I’d like to thank the Flinders Psychology Students Association and the Social Work Students Association for inviting me to speak at their inaugural Mindfulness in May session last night at the Oasis Community Centre.
A small group of both in-person and online folk came together for some COVID-safe pre-packaged snacks and a chat about how to balance the challenges of study and our mental health.
I rambled talked for about ½ an hour on a range of topics: my role at the uni, mental health promotion, taking a broad view of what ‘mental health’ means, ingredients of good mental health (habits) and when to seek out help.
Psychology Students Association member Sophia then read aloud some short student pieces on how they stay on top of their workload. I was pleased to hear in those accounts a strong focus on self-care and using evidence-based study strategies. I hope to include these accounts in a future edition of ‘getting off to a good start guide’.
After the talks I was able to have a couple of great conversations with students, particularly focused on the challenges of overcoming procrastination and the value of learning that productivity can, at times, be separated from our emotional state. We can get good work done even if we don’t feel like it in the slightest.
As we packed up the room and returned all the equipment to the student association offices, we talked about the benefits and challenges of student-led initiatives like Mindfulness in May. It became clear to me that students who pursue representation on associations or council have to navigate a complex balancing act of their own: their own study goals vs wanting to improve the study outcomes of their peers. I left with more admiration of what it takes for students to take on these roles.
I also heard something that made me a little sad. That is, for many students in the modern age there is a strong feeling of pressure to be doing many things in addition to their studies to demonstrate their value and skillset. It reminded me of my high school report cards which repeatedly said something along the lines of “doing well academically, should do more extra-curricular activities” [this might seem a little amusing to those who know me now and the number of parallel projects I run at the same time].
Some of that pressure inadvertently comes from the uni itself. Consider Orientation Week where we showcase to new students the vast array of things they can get involved in whilst they are at Flinders. Whilst well-intentioned, this can carry the underlying message that students ‘should’ do these things, rather than ‘could’.
It is actually totally OK to just focus in on your studies and build momentum and confidence in that domain before tentatively setting out to incorporate other aspects of the university experience. There is a vast richness of knowledge and skill to be developed, just in your degree, so the idea that you must incorporate other experiences alongside that in order to be considered a ‘well-rounded’ individual is unfortunate.
This isn’t to discourage you from partaking in the other opportunities of university. Do the occasional Horizon course, attend some of the social events attached to your college. But if just trying to be the best you can be at your degree is your main goal whilst at uni, that is totally OK. When I was at uni, I built richness into my life with what I did outside of university (work, music). But whilst I was on campus, I was pretty single minded.
I look forward to seeing where both associations take the Mindfulness in May concept from here, and I also look forward to helping out, where I can, with the noble goals of these two groups.