Workshop recap: How to maintain your wellbeing to be productive and to achieve your goals

16. October 2018
Group picture of 30 scholars standing in front of the OeAD
When the semester starts students feel excited and have a lot of expectations. But they also have a huge workload and feel the time pressure. Pursuing academic work while also enjoying social life and looking after health and wellbeing is the key to achieving goals. This is why on the 5th of October we organised a workshop on how to find a good work-study-life balance. OeAD scholars learned coping mechanisms to deal with stress, time pressure and health issues. They tried out practical exercises for relaxation and strength. Moreover scholars had the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with fellow colleagues.

1st part: Theoretical input on work-life balance

We started out with a lecture by Madeleine Garbsch, a psychologist who works for the Psychological Student Service. Work-Life Balance means to keep a balance between work and recreation as physical, emotional, mental wellbeing is a pre-condition to achieve personal and professional goals.

  • Connecting

The psychologist stressed the special situation of international students, as they live abroad and have to integrate into a new environment. Students might feel homesick and miss their friends and families. They have to deal with language barriers and to get used to a different university system. At the same time they feel the pressure to be successful and to complete the studies or research within a limited time frame. Getting acquainted to Austrian lifestyles, finding new friends and connecting with others is the key to feel at home abroad. Madeleine Garbsch underlined that pro-activeness is required: participating in tutorials / lectures, speaking up, asking questions, expressing your views or joining a group of people with same interests. Finding a balance between new acquaintances in Austria and staying in touch with family and friends back home is crucial.

  • Looking after your physical health and emotional wellbeing

Be aware of your emotional state and stress inducing thoughts and expectations. Care for yourself and looking after your physical health and emotional wellbeing, this includes the following: Allow yourself leisure time, do regular exercise, build social networks, and use relaxation and breathing methods. Explore your creativity and look for activities according to your interests and passion and give yourself rewards. This will motivate you to achieve your goals. Always keep in mind the bigger picture and use positive self-verbalisation e.g. “I have a clear objective I want to achieve and studying takes me there.”

  • Time management

Procrastination means postponing the task to the next day, week or longer period. Reasons can be work overload, no clear targets, uncertainties, negative expectations, and lack of motivation or even psychological reasons (depression, anxiety). Possible solutions are proper time management and setting realistic goals. Plan your semester, week, day: use a diary and to-do-lists, set measurable goals, and adjust to office hours if possible. Avoid night shifts as there is a risk of disturbing your body clock. And don’t forget to plan breaks. If you can’t complete a task on your own look for academic advice, ask fellow colleagues, tutors or your scientific supervisor. However if you feel depressed or anxious for a longer period of time we recommend to seek for professional help e.g. contact the Psychological Student Service that provides guidance for academic and personal challenges. Their underlying principle is to enable you to help yourself. All offers are free of charge and, if requested, anonymous.

2nd part: Practical exercises

In the second part of the workshop we focused on practical exercises for relaxation and strength. Regular exercises are crucial to mental wellbeing and stress relief. In times of high pressure it might be difficult to allocate much time to physical exercises. Therefore, short but effective exercises, which can be easily integrated in the daily routine, were presented.

  • Exercises for your back, eyes and relaxation

Barbara Sutrich explained exercises to relieve tensions in one’s upper body and neck as well as exercises to tone one’s muscles. Additionally, she presented QiGong exercise. QiGong is one component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and offers lots of exercises to calm down. QiGong also comprises exercises to relax strained eyes like palming. Barbara also gave tips and how to’s. Here are some: weave your workout into your life instead of working your schedule around gym hours – a daily 5 minute workout is more consistent than running to the gym every fortnight. While exercising, keep your core muscles firm; and be creative: use apples as weights or filled water bottles.

  • Yoga exercises

Nikoleta Nikisianli showed some simple but very effective yoga exercises. Yoga classes consist of a combination of breathing exercises, physical exercises and meditation, though the focus of this session was only on physical exercises. Yoga promotes health and can help to prevent diseases. There are several benefits, such as gaining proper alignment, increasing flexibility and strength, relieving pain and achieving relaxation. This session focused mainly on spinal health. Exercises were shown that can take the spine through its full range of movement, meaning spinal extension and flexion, lateral bends and twists. Additionally, exercises for stretching the ankles and relaxing the hips were shown to the participants. It was stressed that the majority of these exercises can also be done during short work breaks at home or in the office, as the variety of stretching exercises reaches from standing, lying, kneeing and sitting poses.

Our colleagues stressed that all these exercises can be beneficial but they do not replace medical advise. In case of chronic and / or acute pain you should be examined by a health professional in order to get an accurate diagnosis.

3rd part: Interactive session

The last part of the workshop was an interactive session, where participants had the opportunity to share ideas, and experiences with their fellow colleagues. The following points are the result of these group discussions. The first question was about:

"How do you manage time and stress?"

  • Find the reason why you are stressed

First of all you have to find the reason why you are stressed. For example, if you miss your family, create time to talk to them. You will then be more focused on your work.

  • Talk about it

Moreover, it is very important to talk about your problem. Even though it might be difficult due to tight schedules, find time to share your problem with your friends or colleagues, or communicate with your family.

  • Organise yourself

Sleep at regular hours and wake up early. Usually, people are more productive in the morning. Have a goal for the semester and a plan for the day or week, or even plan activities the evening before. Keep in mind to set realistic goals that can be achieved in a certain time. This helps you to stay on track and will keep you motivated. There are strategies for time and stress management that can be learned. Check out workshops that are offered at your university.

  • Keep the body and mind active

Any kind of activity according to your interest can help to distract you and free your mind. It can be cooking, walking in the park, listening to music, singing, dancing or going to church. A change of environment or switching to a different activity was recommended by the participants. Take a tram and go somewhere without a destination, travel or make a trip to a new place. Everybody agreed that staying away from social media can save you a lot of time. And of course you are invited to join OeAD events!

  • Think positive!

"How do you integrate physical exercises into your daily life?"

With regard to the second question on “how do you integrate physical exercises into your daily life” the participants also came up with a lot of ideas.

  • Daily short exercises

Climb stairs instead of using the elevator or walk short distances instead of taking public transport or a car. Go for a walk in one of the many parks in Vienna, visit the Danube Island or ride a bike. Explore the hiking paths and beautiful sceneries of Vienna. All paths are well signposted, accessible by public transport and descriptions can be found on this website

  • Going to the gym or yoga classes

The University Sport Institute (USI) for example offers a variety of sports courses for students at affordable prices.

Volkshochschule (VHS) also offers cheap courses and they have many locations in different districts of Vienna.

Generally, in cities like Vienna you can find many different sport facilities.

  • Exercise with like-minded people

There are many different activities you can do. If you meet your friends while doing exercises, you will be more motivated to get active and it is more fun. For example take part with your friends at the Vienna Uni Run.