`Dear all

I hope you all had the opportunity to take a break and that you could connect with your family and friends.
I am looking forward to discussing topics with you in the webinars planned for this term.

New login system to attend the webinars

To access the link to the webinars, go to the Life Tools programme on Blackboard and select the module Life Tools webinar. Click on the module and you will see the list of webinars available. Select the one you want to attend, then click join (in black).
This link will be available 15mins before the start time. The link will take you directly to the webinar.
If you have any problems finding the link you can email me: m.a.penabizama@reading.ac.uk.

For more details about each webinar you can check the Life Tools booklet.

Also, check the Study advice team’s New Year’s blog post, and these useful resources produced by the Study Advice team:
Taking notes from online lectures,
organising your studies in a blended learning environment,
Studying at home
As we start the year, we continue to adjust to living in lockdown for a while longer to keep ourselves and those around us safe. Life is presenting us with a challenge and we can choose how we respond to it.

2020 was a very challenging year for people worldwide. We all had to adjust our expectations to a new reality. We can start the year with the awareness that we got through a difficult year, and look back and reflect on what we learned. Although this is not the start to the year we hoped for, we can make the most of our time and look for opportunities to move forwards with our goals.

This year we continue to face a lot of uncertainty, making it difficult to plan for the long term.

Starting a new term after a break can feel hard work, more so when working online as it can be more demanding.

We can manage it by focusing on things that we can do daily, and we can dedicate time to maintaining contact with others. Even if online get-togethers are not as satisfying as face-to-face meetings, technology allows us to socialise and strengthen our relationships.

A new year creates the opportunity to make changes that can make a difference in our day-to-day. What we do today will prepare us for the future. 

10 Tips to make a good start to the year: 

Focus on values: Keeping in touch with our values – what is important and meaningful to us. They serve as a guide when making decisions so they align with our purpose and sustain us through challenges.

Develop problem-solving skills: When dealing with uncertainty, we may find it more challenging to make decisions.

Worry thoughts can distract us from engaging in activities or from taking the initiative to make positive changes.

It is helpful to take time to understand our reactions and identify what is most important to us in the situation.  We can then start to explore other ways  of looking at the problem, discuss it with those we trust and seek information to clarify the issues to select an option. 

Develop a structure: It is best to have a flexible plan for the day. It helps to get into a rhythm that supports our efforts as we get back into work mode. It makes a difference in how we feel as it helps to manage our time and energy level.

Set realistic goals: Setting some doable goals in the short-term can help build the foundation for our longer-term goals. We can start by identifying a specific task, and then break it down into small steps. Noticing we have completed a small task will boost motivation to continue with the next one.

Be proactive: Notice when we are avoiding doing the things we need to do. When feeling frustrated, tired, or worried about difficult tasks, we tend to create excuses to explain why we are not completing them.

Often, we delay starting because we do not want to get things wrong. Accepting that setbacks happen, and learning from our mistakes, we can improve our work and boost our confidence to go onto the next step.

Create technology-free time: Taking breaks from working on our computers, will give our body a rest from looking at screens and as we get moving we will feel better and re-energised.

Prioritise healthy habits: It is essential for our health that we maintain our energy level to manage the demands of work and study, so eating well, doing some exercise, and connect with others are good to keep our body and mind healthy.

It is best to identify a few behaviours that we would like to develop, then experimenting with a time in the day when we will implement it.  The more specific we are with our plan the more likely that we will follow through with it.

Practise self-compassion:  We are dealing with uncertainty and adjusting to changes, so we need to use more personal resources.

It is essential to take a moment to breathe and give ourselves a bit of space to acknowledge our emotions. Going for a walk each day is good for our body and our mind.

We can create spaces to reflect on our experiences to learn from them. It is not pleasant when we make mistakes, but self-criticism only makes things worse. Instead, when we acknowledge our vulnerability as human beings. We can make mistakes, and despite our efforts, things may not work out as we hope. 

When noticing critical thoughts we can consider what we would say and do for our best friend. As we do for our friends, we know what to do to help ourselves when feeling under pressure.

Prepare for the future: Investing time and effort on things that we can do during the lockdown, and prioritising learning to develop knowledge and skills, is an excellent way to make good use of time to be prepared for when we can make longer-term plans. For now, keeping well and having a purpose will take us through the next period.

Notice the good: when dealing with ongoing challenges, it is helpful to focus on what is working, what gives us a moment of relief or something that makes us smile.

We are all in this together, and as the days and weeks ahead unfold, we can continue discussing ideas and strategies to keep us motivated and enjoying learning new things.

All the best for 2021!

Keep well and keep learning – See you in the webinars.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Mark Twain)