Find your digital balance on University Mental Health day

Written by Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer and new team member of the Digital Education Office.

If you haven’t heard this phrase recently, here it is: ‘Unprecedented times’. Of course, this was the go-to phrase to try and describe the impact of the pandemic on a global and personal level. A lot has changed since 2020 including more teaching and social events taking place in-person. However, the dilemma we face trying to manage the digital world and our wellbeing remains.  

You may hear of some approaches to this such as getting rid of your smartphone, deleting all social media, and not looking at e-mails for an extended period. But these approaches to eliminate screen time are not realistic for a student navigating day-to-day university life.  

So, what digital tools can help you achieve digital balance on University Mental Health Day and beyond? 

Man looking at his phone
Man looking at his phone

Digital tools for focus and motivation.

Do you ever feel distracted and constantly switching between different screens and digital tools? You are not alone! Rather than making you feel less productive, there are digital tools and apps available to help you focus on the task at hand. The list of great apps to help student’s focus and motivation by AbilityNet is a great summary of some of the tools for you to try.  

Dark mode for a better nights sleep.

Student Minds recommends avoiding your use of screen devices at least an hour before you intend to sleep as one of their tips to improve your sleep. This can be easier said than done. Another approach to ease your transition from screen to pillow is to reduce the blue light being emitted from your screens.   

You can set your screens to night or dark mode a few hours before you intend to go to sleep. Steps on how to set your display for night time mode are available for Windows and Mac. Most smartphone will also have this mode available, so check your phone’s user manual for further information.  

Image of lit up laptop in a dark room
Image of lit up laptop in a dark room

Free Yoga, HIIT, and Meditation.

Cat stretching
Cat stretching

Being physically active is one of the NHS’s 5 steps to wellbeing, but going for a run or attending an online dance class can seem like a lot of effort despite the obvious benefits. Fitness apps such as Downdog offer guided Yoga, HIIT, Meditation and even Ballet Barre sessions at your convenience. You can set the time, level and intensity of the session which gives you control to fit it around your schedule. Even a 5-minute session of chair yoga is better than nothing right? Since the pandemic, Downdog has been and is currently still available free for students. Of course, there are other similar apps available, so if this isn’t for you, explore different apps or digital tools until you find one that works for you.  

Looking after the mental health of university students and staff is not a conversation just for University Mental health day. We hope these tips will help you create ongoing positive change to the future of your mental health.  

If you have any comments or further tips to share. Post them in the comments below! We would love to hear from you.  

Further support and resources
Whether you are a staff member or student, if you feel like you are struggling, it is always good to tell someone about how you are feeling. If you don’t feel able to do this, the University has wellbeing support for staff and students. We’ve also listed some further resources below.

Student minds mental health day poster

Digital Skills: What are they and what’s the point?

Written by Hamzah Teladia, Student Digital Champion.

We live in a digital age, and more of our lives will become digitised – therefore we must embrace technology. But where does University fit in? We all come to university for one primary goal – to get some kind of employment afterwards. For the vast majority of us, we will join an organisation that operates on digital platforms, and if you are in an ‘office job’ your whole job will likely be done via a laptop or computer.

Laptops on a table
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

University develops you as a person, giving you increased confidence and allowing you to develop your basic skills. These include organisation and communication skills, as well as increasing your knowledge in your chosen subject area or in whatever else you chose to be involved in. Underpinning all of this are your digital skills and competencies. For those of us who are getting through the Covid era, this has been more so the case than ever before. Before, as a basic, most of the material we accessed was via virtual learning platforms such as Blackboard, and we communicated with the University via email when we needed to. Now, we do this much more and have to rely on videoconferencing to interact with the absence of in person contact.

This means that these skills are more valuable than ever before. The workplace is changing, with employers who were not so receptive to remote working beforehand now embracing it. Those who already were have taken it further, therefore the culture of the workplace is changing, and we as the generation growing up with this change are equipped for it.

So, what are digital skills?

Simply, even checking emails and responding in a professional manner where necessary constitutes the basic of digital and professional skills. Employers look for and expect this as a precursor, and this impacts on the way you portray yourself during application processes.

Picture of a laptop keyboard
Photo by Chris J. Davis on Unsplash

Or, digital skills can be as complex as being versed in coding, data processing and visualisation technologies, if you have the opportunity to be exposed to these – likely those in computer science related fields or just a keenness to digitally upskill. If so, you are equipped for the data explosion the world is currently undergoing, and which underpins most of our institutions already – it is also experiencing more demand than supply.

Digital skills are therefore everything in between, but we can start with the small, basic steps. Check your emails regularly, as emails are part of professional life. Manage and use a digital calendar to schedule your time and meetings as a minimum. Think about netiquette and your wellbeing online. Exploit the access to various platforms on offer, such as the Microsoft Office suite. Cloud based platforms, such as Office 365 are all the rage and another additional to your digital toolkit, allowing you to collaborate effectively.

Digital skills matter more than you think, even the simple ones, and even realising this unnoticeable skillset will enable you to actualise the foundation for your future career.

Check Edge and Chrome are up-to-date if submitting work to Turnitin through Blackboard

If you are submitting work to Turnitin through Blackboard, please ensure your Edge or Chrome browsers are up-to-date, or use a non-Chromium browser such as Firefox or Safari. If you don’t, you may find your ‘resubmit’ button doesn’t work.

How to check your browser is up-to-date: Edge, Chrome

ICT Proficiency icon

ICT Proficiency

Knowing how to keep your browsers, software, and apps up to date is a really important digital skill. Often, updates fix known problems, improve security, and give you a better experience. As in this example, sometimes older versions of software experience bugs or problems, which can impact you at important times like when you’re submitting assessments. Most of the time, you’ll find the option to update your software in that software’s settings. If you follow the links in the post above, you’ll see how to do this in Edge and Chrome.