Put simply, mental fitness is the capacity to cope with, and thrive in the face of, the psychological demands of life.
And there are a lot of these demands.
Consider your typical day. I wouldn’t be surprised if you experienced many of these psychological demands in a single day:
Dealing with people, getting work done, making multiple decisions, learning new material, trying to manage money, dealing with expectations (yours and other people’s), information overload, trying to make healthy choices (e.g. food, exercise), providing support to others, providing leadership, juggling multiple tasks at the same time, dealing with setbacks or failures, dealing with mental or physical illness, frequent transitions between activities, keeping a track of time, scheduling and organising, insert other psychological challenges here ___________
The demands on our brain are extensive.
The good news is that in the same way as we can build physical fitness in order to cope with the physical demands of life, we can also build mental fitness.
In fact, if there is one thing I really want to get across to students is that it is absolutely possible to develop yourself further, in a way that helps you cope, do better at your studies, and enjoy and engage more with life.
To assist in getting this message across, and show you the different ways you can build mental fitness, we (here at Health, Counselling and Disability Services) are developing a Mental Fitness Course!
At this stage, we are looking at having the following components to the course:
- a series of lectures on different topics (see below) delivered live, but also available online (FLO)
- self-assessment/ self-guided reflection tasks for each lecture that help you connect the lecture content to your own life
- practice tasks that you can start using straight away to make changes in your life
- clear guidelines on where to go next if you want to explore a topic further
- ongoing practice tasks and ideas delivered via a regular Mental Fitness newsletter
- access to a moderated forum to discuss mental fitness with other students
The course wouldn’t be graded, but there would be some requirements of students within the course, so that we can apply for Horizon Professional Development Awards points for anyone that completes the course.
Topics we have so far are listed below. Our goal is that the course provides a comprehensive coverage of the different domains of life that someone can consciously work on, to make improvements in their life.
- What is mental fitness and how does it apply to my life as a student?
- Mastering your emotions
- How to think effectively
- Understand yourself and your purpose
- Build positive and supportive relationships
- How caring for your body is also caring for your mind
- How to get financial control
- Safety: physical and psychological
- How to shape your environment in order to increase your wellbeing
- What is cognitive enhancement and how can do you do it?
- How to be good at what you do (study)
- Transitioning from study to work
- How to be an expert in establishing new habits
- How to help others with their mental fitness
- How to remain mentally fit for the remainder of your life – pulling it all together
By the end of the course, we want students to have a toolkit of specific techniques for handling common study, work and life scenarios.
Why are we building this?
Here at HCDS we know that tertiary study can be challenging, and we want to make sure that in addition to the Health, Counselling and Disability services that we already provide, that we are providing students with the skills necessary to successfully negotiate their time at Uni. More than that though, we want to teach the types of skills that will help students across their life, not just during their studies.
We’re also aware that everyone is different. For some people, their main challenges during their degree are academic, and so we will cover things like procrastination, perfectionism and common study hacks. For other people, it is personal issues like mental health problems that derail their study. For these people, there will be topics and resources related specifically to managing difficult emotions and evidence-based treatments for mental health problems. You might not find every topic relevant, but we’d be surprised if you didn’t find at least a couple of them relevant.
We’ve been writing about these kinds of topics on the blog now for 18 months and will continue to do so. However it seems appropriate to bundle some of that content into a specific course format, that utilises more traditional teaching methods to impart the wellbeing knowledge we have here at HCDS to you.
As we are developing the course over the latter part of this year, and into the new year, I will be posting our progress regularly on this blog.
If you are interested in playing a role in the development of the course (e.g. providing some feedback on content, or making suggestions for topics), please consider joining the Wellbeing for Academic Success topic over on FLO. There you will find discussion forums where you can share your thoughts on what should be in a Mental Fitness course.
Otherwise, stay tuned.