All About Mental Health Self-Care

by Nikol Stoykova

Mental health is one of those things you may feel strong connection to or it may seem unimportant, distant, or unrelatable.

Even if you don’t think you experience or struggle with those big terms you’ve heard thrown around in the media more and more recently like ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’, we all have those low days when we maybe don’t feel like getting out of bed or staying positive. And even if you have the tendency to overthink or worry, here are a few tricks up on how to cope with a hard day and turn your day around!

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Image Credit: CC by Journaling/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Journaling/Google Images

This is something that really helped me change my perspective, worry less, and be really appreciative of the little things in life. I used to think journaling is boring, takes too much time, and is simply not the thing for me. Well, let me share how this journaling technique really changed my life.

Step 1: Take an empty notebook and turn it into a gratitude journal. (No need to go and buy a fancy planner that is going to cost you way too much!)

Step 2: Keep your new journal next to your bedside table. Every day when you wake up take no more than 5 minutes to fill this in your journal:

3 Things I am Grateful for Today: … … …

3 Things That Will Make Today Great: … … …

Daily Affirmation. I am: … … …

Step 3: Night time routine. Take 5 minutes before you go to bed to fill in the following in your journal:

3 Amazing Things that Happened Today: … … …

How Could I Have Made Today Even Better? … … …

Step 4: Try to keep up with your routine. If you feel like you’re too busy to spare even 5 minutes from your day, then say the answers to yourself in the shower. While you walk to class. While you brush your teeth. It’s easy. And it will change your life. If you allow it, you will notice positivity and hope seeping into your life because you took time to be humble and grateful for all the little things we usually tend to forget about in our busy lives.

(Idea is taken from The Five Minute Journal:

2. Positive Affirmations.

You might have noticed in the tip above something called daily affirmation. You might have seen positive affirmations and messages all around social media, persuading you that if you repeat them to yourself enough times, your life will be transformed.

Well, it kind of works like that and it doesn’t. It’s not about repeating positive quotes a bunch of times and then forgetting about it, it’s about being consistently exposed to positive messages and consciously making the effort to replace them with your negative thoughts. Your mind works on the foundation of habit, so if you catch yourself sometimes thinking negative thoughts, you just need to make the effort to change them with something positive. Of course, this cannot happen overnight; like everything else in life, it is a process that requires conscious effort. But it’s not that difficult either.

Take the time to write down a few positive quotes, sentences, or affirmations that you find to your liking (you can find plenty on Pinterest!). Then, stick them on your notice board or on your mirror, so that you expose yourself to those messages, sometimes without even consciously noticing them. You can read and repeat those affirmations you wrote for yourself without much thought or effort. Soon, you will notice how you will be able to remember them during your day and use them to battle your negative thoughts. It might seem like something small and not even worth the effort, but sometimes the smallest changes can impact us significantly. Try it out!

3. Try Meditation.

Image Credit: CC by Calm/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Calm/Google Images

Meditation is not about where you are or what you look like; it’s about taking 5 or 10 minutes of your day to clear your mind of all thoughts—and focus.

You don’t need to be sitting cross-legged or practicing some complicated yoga pose. All that’s necessary is some peace and quiet and an effort from your side to focus. Buddhist monks do it while writing scripts or walking in the garden.  All you need to do is focus on your breathing.

There are many apps nowadays that offer guided meditations and help you concentrate: some good ones are Calm and Headspace. Once you really make the effort to do it, you will see that it feels better than waking up from an afternoon nap: your mind is free of all anxieties, fresh and rested. You can do anything!

Finally, remember that the secret to good mental health and resilience is not one-size-fits-all. It looks different to everyone, and something what might work for you might not work for someone else. Nevertheless, self-care is an important factor in wellness and wellbeing. You take time and effort to exercise your body; so why not exercise your brain?

And remember, if you need any support of any kind, you are always welcome to contact the Warden’s team and talk about it.

Safety in London

The Independent ranks London as the eleventh most unsafe city in the world according to crime statistics in 2018. London has so many wonderful opportunities to offer, but if you are not careful, you might end up experiencing the opposite. As IH always looks after its residents and wants to provide the safest environment for all, we interviewed a victim of phone theft, one of the most common crimes in London, who experienced the accident right in front of our hall. We hope you take this opportunity to learn from her experience and also find some useful advice to prevent it from happening to you.

Could you tell us about your experience – what, how, and where the incident happened?

It was Sunday night, at 9 o’clock, and I was standing in the corner right outside the International Hall. I was checking my phone when suddenly a man on a bicycle came behind me and grabbed my phone (half of his face was covered).  The street was almost empty from cars and people.

The spot where thieves grabbed the phone

The spot where thieves grabbed the phone

What was your immediate response right after the attack happened?

He grabbed my phone, and he started cycling quickly in order to disappear. I was in panic, and I didn’t know what to do, so I started screaming and chasing him. Of course, it wasn’t possible to catch him all by myself because he was on a bicycle, but that was my reaction by instinct. I was lucky though. My phone’s plastic screen cover was broken and that made my phone look broken and old. So after a couple of meters, he dropped my phone on the street and disappeared.

Did you call for help? If so, who? Did you find help easily? Did they respond promptly?

The street was empty, so when I started screaming no one came for help.  There was a girl cycling at that moment, and she asked me if I am ok. But neither me nor her could see him because his face was covered.

Having experienced such an incident, what would you advise people to do right away?

I would advise everyone to ask for help immediately but stay calm at the same time, although it is difficult at that moment.

Do you think you could have prevented the incident from happening? If so, how?

Of course, I could have prevented the incident by using earphones and having the phone inside my pocket. The area is a little dangerous as for phone stealers.  I noticed also that in Russell Square tube station there is a similar announcement, that advices people to keep their phones safe.

The spot where the phone was dropped because it appeared as if it had a crack on the screen.

The spot where the phone was dropped because it appeared as if it had a crack on the screen.

How do you feel after your experience? Has your perception on the situation of safety in London changed after the incident?

When I first came to International Hall, I have been informed about these kinds of incidents. But I wasn’t very careful, until that happened to me. From that time on, I always try to keep my phone safe and invisible and to use earphones.

Do you have any advice for IH residents on how to stay safer on the streets of London?

I would advise everyone to mind their personal belongings in every way. It is better to keep your phone safe while you are walking, rather than walking and texting or scrolling through Facebook. Also, you need to take extra care of electronic devices such as laptops. When something looks expensive, it is more likely to be stolen. And my last advice is to never count money in public or hold a bank card in your hands. They can be easily stolen.  As for me, I was lucky enough because the thief thought that my phone was broken, so he ‘returned’ it back. We need to learn from our mistakes. We have to be very careful and I hope that no one will experience a similar incident.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from phone theft, visit this link to learn more:


5 Reasons to Lock Your Door at Uni

By Endsleigh Insurance

When you’re rushing around campus handing in assignments and trying to get to lectures on time, it can be easy to let the simple stuff, like locking the door to your room, slip through the cracks.

 “It’ll never happen to me”, you think to yourself as you head out for a quick seminar leaving your door unlocked. But according to research* by Endsleigh, 46% of students (or someone close to them), have experienced theft from their home, making it all the more important to take extra steps to make sure you, and your belongings, are safe.

 But besides protecting your belongings, here are five other reasons why it might be a good idea to lock your door while you’re away at university!

 *Endsleigh Lifestyle Survey 2017-18

1. You’d lock your front door at home…

 … so why do it any different at uni? It can be devastating (and expensive) to have your home or your car broken into, so treat your uni room exactly how you would your parents’ house. It’s also a good habit to get into for when you move out of student accommodation and live alone for the first time, as at that point you may not even have your flat mates there to remind you to lock up as you leave.  

2. To avoid pranks

 Everyone’s seen the multitude of photos online showing what can happen when your room is left unlocked at uni. From rooms filled with cups of water to walls plastered with post-its, if you don’t want to be the subject of any number of uni pranks then it’s probably a good idea to lock your door when you leave… 

3. Some space to breathe

 Sometimes university life can be pretty hectic and you may feel like you never get a moment’s peace. Going to your room for a couple of hours and locking the door to deter visitors may give you some much needed alone time. 

4. Keeping track of your keys

 We’ve all been there – when you’re in a rush to get to your lecture but your keys are suddenly nowhere to be found (and you can’t remember the last time you used them, either). If you’re constantly using your keys as you come and go, then chances are you’ll know exactly where they are at all times.  

5. Peace of mind

 The simplest way to ensure that all your valuables are safe and secure is to lock them in your room whenever you go out. The beauty of halls is that there’s an unspoken ‘open door’ policy, but even if you completely trust your flat mates it’s best to keep your door locked just in case someone you don’t know does manage to get in. For everything that could go wrong, it’s really worth that quick turn of the key to put your mind (and your wallet) at ease.

 Check your Cover here:


Diversity and Inclusivity Week – A Round-up

By Nikol Stoykova

Although Diversity and Inclusivity Week is coming to a close, here at the IH blog, we hope that for many of us, this is will only be a starting point for some extra motivation to be even more open-minded and curious about the world around us. That is why, after all the great events that many of us enjoyed throughout this week, we decided to put together a list of some of the more important points we hope to take away from this and come back to time and time again in the future. Yay for diversity and inclusivity!

Let’s start off easy….

What is diversity?

Image Credit: CC by Diversity/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Diversity/Google Images

Diversity is a term that takes all of the infinite number of human differences and all of the variety that exists in the world and puts it all together nicely and concisely into one word. Pretty cool, huh? Imagine how many faces and personalities hide behind it. On a most fundamental level, when we use this word, we refer to all aspects that make up a person and particularly, all of those that make them special. This starts from the basics such as age, nationality, and race, and can span all the way to rather complicated matters such as value system, personal and political beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, and much, much more.

Ok, we get it…

What about inclusion?

Image Credit: CC by Inclusion/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Inclusion/Google Images

Inclusion is exactly what it sounds like. It recognizes that all people are different in a wonderfully beautiful way and appreciates those differences. Pretty easy, right? But it doesn’t only stop there. Inclusivity also involves ideas about empowerment and a sense of belonging, it focuses on individual worth and dignity in variety. Imagine it like this: diversity and inclusivity always hold hands and walk through life together. One always makes the other make sense and vice versa.

Theoretically, it all seems pretty straight-forward. But for many people, it could be quite overwhelming when those terms leave the textbook and begin to take different shapes in real life. For a lot of us, this might be a year of firsts: and in the most cases, that includes the first time encountering so much variety in life. Let’s be honest, here in IH, we’re all about variety. That is why we are such big supporters of diversity and inclusivity.

Now, all of this is quite important, because it all takes up a great amount of our lives and is all around us, no matter if we notice it or not. In our homes, in our class, in our job. Here are some ways to keep positive and work on being the great people we all strive to be!

1. Accept that your brain is biased…

All of us make assumptions—every day, for everything, and uncountable number of times. Just think about it: the moment you set your eyes on someone, it’s most likely that you’ve already made some assumptions about them. We do it unconsciously, even when we’re trying to control it. That is why we encourage you to try to be more conscious about it. It’s almost like a challenge—just try and notice how many times a day you do it.

2. …and that’s okay, as long as you’re humble about it.

Now try to think about the number of times you’ve been wrong about something you’ve assumed. This is something completely normal, and it’s okay, as long as you acknowledge it in your mind and stay humble. Every person comes with a different story, and sometimes they might surprise us with something we haven’t seen or heard about before. And that’s okay as well.

3. Pay attention!

With so many people around and so much happening all the time, it’s easy to overlook many details that could go unnoticed. Be curious about the little things in people, because it is usually exactly this type of curiosity that is most appreciated. Try to remember the small details about them as well. Last step is, if you see someone overlooking someone else, being rude, or simply being unintentionally ignorant about something and you know it, call them out—gently. Don’t point fingers but try to show that you notice and you care about everyone being included.

4. Be mindful of your language

Try to be careful about what you’re saying and the way you are saying it. A lot of the time, we speak before we think just because it is something natural that comes to us. As much as language allows us freedom of expression, it can also be quite constricting for a lot of people without us realising it. Language tends to label everything just because that’s the way it works. Just remember that sometimes, things don’t need to be labelled—and maybe it’s better if they aren’t.

5. Keep an open mind and appreciate the advantages of diversity

In the end, diversity is a beautiful thing! And once we learn to recognise it and appreciate it, life can become so much more colourful and fun. And when you think about it, curiously enough, diversity can usually be the reason why a lot of people get together in the end!

5 Reasons to Be Excited About Living in International Hall (…or why IH is the best)

By Nikol Stoykova

We all know that living away from home is one of the joys of experiencing university life. Living in student halls can be freeing, exciting, nerve-wracking, very rewarding, and, most certainly, a different experience for everybody. In any case, here at the IH blog, we know that every single one of our residents, whether new or returning, comes to our hall with hopes, dreams, and expectations about what life at uni is like. Whatever you make of your first (or second, or third) year living in halls, we promise you that it will be a memory that will stay with you for a lifetime. And, to relieve some of your doubts or curiosities about what living in IH for the next year is going to look like, we put together a little guide for you. Here are 5 reasons why we think you’re going to have the best time with us!

1. The Location

Image Credit: CC by Russel Square/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Russel Square/Google Images

IH is located in Bloomsbury, in the very heart of London. That’s right – your new home is just a few steps away from Russel Square; 5 minutes away from the British Museum and 10 minutes away from King’s Cross; 15 minutes away from the busy Oxford Street and 20 minutes away from the Waterfront. Being so central, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to choose between immersing yourself in the busy and loud London crowds or stepping away from them and spending a peaceful afternoon in quiet. The good thing about our location is that there’s always something for everyone: Victorian architecture, quiet parks, busy streets, crowded pubs, or artsy bookshops. Mostly: always something new to explore. IH just never gets boring. Which brings us onto the next point…

2. Things to Do

Image Credit: CC by British Museum/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by British Museum/Google Images

You can never exhaust your options of what to do around IH—if anything, they might exhaust you. Living in Bloomsbury can serve any mood, need, and personality. Countless museums and art galleries surround us: starting from the Charles Dickens museum almost literally next door, to—of course—the British museum, the British Library, and the National Gallery. P.S.: Some more alternative options that we recommend are: The Welcome Collection, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and The Wallace Collection. If you’re not a museum type of person, then perhaps you might enjoy the parks around IH, such as Bloomsbury square gardens, Russel Square, or Tavistock square Gardens. P.S.: A secret alternative option we recommend is St. George’s gardens, a Victorian park with lots of flowers, not that many people, and a few charming tombstones. And if even that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then let’s talk about shopping and eating. Brunswick square right across the street is going to be your new best friend, and don’t even get us started on our restaurant options! Any dish you dream of is probably just a walking distance away from you. P.S.: If you’re a sushi/ramen fan, Eat Tokyo is a dream come true.

3. Friends

One of the best things about IH is that you get to live with your friends and be around them all the time! IH gives you the unique opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of places. Few other halls combine so many different people under one roof. Here, you will meet friends from other universities and courses, cultures, and backgrounds. Our advice is to stay open-minded, kind, and positive. The best way to make new friends is by going to our events and parties, getting to know people at dinner, and even meeting your neighbours in the lift. Mark our words: towards the end of the year everyone in IH is going to be your friend! #IHLove

4. Events

Did we already mention that the best way to meet new friends is by coming to all of our events? Yes, we did—because you totally should! IH already has your back with all of these awesome icebreaker events planned for you. If you still haven’t got a chance to take a look, you can find a list of all of them here. We promise you’re going to have a lot of fun and it will make getting to know everybody in the halls so much more exciting and stress-free! If you think that our cool events stop with Fresher’s, well, you’re wrong. Let us reassure you that throughout the year you will be seeing posters for more and more exciting events, so keep a lookout for those! On a more regular basis, we have lots of activities happening weekly around the hall, such as football practice, yoga, running sessions, FIFA tournaments and more. All of them a great way to relax and connect with others.

5. Extras

Image Credit: CC by Board Games/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Board Games/Google Images

IH has many surprises up its sleeve. For those of you who don’t feel like going out or just prefer to be lazy and stay in for the day, rest assure you won’t be bored. The music room and the piano room are always available for booking. Starting from this year, the piano has a new friend: a guitar. All music enthusiasts are welcome to try their hands on it or bring their own instruments down to the music room. If you’re more of a sporty type of person, IH offers a squash room and equipment for anyone interested to play. The squash room is also the place where yoga and HIIT sessions take place. And if you simply just don’t feel like moving, then the TV room is the one for you. Watch a movie or choose from a variety of PlayStation games to kick back with your friends. We also have a big selection of board games you can borrow from reception, such as Monopoly and Cards against Humanity. So much to choose from, so much to do!

However your decide to spend your time in IH, we are sure you’re going to have lots of fun and meet so many amazing people. We hope you’re as excited to meet us just as much as we are to meet you! And keep an eye out for the blog where we’ll regularly keep uploading some new inspiration on how to get the best out of living in London.

5 Best Spots for Outdoor Swimming

By Nikol Stoykova

If you’re spending summer in the city, but you’re dreaming about escaping to a sandy beach and laying all day next to the crystal-clear water, well, the IH Blog has got your back this time too! We might not be able to bring the beach to you, but we were able to do the second-best thing: find some beachy spots for you to enjoy an easy city escape on the hot summer days that are to come. Believe it or not, London is big on outdoor swimming pools and artificial beaches. If you’re not familiar with the term lido, now is the time to get acquainted with it! Lidos are public open-air swimming pools or beaches, and they are all over London! Here is a list of some of the best:

Serpentine Lido, Hide Park

Image Credit: CC by Serpentine Lido/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Serpentine Lido/Google Images

The Serpentine Lido is perhaps as central as it gets when it comes to finding a beach in the city. Located in Hyde Park, it is Britain’s oldest swimming pool. For less than £5, you get to enjoy a sun terrace and a whole day of open water swimming. Open in June, July, and August.

Hampstead Heath ponds

Image Credit: CC by Hampstead Heath ponds/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Hampstead Heath ponds/Google Images

If you’re looking for something fit for a tighter budget, then a day spent in the ponds of Hampstead Heath is worth giving a shot! If you missed the wonderful event that was organized by IH a few weeks ago, then now is the time to try it out. Hampstead Heath’s ponds are natural and are gender specific as well as mixed. The water might be chilly, but it sure will be refreshing!

Chesham Heated Open Air Pool

Image Credit: CC by Chesham Heated Open Air Pool/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Chesham Heated Open Air Pool/Google Images

If you fancy something a little less chilly, then you have to check out Chesham Moor Gym & Swim! They offer an open-air pool that even throughout the summer remains electrically heated for maximum pleasure and minimum chill! The pool opens very early and closes late, so you can enjoy beautiful sky views and stay in the water even when it gets chilly after dawn.

Parliament Hill Lido

Located very near Hampstead Heath’s ponds, Parliament Hill lido offers a brisk swim in the stainless steel lined pool that measures 60 m x 28 m. The only one in London, you can enjoy the beautiful metallic shimmer of the water – when it’s not packed with people of course. Open every day of the year, it is the best way to enjoy a fresh swim in the hot summer days!

Neverland London

Image Credit: CC by Neverland London/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Neverland London/Google Images

Of course, we saved the best for last. Neverland is London’s own beach bar near the Thames, complete with a sandy beach, beach huts, and daybeds near the water. It is the closest you can get to a beach experience in an urban setting. Tickets start from a little as £5 and are sure to provide you with the best summer in the city holiday experience!

Regardless of whether you spend your summer on an actual beach somewhere far from the city or busy in the city, we hope you take some well-deserved time for yourself and recharge for the new academic year! The IH Blog wishes you a wonderful summer and hopes to see you soon again in the fall!

IH Blog Recommends: 5 Hidden Picnic Spots in the City this Spring

By Nikol Stoykova

With spring break coming to an end and the dreadful period of end of year exams quickly approaching, it can all get a little too much a little too quickly. A quiet one-day escape from the madness of the city might be exactly the right motivation booster and de-stressor that we all need to fuel our brain and productivity. If you’re looking for a study getaway, a place for inspiration, a picnic date or a sunny day out with friends, then you’ve come to the right place! With the increase in sun we’ve been enjoying in London these days, the IH blog recommends a few hidden gems in the heart of the city.

Holland Park

Image Credit:   CC by  Holland Park/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Holland Park/Google Images

A little way off from Hyde Park, you can find Holland Park and enjoy its blooming cherry blossoms, dahlias, and a Japanese-style Kyoto garden complete with a waterfall, a decorative koi pond and a Japanese bridge: a true Monet painting come to life.

Battersea Park

Image Credit: CC by  Battersea Park/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Battersea Park/Google Images

If you like long walks along the Themes, then this is the place for you. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the peace and quiet Battersea offers. Find the Japanese Pagoda, take a stroll in the botanical gardens, and even meet some friendly deer in the mini zoo!

Richmond Park

Image Credit: CC by  Richmond Park/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Richmond Park/Google Images

Just outside this city, Richmond park is one of the biggest parks and a national nature reserve. Although it is a bit of a trek from the city, it is definitely worth it taking the train for a one-day adventure, especially for the hundreds of red deer that you can casually grazing the lawns or roaming about.

Highgate Wood

Image Credit: CC by  Highgate Wood/Flickr

Image Credit: CC by Highgate Wood/Flickr

For all the hardcore nature-lovers looking for a piece of wildlife haven in the city—well, Highgate Wood is as far as you can get to that in the city! It’s the perfect spot for a hike on the woodland trails or if you want to feel like you’re out in the countryside for a moment.

Horniman Park

Image Credit: CC by  Horniman Museum/Google Images

Image Credit: CC by Horniman Museum/Google Images

If you’d like to combine nature and culture, then in South London you can find a secret anthropological museum and 16 acres of beautiful botanical gardens. Visit the Horniman Park to find an aquarium and a butterfly house, as well as some friendly alpacas.

However you decide to go to enjoy the first blissful sunny days of spring, we hope you find the time this month to relax and take a break from studying to incite your motivation and refuel your energy. The IH blog wishes you a positive end of break and a most successful exam session!


Sources: Time Out London