Allison Harrison is the owner of Hot Yoga Edinburgh, an award-winning yoga studio in Edinburgh. Allison previously spent over 15 years in high pressure corporate roles and now uses her experience to help support others, empowering people to feel better and live well. Here, she shares her top tips on how students can encourage positive mental health throughout their studies.
Surviving these months of lockdown and disruption as a student will have added immeasurable stress to an already exciting and challenging period of your life. Endless deadlines and pressure combined with the isolating effects of the pandemic have created an environment where mental health can suffer.
Making it this far in your studies shows your ability to cope with the demands of law school and university life, but the Covid pandemic has brought with it a heightened level of uncertainty and fear. We have been living in a ‘fight or flight’ survival mode for more than a year and many of us are feeling the effects of this.
Taking some small steps to improve your wellbeing can make a real difference to how you’re feeling, here are a few simple suggestions you can add to your routine to improve your focus and concentration, calm your mind and keep your body healthy.
Two-minute exercise to calm and focus the mind
Clear a space at your desk or turn your chair away from your workspace. Sit upright in your chair, place your feet firmly on the floor and ground down through both feet. Gently draw in the lower belly and lengthen up through the spine. Roll the shoulders a few time and then relax the arms and shoulders. Close your eyes. Take five to ten deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Notice the sensation of the air flowing in and the air flowing out. Slowly open your eyes and take another few breaths before moving on with your day. Add this short exercise to your routine as often as you can each day.
Five to 30 minutes of fresh air
Try to get outdoors every day, even for a few minutes, to breathe in some fresh air and get some gentle exercise. Even if you just walk around the block, sit in the garden or run a lap in your local park, the combination of being outdoors and getting away from your desk will leave you feeling better. While you are outdoors, pay attention to what you see around you, put away your phone and notice the trees and flowers, the other people around you. Breathe in the fresh air and notice how it feels to breathe, right here, right now.
30 to 60 minutes of exercise
Carve out a little time each week to exercise in a way that you enjoy. If you’re not sure what type of exercise you enjoy, try a few different things and choose the one that makes you happiest. You could simply take a brisk walk in the park, go for a cycle or a run, or join an exercise class. There are many exercise options online to choose from and many fitness centres and yoga studios offer livestream classes, where you are in the same virtual space with the teacher, who leads you through your class in a live, online environment, or try a YouTube video at a time of your choosing.
Drink plenty of water and don’t over-indulge in caffeine or alcohol, which could impact on your quality of sleep and concentration levels. Try your best to eat a healthy diet and get as much sleep as you can.
Celebrate the wins
It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come in the past year. Take a moment to write down every single thing you have achieved during the past year, from the smallest to the greatest achievement. Remember how much you’ve already accomplished on the tough days and use this to help you.