In a bid to support anxious students and their parents awaiting A-level results this Thursday (17/8), an academic team from Middlesex University London’s Science and Technology Faculty has developed what is believed to be the first robot presenting a mindfulness video to camera.

The video is full of free stress-busting tips to support students facing unexpected A-level results and going through Clearing.

The team at Middlesex programmed Pepper the robot to present the innovative mindfulness session with expert input from the University’s Psychology Professor, Mark Coulson. He said:

“Results Day and Clearing may be the most stressful event that some students have faced. My message to them is that there is no escaping stress in life but knowing how to deal with it can minimise the unpleasant emotions it can cause. It’s really important to remember that help and support is out there and the Clearing teams at Middlesex University are waiting to advise people. You may not have considered Clearing but plans change in life and knowing how to deal with stressful unexpected change is an important lesson. And you know what, Clearing can offer you fantastic choices so keep an open mind.”

Commenting on Pepper’s video, Lucy Everest, Pro Vice Chancellor and Director of Marketing at Middlesex University London said:

“Mindfulness techniques can help people deal with very intense situations such as Clearing. This is a time where young people may have to make new life choices and perhaps change what they had their hearts set on. But it can also be a really positive time and many students look back and are really pleased about the new pathways Clearing gave them.

 “And it’s important to remember that universities around the country are geared up to support people going through Clearing. Middlesex University phones will be open at 7.30am on Thursday and we want to assist as many people as we can.”

Middlesex University Clearing telephones (over 100 lines) will be open from 7.30am on Thursday 17 August until 7.30pm in the evening. Lines will also be open on Friday, Saturday and the following week.

Professor Mark Coulson’s advice on stress busting tips for A-Level Results and Clearing are below:

  • Before you find out your results remember there are actually two types of stress – distress which most people have heard of and also eustress (good stress) - strong feelings that can be helpful to energise body and mind, helping you to perform well in challenging situations. The good stress can motivate you to seek out support and advice if you do get unexpected results.
  • Stress manifests itself in your body and you can take note of it and notice where it is, which might be in different places for different people (for instance, your neck, your chest, your stomach, your arms. Learning to spot your ‘stress thermometer’ and recognise that you are experiencing this feeling can help you manage it. Don’t let the stress take over – you need to find the energy to potentially make lots of calls and take in a lot of information.
  • You can take a mindful approach to stress reduction and detach your emotional responses. Remember that these are just feelings – it is your mind which labels them as stressful, and it is this label rather than the feelings themselves which affects your behaviour. Whenever we think about stress we use brain power which could be used instead for solving the problems which caused the stress in the first place. Instead, when you have stressful feelings, welcome them, don’t mind them, let them be and they will probably go away faster than if you worry about them. And the faster the feelings go away the quicker you can develop an action plan of what to do next.
  • Stressful times don’t last and you can enjoy negative experiences when looking back. Indeed the emotional reaction to experiences is malleable. Emotions are the result of a particular way of thinking which you can interrogate. Why is it stressful?  Can you just experience these experiences for what they are, without giving them labels?
  • A simple way of using mindfulness is something called the three step breathing space.  First, notice all the sensations, thoughts and emotions which are present for you right now.  You don’t need to do anything other than notice them.  Next, bring your attention to your breath for as long as feels right for you.  It might be a couple of breaths, it might be a couple of minutes.  Now, open yourself up to all the sensations, thoughts and emotions again, and decide what’s best for you to do right now. Clearing can offer a whole new world of choices, open yourself up to this experience.
  • Fighting stress is a bit like a Chinese finger trap, the more you try to fight stress/try and pull out of the trap, the tighter the grip.  Paradoxically, allowing things to be just as they are may be the most powerful way to change them, and reduce their power over you.  All suffering comes from wanting things to be different from how they are, so maybe learning to accept more things for what they are will make us all less stressed, and improve our wellbeing. Not getting the results you expected can be very stressful and incredibly disappointing but try and accept the situation and remember there are new choices and options in front of you. And seek help from Middlesex and other universities.

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