Support for DCU students in stressful times.

Anja Zauers

With the strange and uncertain times our country finds themselves in, students need all the support they can get right now, but what exactly does the college have on offer for those wishing to avail of such support?

Due to current restrictions as a result of COVID-19, DCU is unable to offer their usual walk-in services to students and staff.

Currently, all student support services including academic support, student advising, financial assistance and counselling are available online and through Zoom or Google Hangouts with links to access through the relevant web page or the main student support and development website.

Dr, Claire Bohan, Director of Student Support and Development (SS&D) in DCU ensures that all ‘mails are being replied to promptly’ with students contacting relevant services directly on a daily basis.

“Students are contacting us for a variety of reasons and engaging very well through online platforms. Suddenly having to work at home can be difficult for students, as not all students are set up for home study,” she continued.

One student who wished to remain anonymous has praised the DCU counselling service for their online work, outlining how it is a “great service” and how “support is there if people need it.”

Those who wish to avail of counselling can still do so by emailing counselling@dcu.ie to make an online Google Hangouts appointment.

The Students’ Union has also encouraged Wellness Wednesday to continue in an online capacity. This sees societies such as DCU Sober Soc and DCU Mental Health continuing their weekly Hangover Hub via Zoom, as well as DCU LGBTA coffee mornings and DCU Dance doing live Instagram workshops every Wednesday.

Having a good mindset is vital in order to get through this time, therefore SS&D have emphasised the importance of mindfulness during this period.

Mindfulness is a mind-body approach that helps us to relate differently to ourselves and our life experiences. It involves purposely paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism.

By engaging in this way, one may become more aware and less caught up in their thoughts and often find inner strengths and resources that help make wiser choices.

“In college, many students are often trying to manage their worries, anxieties, pressures, expectations and responsibilities while wanting things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when faced with new/challenging situations that confound our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Mindfulness can help us work directly with these experiences and situations,” said Helena Ahern, Head of Counselling and Personal Development in DCU.

Ahern has a number of online podcasts surrounding mindfulness-based stress reduction that students can download and take part in, lasting between 15-25 minutes. Some topics include mindfulness on breathing, sitting meditation and mindful movement practice.

These podcasts can also be used in conjunction with the ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Handbook’ which can be accessed just below the podcasts.

Practising mindfulness can have many benefits such as enhancing the mind’s ability to attend and to concentrate; increasing productivity; increasing the ability to manage stress; reducing anxiety, tension, low mood and depression; enabling better sleep and enhancing psychological and physical well-being to name a few.

For those who are unsure how to start, a ‘Mindfulness minute’ step-by-step guide is also available on the SS&D website.

As a number of well-being workshops were scheduled for the remainder of the semester, Ahern plans to present a mindfulness lunchtime session on the ‘Power of Now’ next Tuesday, April 14th from 1.00 pm – 1.40 pm via Zoom. Following that, Senior Counsellor, Ruan Kennedy, will also be presenting ‘Stress Management’ via Zoom on Wednesday, April 22nd to students as part of the Exam Bootcamp programme.

Ahern also encouraged the use of ‘Bibliotherapy’, which is the use of books for therapeutic purposes and is a term used to cover the use of self-help books addressing psychological issues such as coping with stress, anxiety, low mood, depression, relationships etc.  A list of books can be found at the following link: https://www.dcu.ie/counselling/bibliotherapy.shtml

During this time, the needs and welfare of students can often be forgotten about and pushed aside in order to focus on assignments or exams.

However, the most important thing to do for yourself right now is to look after your mind. The Psychological Society of Ireland has compiled a practical list of tips for well-being, prosperity and mental health which is available on their website at www.psihq.ie or on the DCU Counselling and Personal Development webpage.

Dr Bohan emphasises for those who wish to reach out but have not yet to do so: “We are aware, that there may be students who have not yet contacted us but may need our assistance. They should feel free to get in touch.”

Anja Zauers

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