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FEATURED BLOG POSTS

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Stop what you’re doing, just for a second. It’s time for a quick mental health check.

Mental_health_awareness_image

These days we’re allso caught up being busy, our mental health often takes a backseat to all the things that must be done now, now, now! Argh. Life in the digital age can be exhausting, and unfortunately mental health issues still seem to have a weird stigma attached to them, despite the fact that approximately 3 million Australians are living with depression. 

Identifying the factors which impact our mental wellbeing is something we can all personally benefit from, and in turn we can learn to help others. So, what’s the deal? What can we do in the short term to improve our everyday lives? 

  • Sleep. Sounds easy enough, right? Yet so many of us are ignoring this very basic human need. A solid night’s sleep helps to repair and restore your weary brain, and getting enough of it is a simple (and comfortable) way to alleviate stress and anxiety.
  • Eat healthy food. Hear me out – I’m definitely not saying all snacks are evil, but rather that poor nutrition has been linked to adverse side effects on your poor old brain. So, go on, give it a boost with some healthy eats.
  • Exercise. Ok, I’m starting to sound like a GP at this point… but again, studies show that exercise (or lack thereof) can directly impact your mental state. Keeping active releases all the happy endorphins, and drastically reduces stress.
  • Build relationships. Having a strong support network of people you trust is a great way to improve your mental health. After all, it’s a lot harder to be unhappy when you’re surrounded by people you care about, and who care about you in return.
  • Work hard, preferably at something you enjoy. It’s a well‐known fact that in order to get through life you’re going to need to work. And the impact your work has on your mental health is huge! Even if you’re stuck in a job you hate (because, money), you can at least try to focus on a side project that gives you a sense of purpose and enjoyment.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Feeling down? Alcohol (or any drug) is not your friend, even though it may seem like it at the time. Sorry guys.

Yes it’s true, working towards improving your wellbeing takes time, but is definitely worth the effort. You’ll gain a better understanding of your own life triggers, and in turn be better equipped to help others who may be struggling. Which brings me to my next point, or rather, question – what are the warning signs to indicate that someone might need help, and how can you offer that help without being too invasive?

There are so many resources available to us for managing mental health, but typically when we’re feeling depressed or anxious we’re unlikely to seek help on our own. We might need a little push, or simply to have someone to sit and listen. The R U OK website provides information on how to approach someone who is exhibiting signs of personal stress or mental health issues, which can include increased agitation and aggressiveness, or withdrawal from social activities. If you notice someone behaving outside of the norm, the tools provided on this site can be really helpful in managing the situation appropriately. 

Of course, not all mental health problems can be solved by reading a blog post (hey, I tried!) or a quick run on the treadmill, but fear not – there are many professionals out there who are equipped to deal with the bigger issues. If you’re concerned about yourself or those close to you, and aren’t sure who to turn to, these awesome Aussie organisations are always ready to help:

There are also a number of apps available for download that can help to ease day‐to‐day stress, such as Smiling Mind and Headspace. These are particularly useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a quick reset. The most important thing to remember is that mental health issues will affect each and every one of us at some point in our lives, and that it’s OK to ask for help, as well as to offer it.

 


Peta BradyThis post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and grammar pest.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Getting what we want out of life doesn’t always come easy, and quite often we’re not even sure what it is exactly that we’re chasing in the first place. And even if you do manage to pinpoint what it is that you want, getting it can seem stressful or out of reach, and so it gets set aside for another time, or forgotten about completely. Setting goals is something we all know we should be doing, but many of us don’t – at least, not until it’s time for the annual New Year’s resolutions. One reason for this is that while setting a goal seems fairly straightforward, actually achieving it isn’t always so. But fear not, there are many ways to get where you want to be, and that’s what this post is all about – a tried and tested method for setting and achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

First, make it SMART.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘SMART goals’ before – it tends to be thrown about in most workplaces from time to time. SMART is the most well‐known and effective approach for setting and achieving goals, and can be applied to long, medium or short‐term goals of any kind. The first step in setting SMART goals is to figure out exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve. Once you have this clear in your mind, you can begin to break your goal down into achievable, bite‐sized pieces. So, what does SMART stand for? SMART is a clever acronym that allows you break your goal down into individual steps or thought‐processes.

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Acceptable/ Attainable

R: Reasonable/ Realistic

T: Timebound/ Timely

Now, let’s take a look at these steps in more detail.

SPECIFIC

Setting specific goals is crucial if you want to succeed. And while many people prefer to ‘keep their options open’, setting vague goals isn’t going to get you anywhere fast. So, best to keep it specific.

When setting your goal, consider the following:

 What exactly do you want to accomplish?

 When and where do you want it to happen?

 Why do you want it to happen?

 Do you know how you’re going to get there?

Using action words like ‘increase’, ‘establish’, ‘reduce’ and ‘create’ can help to keep your mind focused on the specific outcome you’re aiming for. For example:

“I want to increase my annual salary to $60,000 within the next 12 months” as opposed to “I want to earn more money”.

MEASURABLE

Imagine you are playing a video game that doesn’t let you know your score, or even your progress. Where is the incentive to continue? Nowhere, that’s where. The same applies to your goals – how will you measure the results? And more importantly, how will you know when the goal has been achieved? Ensuring your goals are measurable allows you to know when you’re making progress, and that you’re on the right track. These two things will give you the motivation to take action. Ask yourself, how can I quantify the outcome? Can I put a dollar figure or other form of tangible result against my goal?

ACCEPTABLE/ ATTAINABLE

Setting attainable goals means setting goals that you believe you can achieve with just the right amount of effort. When your goal is slightly out of reach you will feel much more motivated to strive for it, rather than giving up because it is too hard (or too easy). You are likely to encounter some negative ‘I can’t do it’ thoughts during this phase of the goal setting process, but this is totally normal! Change can be scary, and if your goal isn’t challenging you then is it even worth doing in the first place? Make sure your goal is something you really want, and something that gets you feeling excited for the end result. A boring goal isn’t exactly the best motivator.

REASONABLE/ REALISTIC

It makes sense that your goal should be realistic, otherwise you’re unlikely to even take the first step! The thought of achieving your goals should motivate you to take action, rather than leaving you feeling immediately defeated or wondering where to start. For example, if your goal is to ‘lose 20kg in 6 months’, not achieving this will definitely leave you feeling deflated, and you’ll probably just give up altogether and hit the snacks aisle. A more realistic goal would be to ‘increase my exercise regime from 2 sessions per week to 4 sessions per week’.

TIMEBOUND/ TIMELY

Timing is yet another reason to make sure your goal is realistic – you will only set yourself up to fail if you start out with an unrealistic goal and a tight timeframe. Setting yourself a deadline is a great incentive to get moving, but you need to make sure you have the resources available to achieve the goal within the set timeframe.

‐‐

So, can you now see how setting SMART goals will increase your motivation and lead you to achieving exactly what you wanted? Remember, once you get serious about your goals, you’re going to get some serious results!


Peta BradyThis post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest. 

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Sammi Morgan, Open2Study Officer

We are forever telling our students what a great opportunity Open2Study is. How you can use it to expand your knowledge, up your skills, put your certificates on your resume; but one of our students has done something much, much more spectacular. Nick Capper has created a Comedy Show 'Quantum Bad Boy' and it’s based on the courses he studied on Open2Study!

It’s kicking off here at the Melbourne Comedy Festival on Saturday 21st April 5.45pm and then on Sunday 22nd April 7:00pm at the European Bier Café.

It would be hard not to believe that we didn’t send Nick out as our own personal marketing ploy, having been seen on ABC TV, Comedy Central and heard on Triple J, RRR and The Little Dum Dum Club spruiking his comedy genius. It was actually Nick’s father that introduced him to Open2Study with a Mobile Robotics course, and he has gone on to complete many others – finding that not only did he enjoy the feeling of achievement.. but that he was able to acquire more and more laughs as he went on.

 

Nick has already graced Melbourne with his wit, but you haven’t missed out.. there are still 2 shows available!!

 

So, if you have some spare time, check him out. Or even better, let us know what you do with your Open2Study Courses that is out of the box!

 

For a quick sneak peak of Nick’s comedic gold – check out this article!

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Starting – or returning to – university is most definitely an exciting time for any student, but it can understandably also be a little daunting. In order to combat some of the anxiety that can arise at this time, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the work that lies ahead. Of course, preparation means different things to different people, so we’ve compiled some of the most effective ways to get yourself into a study frame of mind, before you actually hit the books.

healthy-person-woman-sport-starting-running-on-track

Get organised:

By making sure you have everything ready for the semester ahead. Make a list of everything you need and ensure you tick everything off – include everything from pens and notepads, to course reading material and your laptop. The simple act of ticking things off a list will fill you with a sense of achievement before you’ve even kicked off your course!

Get social:

Most universities, whether online or on‐campus, will have some sort of social media community that you can join to meet and interact with other students. Making a few friends before you start is the perfect way to eliminate, or at least minimise, any social anxiety you may be feeling.

Get healthy:

When your brain and body are working in harmony, you’re bound to get better results. This means stocking up on healthy ‘brain foods’, and ensuring you get enough sleep and exercise. Check out our Student’s Guide to Healthy Eating for some brain‐powering tips, and our Quick & Easy Recipes for the Freezer for some simple meals to keep you focused for longer.

Get reading:

It’s likely that you’ll receive a course outline and some initial topics for reading prior to your course commencement, so why not get a head start? Having an idea of what’s coming up is a great way to alleviate stress and help you manage your workload going forward.

Get the mindset:

Whatever you can do to put yourself in a positive frame of mind before you start studying is worth doing. This can be any activity that makes you feel good! Try yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading, sports, cooking – really, whatever works for you! If you start the semester feeling happy, you’re more likely to end it that way as well.

 


Peta BradyThis post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and grammar pest.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Planning a Christmas vacation? Get your passport ready, because we’ve rounded up some of the world’s top destinations for viewing spectacular Christmas lights and decorations. All you have to do is decide which one to visit!

Rockefeller Center, New York City

For Christmas tree (and Home Alone 2) enthusiasts, Rockefeller Center is an absolute mustsee at Christmas time. The 80ft (~24m) tree was first lit in 1933, and is decorated with around 45,000 lights each year, providing the perfect ambiance for the popular ice‐skating rink beneath.

Rockefeller center xmas lights

 

Kobe, Japan

Each year the town of Kobe, Japan plays host to a spectacular light show, known as Luminarie. Now in its 21st year, the festival was first conceived as a memorial to the victims of the Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and continues to draw holiday crowds from around the world.

Kobe Japan Xmas Lights

 

Hong Kong, China

Christmas may not be a traditional Chinese holiday, but that certainly doesn’t stop Hong Kong from getting into the festive spirit. With hotels, shopping centres, and the city skyline adorned in decorations, you can take in the sites while enjoying delicious food, extravagant light displays, and celebrations around the city. Take an evening cruise along Victoria Habour for a truly magical experience.

Hong Kong Xmas Lights

 

Gothenburg, Sweden

Christmas in Gothenburg is like visiting a fairytale wonderland, with enough Christmas spirit to win over even the biggest Grinch. Old traditions seamlessly blend with new, and the streets are lined with markets and glittering lights, while the traditional songs of Lucia fill the air.

Gothenburg Sweden Xmas Lights

 

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Bring the kids and an empty tummy for this Christmas adventure, because Monte Carlo sure knows how to throw a party. With gourmet food, markets, and a delightful Christmas village featuring arts & crafts, regional produce, rides and a skating rink, the whole family can experience a very merry Christmas indeed.

Monte Carlo Xmas Lights

 

Carnaby Street, London, England

If you’re into shopping, Carnaby Street in London is the place for you this Christmas. With some of the most distinctive lights in town, you can take in the flamboyant decorations while maxing out your credit card at one of the street’s notorious shopping parties. Even better still, visitors are treated to a 20% discount at most of the shops in this highly fashionable district.

Carnaby Street London Xmas Lights

 

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a truly wonderful place to soak up the Christmas spirit. Book yourself in for a tour and see many of the city’s landmarks in all their illuminated glory, including Brandenburg Gate, 16th century cathedrals, and Friedrichstadtpalast – the largest theatre in Berlin. Berlin is also well known for its vibrant Christmas markets, including the Schloss Charlottenburg, Gendarmenmarkt, and Potsdamer Platz markets.

Berlin Xmas Lights

Frankfurt, Germany

The Frankfurt Christmas Market is undeniably one of the biggest Christmas markets across Germany. Here the scent of baked apples, chestnuts and bratwurst sausages fills the air, and thousands of glittering fairy lights complete the festive setting. Take a stroll through the scenic light displays surrounding the Römerberg and St Paul's Square, and find the perfect one‐of‐a‐kind Christmas gift in the St Paul’s Church market.

Frankfurt Germany Xmas Lights

 

Bogota, Colombia

The Colombian capital really knows how to take Christmas to the next level. And as a predominantly Catholic country, it’s really no surprise that December is one of the most popular times to visit. In Bogota, you can follow the Ruta de La Navidad – or Christmas Route – which takes you on a tour of all the parks and plazas featuring an abundance of Christmas lights and markets. Make sure you’re hungry, because one thing Colombians really love to do at Christmas, is eat!

Bogota Columbia Xmas Lights

 

Are we feeling festive yet?

Happy holidays from all of us at Open2Study! 

Happy Holidays Santa Hat and snow by a tree

 


Peta BradyThis post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and grammar pest.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

guy-emailing-dog-watching

 

Given the amount of emails we send and receive every day, I am still surprised by how many of them are, well, terrible! Incorrect names, poor spelling, rude tone – the list goes on. And while I understand many of us quickly fire off emails because we’re busy, taking a little extra time before hitting ‘send’ can improve not only the response you receive, but also your relationship with the recipient.

 

1. Subject Line

Think of your subject line like the heading of a news article – you need to stand out in an overcrowded inbox, so write something attention-grabbing to compel the reader to open it. I’m sure we’re all guilty of the ‘as discussed’ subject line, which, when you think about it, is pointless. Your recipient has surely discussed many things with many people, so it’s better to be specific.

 

2. Be Polite

There’s nothing worse that opening an email only to find yourself immediately irritated with the sender. Maybe the tone is off, or their requests come across as demands. Whatever the reason, you’re annoyed and much less likely to respond straight away. This goes both ways! Just think, it’s actually rather difficult to be too nice… Start off with a simple, pleasant greeting. Make it personal, rather than a standard “hope you’re well” approach. If you have an existing relationship, something like “did you enjoy your weekend away?” will do nicely. If you’re emailing a stranger, a little flattery can go a long way. For example: “I read your article on part-time learning and found it very informative” adds a nice personal touch. There’s no need to go overboard, but it never hurts to start off on the right foot.

overloaded-truck

3. Resist Topic Overload & Oversharing

Wherever possible, try and cover only one topic per email. You’re less likely to confuse the reader, and sticking to one subject will keep your email at a reasonable length. No one wants to read an essay! It’s also a good idea to keep personal conversation out of a professional email. You never know who it might be forwarded to, and not everyone remembers to delete the conversation history. So unless you want the details of your weekend antics splashed around the office, maybe save it for another time.

 

4. Formatting and Punctuation

If you absolutely must cover multiple topics in one email, formatting is your new best friend. Slapping your recipient in the face with a huge chunk of unformatted text with no punctuation is not going to make them want to read it, and they will almost certainly miss an important point. Spacing out topics in separate paragraphs or dot points keeps things looking neat, and helps to convey your message and intentions clearly. You’ll also stand a much better chance of receiving a specific response for each topic. And in case there is any confusion, using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is still (and always will be) the equivalent of yelling, which isn’t a particularly good look.

 

 

5. Urgent vs. Not Urgent

These days everyone thinks everything is urgent, but just because you’re facing a deadline doesn’t mean your recipient is on the same page. It’s important to allow them enough time to consider and respond to your email, and to bear in mind that their priorities are not necessarily the same as yours. If you do require a quick response, try to encourage, rather than demand one.

 

6. Closing Off

Closing off politely is just as important as your opening greeting if you want to encourage that response we’ve talked about. If you’re waiting on something, let the recipient know in advance that you appreciate their assistance. Sign-off with something simple like ‘kind regards’ or ‘with thanks’ followed by your name and email signature.

 

7. Proofread

How many times have you hit ‘send’ only to spot a glaring error after it’s too late? Argh! The worst! A quick read-through can save you from a world of embarrassment, and really takes no time at all. Get into the habit of proofreading everything you send – especially when contacting senior colleagues or managers, and for important matters such as a job application.


Peta BradyThis post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

 

Peta Brady is a freelance copywriter, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest.

 

 

 

Get in touch viawww.thewordbird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_