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Leeds University's Space to Relax: Supporting students at exam time

All photos are credited to Leeds University Union

While it is important for universities to offer accessible and reliable support options to students throughout the academic year, there are certain points when students will require a little extra help to maintain mental wellbeing and fulfil their potential, such as the summer exams. Health and Wellbeing intern Martha Clowes tells us more about Leeds University Union's work to help students to focus and relax at this high-pressure time.

Space to Relax is a wellbeing focused revision and relaxation space run by the Student Advice Centre at LUU, as part of their health and wellbeing work. It takes place across two rooms - a designated revision room which has Lumie lights, plants and herbs, and a designated relaxation room which has music, crafts, free drinks and refreshments. This is to encourage students to physically separate their revision and relaxation time. Typically, students will set up in the revision room for the whole day and then use the relaxation space to take regular breaks.

Based around a different theme each year, Space to Relax 2017 is focusing on ‘bringing the outdoors inside’, in an attempt to alleviate the unhappiness many experience when having to revise indoors as the weather improves! Therefore there are plenty of plants and herbs in the rooms, as well as lots of fruity herbal teas. Students are encouraged to use the spaces however they wish to help them revise in a way that best suits their needs.

Students using the space can also talk to Martha about any worries or concerns they are experiencing - she can direct them to the appropriate services (e.g. the Student Advice Centre or their Student Support Officer etc.), if needed.

Alongside the Space to Relax, LUU also run a number of workshops to give students a variety of options to take a break and boost their wellbeing. This year, workshops include pet therapy with Pepper the Labrador, pottery classes, Lishi Tai Chi classes, Breathing Techniques and Meditation workshops, gardening with Bardon Grange (the University's community food growing project) and a new Power of Thought class.

To ensure that as many students as possible are made aware of these services and events, LUU work closely with the University's marketing team to produce promotional materials including fliers, online images, and a big poster which is exhibited in the main foyer. The Health and Wellbeing team also distribute information and promotional materials through their dedicated mailing list which includes University staff, student support officers and external organisations such as Leeds Student Medical practice. Information is also emailed to school reps and societies, and the project has been heavily promoted on LUU social media. Finally, the team physically distribute leaflets to relevant service providers and areas around campus, e.g. in the Study Abroad Office and Chaplaincy.

Martha describes some of the positive feedback she has received from students thus far: "I know many students find it a less stressful environment than traditional revision areas such as the libraries on campus. It isn’t as busy or hectic and students can take time to revise and relax in the alternate rooms which I think is really appealing." The fact that students can also eat and drink in this space helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere, as Martha explains: "Students have reacted really positively to the wellbeing aspect as well, feeling looked after with their free cup of tea and a space that doesn’t demand anything from them."

Follow the @LUUAdvice twitter account for more information on this work.

Indicator 2.3.1 of the Student Wellbeing and Mental Health Instrument of the ProtectED Code of Practice requires universities to promote good wellbeing and mental health for students at key points during their course.

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