As I’ve entered my fourth and final year studying Fashion Management, university life has become more and more like a balancing act! Trying to meet deadlines, going to the gym, having a social life, etc. can all get very overwhelming. At the end of the first semester to try to help us stay calm and cope with the stress of everything, we received a very helpful presentation about mindfulness from Dr Steve Smith, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health and Wellbeing here at RGU.
I’m sure many of you will have heard mindfulness mentioned before as it has become a very popular practice in recent years from publications such as “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman to the colouring books craze started by Scottish illustrator, Johanna Basford. However, there are many misconceptions over what mindfulness really means.
Dr Smith explained that many of us, including myself, believe mindfulness eliminates stress and involves thinking about nothing. This isn’t possible as Dr Smith said we would even get stressed if we stayed in our beds all day. Plus, if we had no thoughts we would all be walking around like zombies! Instead, mindfulness involves organising thoughts and focusing on the moment at present in front of you, not on the past or the future.
Dr Smith expressed that by being in the moment we are focused and in our own little bubble with no distraction from our surroundings. For example, Dr Smith told the story of how, every time he drove to Elgin for meetings, he would always miss one specific town on his travels, saying it may as well have been invisible. The place of course was my hometown of Huntly!
To try to train your brain into focusing on one thing at a time and stopping it from wandering, Dr Smith ran through a couple of exercises with us. One, concentrated on breathing and how it can be used as a focus when the mind wanders. To complete this short ten-minute meditation exercise, first find a comfortable posture, keeping your spine straight. Once relaxed, notice your breathing and its rhythm, this is the key focus. Continue this and let any thoughts come and go as they enter the mind. By repeating exercises like this, we can learn to detach from our stresses for five minutes and bring our thoughts back to the matter at hand.
The presentation from Dr Smith certainly emphasised the increasing importance of mindfulness in student life and the working environment. I think when we have so much going on in our lives we often forget to look after ourselves and make time to do the things we love. Here are my top five self-care tips and things to do:
Colouring In: A favourite pastime for many of us, including myself, the benefits of such a simple exercise have been widely notified. Popular books include those illustrated by Johanna Basford, who stimulated the growth of a new section in book shops. As a Fashion student, I particularly love the Vogue colouring books and “The Liberty Colouring Book” featuring some beautiful patterns.
Reading: There’s nothing quite like escaping into a book and being transported to another world! I’m currently reading the Game of Thrones series which undoubtedly will take years at my snail pace… I wouldn’t say I ever stick to the same genre with fashion obviously a firm favourite. Top recommendations include “Inside Vogue: My Diary Of Vogue’s 100th Year” by Alexandra Shulman and either of Sali Hughes’ Beauty Bibles.
Get Outdoors: Going out for a quick wander or run can do the world of good when you’ve a never-ending list of things to do. We’re lucky enough to have the River Dee right next to the RGU campus but Aberdeen has many hidden treasures. Old Aberdeen is full of quaint cobbled streets while Duthie Park is a spectacle of nature all year round. I also love Aberdeen beach or a trip to Stonehaven in the spring
Baking: My favourite way to unwind has to be baking! I have the worst sweet tooth so can never resist a cupcake… or two. To try and balance everything, I usually bake treats which take a couple of hours, including red velvet cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and dreamy chocolate brownies.
There is now a wealth of information regarding mindfulness from websites to books. It’s also ok to feel completely overwhelmed at times but there is help available at RGU from your lecturers to the Wellness centre.