve themselves to keep their weight as low as possible.  Sufferers have a distorted perception of their own weight and size.  Although others will consider them to be extremely thin, they are not likely to see themselves this way.  Sufferers have a morbid fear of gaining weight, and often exercise excessively.

Bulimia

Bulimia sufferers will have periods of binge eating and will try to control their weight by making themselves sick or by using laxatives.  Bulimia is characterised by:

  • a distorted perception of own weight, size and shape
  • a powerful urge to overeat, leading to binge eating and a resultant feeling of being out of control
  • compensatory behaviour such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics or other medication; fasting; or excessive exercise
  • a morbid fear of gaining weight

Compulsive or binge eating

Compulsive eaters feel compelled to overeat.  This may involve episodes of binge eating and feelings of being out of control.

What are the causes?

The causes of eating disorders are complex.  Some factors which make someone more likely to have an eating disorder include:

  • having a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
  • being criticised for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • being overly concerned with being slim, particularly if combined with pressure to be slim from society or for a job
  • certain characteristics, for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorder, low self-esteem or being a perfectionist
  • particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
  • difficult relationships with family members or friends
  • stressful situations, for example problems at work, school or university

Where to get help

Eating disorders are easier to treat the earlier they are identified, but even very serious problems can be treated effectively over time.  If you are suffering from an eating disorder it is important that you acknowledge the problem exists and commit to getting better.  You should seek professional help and accept the support from your family and friends.  To access professional help:

  • book an appointment with your GP.  They can refer you to specialist help, usually a psychiatrist or psychologist, who is trained in treating people with eating disorders. One type of 'talking treatment' or psychotherapy that is thought to be effective is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
  • book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing. 

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets and websites:

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide excellent self-help leaflets on eating disorders and other issues.  The leaflets are also available to download as audio files as well as other formats.

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/eating-problems

Mind offers very good resources about eating disorders, including a downloadable leaflet and lots of self-help information.

www.niwe.org.uk

The NIWE Eating Distress Service based in Newcastle offers a helpline, group support, and information for those whose lives are affected by eating distress.

www.b-eat.co.uk

Information and help on all aspects of eating disorders, including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating disorder and related eating disorders.

http://mengetedstoo.co.uk

Men Get Eating Disorders Too is dedicated to representing and supporting the needs of men with eating disorders.

Books:

An Introduction to Coping with Eating Problems (available to borrow)
Gillian Todd, Robinson, 2011 (32 pages)

Overcoming Weight Problems (available to borrow)
Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert and Clare Grace, Robinson, 2012 (288 pages)

Anorexia Nervosa and the Wish to Change (available to borrow)
A.H.Crisp et al., St. George’s Hospital Medical School, 1989 (105 pages)

Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa (available to borrow)
Christopher Freeman, Robinson, 2012 (288 pages)          

Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e) - a survival kit for sufferers of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders (available to borrow)
Schmidt & Treasure, Psychology Press, 1993 (145 pages)

Homesickness

What is homesickness?

Many students will feel homesick when they come to university.  Even those students who didn’t expect to feel homesick can miss the familiarity of home and their friends.

University can be exciting and rewarding, but it can also generate anxieties around fitting-in, making friends and academic work.  Although these anxieties can be quickly overcome as we adapt to our new environment, for some this transition can take a little longer, and these apprehensions can generate feelings of homesickness and a preoccupation with home-focused thoughts.

Homesickness involves a yearning for, and grieving over, the loss of what is familiar and secure: most often it is about the loss of people - family and friends - but it is also about the loss of places and routines.

It is important to realise that you are not the only one feeling homesick and that it does not in any way mean you are inadequate.

What are the symptoms?

Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments.

Homesickness can usually be distinguished from depression by asking yourself if you find that both university and home make you unhappy/anxious (depression); or if it is just university, while home is seen through rose-tinted glasses (homesickness).

International students in particular may be prone to homesickness and suffer the added problem of adapting to a very different culture and language.

Some students will start by being mildly depressed and anxious several weeks before leaving home, in anticipation of the impending change. Others will be fine initially, and then to their surprise find themselves feeling homesick later in the academic year, perhaps after the Christmas break, or even at the start of their second academic year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult

Common symptoms include:

  • feeling overwhelmed, insecure, anxious or isolated
  • feeling very emotional/weepy
  • loneliness
  • disturbed patterns of eating and sleeping
  • poor physical health, unable to sleep
  • missing home, family and friends, etc.

You may feel particularly worried about:

  • new academic demands
  • letting parents down
  • leaving behind family members who are missing you
  • close friends you have left behind, or who have moved elsewhere
  • fitting in - feeling that you don't belong or you don't identify with university life
  • making new friends - meeting new people

How can I help myself?

Homesickness is not unusual and it can be overcome.  Usually, the symptoms will ease as you settle into a new way of life.  But if they persist, try the following:

  • Acknowledge how you are feeling and understand that these feelings will pass
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling
  • If it makes you feel better, maintain frequent contact with home
  • Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine
  • Try joining a club or society.  There are so many sports, volunteer opportunities, activities and societies at university that you should be able to find something that you like - and it’s a great way to make new friends. You can find out more about volunteering and societies by clicking on the 'Student Activities' link on the Students' Union webpage.  And you can find out about the different sports available on campus on the Sport Central webpage.
  • Try to establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days, the less time you have to feel lonely or homesick
  • Give yourself time to adjust: you do not have to get everything right straight away

Where to get help

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can arrange an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team.  We provide a free and confidential service for all Northumbria University students.  You can register with the service online here.

The Counselling and Mental Health Support Team also run workshops on a range of common issues such as social confidence and relaxation.  To find out which workshops are available at the moment, please click here.

You can also speak to your GP, especially if you are experiencing physical symptoms which are worrying you.

Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.  Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’, and you can take steps to develop it in your own life.

Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.

Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.  We can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over, and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.

Where can I find out more?

Chaplaincy and Faith Advice run a series of ‘Learn Calm and Carry On’ Mindfulness sessions.  For more information, please contact andii.bowsher@northumbria.ac.uk.
 

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Websites:            

http://bemindful.co.uk/

Information about mindfulness and mindfulness courses near you

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/mindfulness.htm  

Useful self-help resources on mindfulness

http://mindfulnessforstudents.co.uk 

Brings the benefits of mindfulness practice to students

Books:

Mindfulness in 8 weeks, Michael Chaskalson

Apps:

'Headspace' app is a very popular app on mindfulness. You can dowload it for free on the 'Play Store' (for Android) and the App Store (for Apple).

‘Insight Timer’ app can be downloaded for free from the Play Store (for Android) or from the App Store (for Apple). 

Relaxation

What is relaxation?       

Stress is something which we all experience from time to time.  While a little bit of stress can sometimes be helpful (by making us more alert or motivating us to get things done), stress which is severe or experienced over a longer period can be unpleasant and lead to a range of health problems.  

Relaxation is a natural and positive state which can counteract the effects of stress.  When we are in a stressed state, our body will respond by releasing the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones prepare our body to respond to danger by increasing our breathing and heart-rate, and making other changes which help us to be alert and ready to respond quickly.   

Although stress in modern life is unlikely to be caused by physical danger, our bodies still respond to stress as it did when we were hunters and gatherers, when we really were faced with dangers which required a ‘fight or flight’ response.  Relaxation can bring our bodies back to their normal state by deepening our breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down our heart-rate and relaxing our muscles.  As well as the positive physical effects of relaxation, it can also increase our energy and focus, help to combat illness, relieve aches and pains, heighten our problem-solving abilities, and boost motivation and productivity.

While we won’t always be able to avoid stress, we can learn to mitigate the experience and symptoms of stress by practicing some effective relaxation techniques.   

Relaxation techniques

There are lots of different techniques available to help us to achieve relaxation.  There is no single technique that will suit everyone, so make sure you try one that you feel comfortable with and which feels best for you.

The techniques described below are easy to do, but the more you practice them the better you’ll become at achieving relaxation.  Try setting aside a little bit of time each day to practice whichever techniques suits you.  As little as five minutes a day can be effective, but 20-40 minutes a day would be ideal.

Deep breathing for stress relief

With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It's easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check.  Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as music. It is also an ideal way of beginning a longer relaxation session, which might incorporate progressive muscle relaxation or visualisation.

The key to deep breathing is to breathe from the abdomen.  For deep, abdominal breathing, the out-breath is as important as the in-breath.  Slowing the breathing and using more of our lung capacity helps to restore the oxygen and carbon-dioxide balance which has been lost due to the rapid, shallow breathing associated with tension and anxiety.  So the next time you feel stressed, it is worthwhile to take a minute to slow down and breathe deeply.

Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Inhale steadily through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.

Exhale through your nose or mouth, again steadily pushing out as much air as you can comfortably. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but again your other hand should move very little.

Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your abdomen rises and falls. The addition of counting slowly as you breathe in and out can help regulate your breathing.

If breathing from your abdomen while sitting up feels uncomfortable, try lying down.  Put a small book on your stomach, and breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale. It may also be helpful to breathe out first, before taking your in-breath. If possible don't wear tight clothing or have a full stomach, as this might feel constricting.

Progressive muscle relaxation for stress relief

Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective and widely used strategy for stress relief. It involves a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.

With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation helps you become familiar with what tension, as well as complete relaxation, feels like in different parts of the body. This awareness helps you spot and counteract the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. You can combine deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation for an additional level of relief from stress.

Quick Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise

Try these quick exercises below for each muscle group:

Hands and forearms - Clench your right fist and feel the tension spread around your knuckles and forearm.  Hold this for a slow count of three and then let go, noticing as you do so the feelings of looseness and warmth in your hand and forearm.  After a few moments, repeat again using your right hand.  Then do the same exercise two times using your left hand.

Continue in the same way, holding the tension for a slow count of three, repeating the exercise twice, for the following muscle groups:

Upper arms - Press your elbows into your sides.  Hold for a slow count of three then relax.

Forehead - Raise your eyebrows and wrinkle your nose and clench your jaws. Pull back the corners of your mouth. Hold for slow count of three.  Relax.

Neck - Press your chin down into your chest bringing your head forward.  Hold for a count of three.  Relax.

Shoulders - Shrug your shoulders, bringing your shoulders up towards your ears.  Hold for three.  Relax.

Chest and back - Arch the lower part of your back. Pull your shoulder blades together.  Hold for a slow count of three.  Relax.

Stomach - Pull your stomach muscles in.  Hold for a slow count of three.  Relax.

Legs - It is easier to do this one leg at a time unless you are lying down. Press the back of your knee down, straighten your leg and point your toes towards your face.  Hold for a slow count of three.  Relax.

Now survey each part of your body to make sure you feel as relaxed as possible. If you notice tension, repeat the exercise for that muscle group again.  Get up slowly after relaxation and try to preserve the feeling of calm.

Where to get help

Counselling and Mental Health Support run a series of workshops on relaxation and stress.  To book a place on these workshops, and to find out when they are on, please click here.

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

You can also book an appointment with your GP. 

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Websites 

Mind offers some useful relaxation tips:

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/relaxation-tips/

 

Self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the value or worth you place on yourself.  It is your assessment of the image you have of yourself.  It is made up of your beliefs about yourself: the kind of person you think you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and your expectations for the future. 

If you have a healthy self-esteem, these beliefs will generally be positive.  But people with a low self-esteem will have negative opinions about the kind of person they are and will not attach much value to themselves.  

The judgements that you make of yourself are unlikely to be the product of considered and rational self-reflection.  And it might be that these judgements have become so ingrained that you are not fully aware that you are making them.  But they can have a major impact on how you feel from day-to-day and the decisions you make about your life.

What are the causes of low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can be caused by lots of different experiences.  Many of these experiences are from the early part of our life, but even later experiences, such as negative experiences at work or a traumatic event, can affect our self-esteem. Some experiences which can affect our self-esteem include:

Early experiences:

  • Being neglected or abused as a child
  • Being teased, excluded or bullied by other children
  • Being compared unfavourably to others
  • Being the odd one out at school or at home
  • Not receiving enough praise, affection or warmth as a child
  • Being compared unfavourably to others

Later experiences:

  • Being bullied at work or university
  • Being in a relationship which is physically or emotionally abusive
  • Persistent stress
  • Traumatic events

How can I increase my self-esteem?

To improve your self-esteem you will need to change the negative beliefs you have about yourself.  There are lots of good resources listed below (under ‘Useful resources’) which can help you to do this.  But here are a few techniques which you can try for yourself and which are effective in improving self-esteem:

  • Do something you enjoy.  Doing something which you are familiar with and good at can build confidence.  You could even start a hobby like learning a language or painting.  Whatever it is, do something that you’ve always wanted to try and something which you feel you can do well.
  • Build positive relationships.  Try to spend time with people who are not critical, and who you feel you can be open with.  If you associate with positive and supportive people you are more likely to have a positive self-image.
  • Learn to be assertive.  Being assertive means that you value yourself and others.  It can be particularly helpful in dealing with people who encourage any negative thoughts you have about yourself.  Learning to be assertive takes practice, but there is lots of support available.  See our ‘Useful resources’ section below for more information.
  • Look after health.  Having a well-balanced diet and enough sleep can really help make you feel happier and more confident.
  • Focus on positive things.  Try thinking about the things that you like about yourself or things that have went well or you have achieved.  Thinking positively about things may not be easy at first, but it is a good habit to have.  
  • Challenge negative thoughts.  Think about some of your negative thoughts.  What is the underlying belief behind these thoughts?  Are these negative thoughts the expression of beliefs that you have about yourself (for example, that you’re not clever enough or not interesting enough)?  Identify what these beliefs are and challenge them.  If you have a low self-esteem, it is easy to filter your experiences through these beliefs, without really challenging them.  More information about how you can challenge negative thoughts can be found in the resources listed below.

Where to get help

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

You can also book an appointment with your GP.  

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Websites

Mind offers very good resources on building self-esteem, including a downloadable leaflet.  For more information, click here.

Books

An Introduction to Improving Your Self-Esteem (available to borrow)
Melanie Fennell with Lee Brosan, Robinson, 2011 (38 pages)

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem (available to borrow)
Melanie Fennell, Robinson, 2009 (288 pages)

Self-harm

What is self-harm?

Someone who self-harms will injure their body as a way of dealing with difficult feelings.  Although few people talk about self-harm, acts of self-harm are relatively common among people who feel distressed.   A person who self-harms does not intend to cause a fatal injury, rather they see self-harm as a way of coping with emotional pain or communicating their feelings with others.

People use lots of different ways to self-harm.  These include cutting, burning or scratching skin, over-eating or under-eating, hitting, exercising excessively and pulling out hair.   

What are the causes?

The causes of self-harm can be complex.   In some cases, self-harm can be understood as a way of dealing with very upsetting experiences such as bullying, bereavement, or sexual, physical or emotional abuse.  But it can also be caused by feelings of depression, anxiety, anger or stress.

Self-harm is not related to education, sexual preference or race, although more women than men harm themselves.

What can I do if I want to stop self-harming?  

If you self-harm it is important that you speak to someone about how you are feeling.  You can speak in confidence to someone in the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (details about how to do this are under 'Where can I get help' below) and you can also speak to your GP.  Some people who self-harm try to keep their behaviour secret or they may feel embarrassed about what they are doing.  But if you would like to stop self-harming it is important that you access the professional support that is available.

However, if you feel that you are about to self-harm, there are some short-term strategies which you can try to help prevent this.  You can find these strategies and other helpful information in a self-help leaflet written by Northumberland, Tyne and War NHS.  You can find the leaflet here (after you have clicked on the link, scroll down until you find the self-harm leaflet).

Where can I get help?

If you would like to speak to someone about self-harm or any other emotional or mental health issue, you can book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

You can also book an appointment with your GP. 

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing. 

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets and websites

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide an excellent self-help leaflet on self-harm.  The leaflet is also available to download as audio files as well as other formats.

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Mind offers some helpful resources on self-harm, including a downloadable leaflet.

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/

 

Sleep

What are sleep problems?

Most of us will experience sleep problems at some point in our lives.  In many cases these problems will go away after a short period of time.  However, if these problems persist they can start to impact on our day-to-day life.  Sleep problems can affect our mood, concentration and energy levels, and it can make certain activities difficult, such as socialising or studying.

Common sleep problems include:

     Insomnia

People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep.  They may also wake up often during the night, or wake up early in the morning and are unable to go back to sleep.  Insomnia can be chronic, where it will last for several weeks, months or years, or it can be transient, where it will last only for a few nights or weeks.

The symptoms of insomnia can include frequent headaches, tiredness, and lack of concentration.

     Oversleeping

Although chronic oversleeping may have less of an impact on your daily life than insomnia, sleeping for longer than your body needs (over a long period of time) has been linked to physical problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Other sleep problems include nightmares and night terrors, sleepwalking and sleep paralysis.  These problems are not harmful (unless you have an accident while sleep walking), but they can disrupt your sleep.

What are the causes of insomnia?

Insomnia can be caused by a number of different things.  These can include:

  • Anxiety, depression or worry
  • Physical pain
  • Medical conditions
  • A big change, such as leaving home or moving house
  • Recreational or prescription drugs
  • Sleeping pills, which can sometimes disturb sleep
  • A noisy or uncomfortable environment

What can I do about it?

Insomnia can usually be treated effectively without the need to see a doctor.  But you will need to be prepared to make some changes to your lifestyle in order to sleep better.  Below are some tips which you can try for yourself:

  • Take regular exercise
  • Establish a sleep routine that gives you around seven to eight hours sleep (although individuals do vary in how much sleep they need)
  • Don’t sleep during the day
  • Avoid or reduce your alcohol consumption - alcohol is more disruptive to sleep than caffeine
  • Avoid taking stimulants to keep you awake
  • Don’t go to bed when you’re feeling stressed – try to relax

Relaxation

People who have sleep problems tend to be more worried, depressed and unhappy than others (although this is by no means always the case).  If you are feeling anxious or depressed, have a look at our other self-help guides on this website.  You might also like to attend one of our relaxation workshops.  Below are a few suggestions that can help you to relax:

  • Try to change or resolve the things that are causing you stress when possible
  • Accept situations that you can't change
  • Don't take on too much and avoid unrealistic demands
  • Live in the present, rather than worrying about the past or fearing the future
  • Try practising some relaxation or breathing exercises (see our workshops to find out more about relaxation techniques)

Self-confidence

People who suffer from sleep problems also tend to be less confident and have lower self-esteem than others (although again this is by no means always the case).  There are lots of self-help resources available to help you increase your confidence.  Have a look at our other self-help guides on this website.  We also run workshops on social confidence – you can find more information about our workshops here.

Depression

Sleep problems can be a symptom of depression.  If you feel that you might be depressed, it is important that you seek help.  Speak to your GP or Counselling and Mental Health Support.  You can register with Counselling and Mental Health Support here.  You can also find out more information about depression in the self-help section of this website.

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing. 

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets, websites and podcasts:

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide excellent self-help leaflets on sleeping problems and other issues such as anxiety and depression.  The leaflets are also available to download as audio files as well as other formats.

www.sleepfoundation.org

Helpful information about sleeping problems.

Books:

An Introduction to Coping with Insomnia and Sleep Problems (available to borrow)
Colin A. Espie, Robinson, 2011 (32 pages)

Overcoming Insomnia and Sleep Problems (available to borrow)
Colin A. Espie, Robinson, 2012 (288 pages)

Stress

What is stress?

We all experience stress from time to time.  This can happen when we have too much to do or if we feel that we are unable to cope. 

A certain amount of stress from time to time is inevitable, and in some cases a little bit of stress can help us to perform better (in exams, for example).  But severe stress or stress which continues for a long time can feel extremely unpleasant, and in some cases can lead to health risks such as heart disease, migraines, anxiety and depression.

The symptoms of stress include:

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Pain
  • Sweating
  • Feeling tired all the time

Emotional symptoms

  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling tense or anxious
  • Low mood
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself

What are the causes?

Stress can be caused by life changes or events which we feel unable to control.  Even happy events can cause stress if they bring big changes or require us to do things which we are not used to.  Stressful events can include:

  • Moving away from home
  • Taking exams or problems with studying
  • Health problems
  • Bereavement
  • New employment
  • Relationship problems

How you can help yourself

There are lots of things you can do to reduce or eliminate stress.  Try the following:         

  • Manage your time.  Make a list of things you need to do.  It is usually helpful to do the most important things at the time of day that you feel most productive (some people work best in the mornings and some work best in the evenings).  However, be realistic about what you can achieve.
  • Take regular exercise.  Exercise helps to use up hormones that your body produces under stress and can lift your mood.
  • Try not to dwell on past or future worries.  Concentrate on the present.
  • Sort out the problems that are causing you stress.  Divide these problems into those you can do something about and those you can’t.  There’s no point worrying about something that you can’t change.
  • Try some relaxation exercises.  Relaxation and breathing exercises can help you to manage stress and there are lots of exercises for you to try.  Counselling and Mental Health Support offer a series of relaxation workshops throughout the year.  Why not come along and find out more about relaxation?  Details of our workshops can be found here.

Exam stress

Most people find exams stressful.  While a certain amount of pressure can help us to perform well in exams, feeling really stressed isn’t going to help you to perform at your best.  So if you’re feeling this way, follow these five easy tips to manage exam stress.

  • Start your revision early.  Leaving revision to the last minute is an excellent recipe for stress.   You’ll feel much more confident about your exams if you have put the work in beforehand.
  • Make a revision plan.  Planning how you will use your time will help to reduce stress later on.  List all the topics you want to revise and decide how much time to spend on each one.  If there’s too much work to do in the time available, prioritise your study around the most important topics.  If you have a choice of subjects, focus on the ones that you know best or you have the most information about.  A good revision plan will also include time to relax.  It will help to reduce stress and will enable you to work more effectively.  It’s not wasted time.
  • Take a break.  Most people can only concentrate fully for about 45 minutes.  If you’re studying for more than an hour without a break you’re less likely to retain new information.
  • In the exam, take time to read the questions carefully and plan your answers.  Writing everything you know about the topic without focusing on the question isn’t going to get you a good mark.  If you do start to panic, close your eyes and take some deep, controlled breaths for a couple of minutes. 
  • Get some exercise.  This is a great way to reduce exam stress.  Exercise can reduce physical tension and will help you to feel more positive.

Where to get help

Counselling and Mental Health Support run a series of workshops on stress and relaxation.  To book a place on these workshops, and to find out when they are on, please click here.

If you would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can book an appointment with the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team at Northumbria University.  You can register online here.  The service is free and confidential.

You can also book an appointment with your GP. 

Useful resources

We’ve listed below some useful websites, books and resources.  The list is not intended to be comprehensive, and we recognise that there are many good resources not listed below.

Copies of some of these books are available to borrow from the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team (we’ve indicated below which books we have available).  If you would like to borrow one of these, please email us at as.counsellingandmentalhealth@northumbria.ac.uk or visit us in Student Support and Wellbeing. 

Disclaimer

Please note that the web links and the lists of resources contained on this page should not be taken to imply that their content is endorsed by the Counselling and Mental Health Support Team or the University of Northumbria.

Leaflets and websites

http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS provide excellent self-help leaflets on stress and other issues.  The leaflets are also available to download as audio files as well as other formats.

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/stress

Mind offers very good resources about depression, including a downloadable leaflet and lots of self-help information.

http://www.testangel.com

This app aims to reduce anxiety around exams (purchase is required). 

Books

An introduction to Coping with Stress (available to borrow)
Lee Brosan, Robinson, 2010 (32 pages)

Overcoming Stress (available to borrow)
Lee Brosan and Gillian Todd, Robinson, 2009 (362 pages)

Overcoming Traumatic Stress (available to borrow)
Claudia Herbert and Ann Wetmore, Robinson, 2008, (268 pages)

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