Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Who are you going to call? Stressbusters

I spotted an interesting article in the September edition of OTN about dealing with stress as a student.  Written by a forensic mental health occupational therapists it illustrates some research into the various coping strategies individuals employ at times of stress.  The top five strategies for dealing with stress were; 
1  talking to friends and family 
2  taking a break
3  exercising
4  seeking help to solve the problem
5  analysing the problem

When I reflect on the above I'm very good at 1 and 2....I'm getting back into 3 after a very long break...pretty good at 5 and very bad at 4!  How about you? 
I feel like the word stress and the concept of being 'stressed' is over used into today's society with people self diagnosing  when things get a bit busy.  Although, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) define stress as the relationship between a person and their environment which is perceived by the individual as exceeding their resources and threatening their well being.  Therefore, everyone seemingly has a different threshold for stress. 
Being a student brings a unique set of stressors - the article describes them as; academic level of coursework, volume of coursework, commitments outside the course, examinations and hours of study required.  Gulp!  Don't be put off!  You have all those coping strategies to use remember - plus your own personal strategies you have developed over the years!  You are in good company too - everyone else on your programme is probably feeling just the same! 
Planning and prioritising is also the key.  And don't suffer in silence - I wasn't very good at visiting my personal tutor while I was a student and would attempt to work things out by myself.  Far less painful to go and talk things through in reality!  Plus don't forget the other popular concept of work life balance.  Something we encourage our service users to achieve but sometimes we overlook on a personal level?  Support each other and enjoy the challenges academic study brings - it is all worth it in the end :-) 

Lazarus RS and Folkman S (1984) Stress, appraisal, and coping.  New York: Springer Publishing Company

Friday, 3 September 2010

On your marks...get set...

I completed my first presentation for the new academic year today....just down the road at London South Bank University.  A group of roughly 50 accelerated students just a few days into their OT programme.  It was good to dust off the old memory stick and give a presentation after the summer break, although I return to the office with plans to tweak my presentation slightly. 

I realised the other day my 10 year anniversary as a qualified OT is just around the corner - 2011!  I've got plans to organise a reunion for my fellow 'Course 98' peers back in Cardiff.  I can remember my first day at university very vividly.  Lots of introduction, tours, forms to complete and instructions on how the programme would run over the next few weeks.  It was very exciting but with a healthy dose of scary thrown in for good measure.  Although 10 years have passed I'm pretty certain these feeling still apply for the students I met today...and the many other students starting in a few weeks. 
But as one group graduates all over the UK are considering their employment options.  Although jobs are more competitive today then for me 10 years ago the opportunities are far greater.  Today, an occupational therapist can achieve consultant status - something that certainly wasn't possible 'back in the day' when I graduated!  Standing out from the crowd when it comes applications is relevant in every profession  but for an occupational student getting involved in the professional body is a great way to do so - and ironically not something that I ever considered!

I will look forward to meeting many more students over the next few months.  September, October and November will see my memory stick and I travel all over the UK.  I've become very knowledgeable about train stations and best coffee shops in each of the towns and cities I visit - so watch out I might be appearing at your University very soon. :-)