Staying well at LSE

Take care of yourself as you live, study and socialise at LSE

Your wellbeing is of great importance in order for you to study productively without burning out. Here's some guidance on how to ensure that you stay well while studying.

Self-care – what is it and why should I do it?

The concept of self-care is central to wellbeing. But for many people it is difficult to put their health (physical or emotional) anywhere near the top of their priority list, even if they embrace the idea of self-care in theory. This article (via Psychology Today) discusses the role of self-compassion in self-care and explains the importance of balance, and accepting our imperfections. 

For information on specific mental health issues (for example anxiety, depression), have a look at our external resources and support page.

Sleep

Not sleeping well can be a symptom or cause (or both) of mental health issues.  Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night. Whilst the odd disrupted night can be managed, ongoing sleep problems can take a toll on our wellbeing.  

Severe and persistent difficulty sleeping needs to be discussed with a medical professional, but there are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting a decent night’s rest: 

  • Keep to the same routine of waking and going to bed, even on weekends 

  • Take daily exercise (but not right before bedtime) 

  • Ensure your sleeping environment is optimised for sleep (16-18 degrees), and invest in earplugs or an eye-mask if noise or light are a problem 

  • Have a winding-down ritual before you go to bed (don’t study right until you go to bed) 

  • Avoid alcohol – it might put you to sleep initially but can lead to a broken night’s sleep 

  • Avoid eating large meals right before bed 

  • Stay clear of caffeine in the afternoon (tea, including green tea, contains caffeine, as does Diet Coke and other similar drinks) 

  • Avoid screen time right before bed as the blue light emitted by phones and tablets interferes with the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone 

  • Resist checking social media during the night – keep your phone away from your bed 

  • Bedtime reading unconnected to your studies (a novel for example) can help you switch off 

  • Mindfulness tracks specifically to help with sleep can help to calm a restless mind - try this one from MentalHealth.org

Exercise

There is substantial evidence to suggest that regular exercise can have a very positive impact on mental health, by improving mood, helping with sleep, and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise can take a variety of forms, so try and find something that you might enjoy and might be able to commit to on a regular basis. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • LSE’s Athletics Union has a range of sports clubs  

  • LSE Student’s Union has a gym offering a range of free classes

  • Student Central, near Russell Square, has a large swimming pool

  • Check the local facilities for your borough for access to other affordable facilities

  • Park Run organises free 5k runs in parks across London 

The mental health charity Mind have put together some further information about exercise and how you might be able to use it to improve and maintain your wellbeing. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander. 

With regular practice, mindfulness can help you manage feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, or discontent.

For further information and resources, go to our mindfulness page.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is characterised by constantly striving for unattainable or high-achieving goals in order to feel a sense of self-worth.

But whilst it is normal to want to do well, aiming for perfection is unrealistic and unhelpful. The pressure and stress you put on yourself may in fact end up undermining your efforts, as you may end up feeling too exhausted or overwhelmed to engage in your studies, as well as feeling that you will never be “good enough”.

Perfectionists tend to never be satisfied, so that even if they manage to achieve their goal, they quickly move on to worrying about the next thing they have to achieve (have a think whether this applies to you).   

How to address perfectionism 

  • Recognise the point of diminishing returns – beyond a certain point, editing and rehashing a piece of work will probably not improve it significantly. 
  • Learn to accept “good enough” and to appreciate the things that you have already accomplished.
  • Other people may seem to be doing far better than you, but the chances are many other people are struggling with similar feelings to yours. 

You can find more about overcoming perfectionism in this article from Anxiety Canada.

Procrastination and time management

Procrastination is when you put off important tasks, usually because they feel daunting, until you end up close to the deadline with very little time to complete it. Some people justify procrastinating by saying they work best under pressure.

A degree of procrastination may indeed be helpful in this sense, but for many, procrastination involves a constant sense of dread, and guilt for not working, with immense feelings of stress and anxiety when the task is finally tackled under pressure of an imminent deadline. 

Procrastination often goes hand in hand with perfectionism, as people feel so daunted by the prospect of having to produce something “perfect” that they would rather avoid it altogether. 

How to address procrastination 

As well as practical steps (see below), it's important to address the roots of why you are procrastinating. It’s possible that you are avoiding feeling hopeless and incompetent in the face of a task you’ve convinced yourself you can’t do a good job of. Is this a fair assessment of yourself? Can you aim to produce something that is good enough, even if not perfect? 

Some other helpful, more practical approaches: 

  • Break your task down into small steps  

  • Identify what is essential for your task (for example essential reading) and focus on that, rather than trying to complete additional work that is not strictly necessary 

  • Identify the time of the day you are most productive and aim to focus your work around it 
  • Try to face the most unpleasant task first, even if only for 10 minutes
  • Build in breaks to avoid becoming mentally and physically exhausted 

To learn more, take a look at LSE LIFE guidance on how to be organised.

 

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome, while not a medical diagnosis, refers to believing that you are not really deserving of the accomplishments you have achieved. For university students, it is often the feeling that you only got into your institution by chance, or for reasons unconnected to your ability (e.g. the institution needs the money, they need to fill certain quotas, they let you in “by mistake”).   

This TED Talk explains how to learn to think like a non-imposter.

   

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