Newbury College students took a proactive step toward a healthier mental state last week (15 - 21 May), in line with Mental Health Awareness Week. Various activities to reduce stress and promote mindfulness were introduced, especially centred around the anxiety of exams and end-of-year assignments.
Morning workshops in The Forum became a safe space for students looking for additional coping strategies. The sessions, led by Caroline Adshead, the college's Wellbeing Mentor, offered theoretical knowledge and practical applications of anxiety management, covering diverse aspects, from relaxation techniques to deep-breathing exercises. Caroline guided the participants through an array of techniques designed to help them manage stressful situations.
Workshops were interactive, informative, and tailored to the specific needs of students as the exam season got underway. One participant said, "[it's] useful to practice [these techniques] before an exam or similar situations." Breathing techniques can be a vital tool, especially during high-stress periods. Proper breathing can help to clear the mind, improve mental clarity, and increase the ability to concentrate. This is especially important during the exam period when students need to retain information and think critically.
Beyond the immediate benefits, these activities underscored the importance of mental health awareness and the need for continued conversations and strategies around it. Another participant said that the exercises "help with [their] sleep, " which plays a particularly important role for young people, especially those dealing with stress. Adequate sleep is crucial for memory consolidation, concentration, and cognitive function. It supports the brain processes responsible for learning, decision-making, creativity, and critical thinking.
Throughout the week, an information stand was also set up in The Street. This was stocked with anxiety and mental health resources, serving as an accessible hub of information and practical tools to help manage stress. From brochures and guides on anxiety management to supportive hotlines and websites, the information stand served to remind students that they were not alone and that help was always at hand.
As Mental Health Awareness Week concluded, the students carried away tips for surviving their exams and lessons in resilience, self-care, and mindfulness that will serve them beyond the academic year. Newbury College is committed to fostering a supportive and nurturing environment where students are vocationally successful and mentally resilient.
The week may have come to a close, but the dialogue around mental health and its importance continues. "We want our students to understand that their mental health matters. It's okay to feel stressed and anxious, and it's okay to ask for help," said Caroline. She added that the activities are just a small part of ongoing efforts to connect students with well-being resources and support.
Students who might require additional assistance dealing with anxiety are encouraged to reach out to Caroline Adshead (Wellbeing Mentor), Dawn Butcher (Student Support), or any member of the PASC team.