Shir Grunebaum, MSc Occupational Therapy student, outlines how the Occupational Therapy Society has been supporting students.
The Oxford Brookes Occupational Therapy Society is constantly seeking new ways to engage with, support, and advocate for students in the occupational therapy course.
As students enter the halfway point of their second semester, there has been an increase in general feelings of stress and worry. With some students going on their first practice placement in a few weeks, and others nearing graduation, students have progressively prioritised their studies, assignments, exams, and submissions over their own health and wellbeing. As such, the committee of the Occupational Therapy student society felt they needed to do more to champion the needs of students in their course and cohorts.
Every year around the world, people, organisations, families, and communities celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day. This special celebration is aimed to create a kinder world. In 2022, this special day was celebrated on February 17th, 2021.
Through their academic backgrounds, students in the Occupational Therapy student society learned the importance of self-affirmation. This theory states that through self-affirmation we are able to better adapt to different situations and circumstances through flexibility and moral decision making (Cohen and Sherman, 2014). In addition, self-affirmation theory emphasises that as individuals we do not need to be exceptional or perfect, but that instead we can be satisfied by being competent and adequate in different areas that we personally value (Sherman, 2013).
Importantly, there is scientific MRI-evidence which suggests that pathways in our brain that help us process information are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks. There is also research that self-affirmations can decrease health-deteriorating stress, and can make people less likely to dismiss harmful health messages.
Yet, a significant number of students in the occupational therapy cohorts felt that despite believing that in the end they would succeed with their assignments, tasks, dissertations, or exams, they still experienced significant levels of stress and anxiety, which at times could be overwhelming.
As such, the Oxford Brookes Occupational Therapy society decided that in order to honour and celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, and to remind students of their resilience and strengths, they would surprise the students first thing in the morning on Random Acts of Kindness Day with positive inspirational messages and words of encouragement and affirmation. These notes were posted all around the campus, including bathrooms, windows, student spaces, and so much more. In addition, similar notes were provided to the lecturers as well, as they too are experiencing high levels of stress due to the pending grading of assignments and dissertations, and the increasing support needs of their students. These notes contained a variety of messages, but all promoted wellbeing, self-care, and positive thinking.
The Occupational Therapy society also provides monthly wellbeing support emails to students who are on their practical placements, which can be very stressful for individuals. In these emails, the society provides students with important ways and ideas for promoting their mental health and mental wellbeing. Some examples of topics addressed in recent wellbeing emails include: identifying and managing emotional triggers, reflection for positive self-improvement, and tips for creating vision boards.
In addition, the society’s active social media page provides endless informational posts and reminders to students to take care of themselves and to appreciate their successes, learn from their mistakes, and overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.
The Oxford Brookes Occupational Therapy Society looks forward to the opportunity to continue to support and advocate for student needs and to create a foundation and platform for students as they progress through their education by fostering a supportive, cooperative, and wellbeing focused learning environment.