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Physical Sciences: Wellbeing


Small row boat in the middle of a peaceful lake.Self-care is an important part of your study routine. Taking regular breaks, creating a good environment and looking after your physical and mental health can all help to ensure that you get the most out of the time you spend studying. This page features advice on finding somewhere to suit your study needs, information on digital wellbeing and reflective practice and where to go if you need help at any point during your time at Cambridge.

User Support Collection Logo - three yellow and blue cogs with the heading User Support Collection.User Support Collection

Want some extra support with your study skills? Check out our new User Support Collection covering areas including academic writing, presentation skills, time management, dealing with stress, getting the best out of supervisions and much more.

You can also book a 1:1 appointment with our Research Support Librarian to discuss any aspect of your studying. Just fill in our appointment form

Choosing the right study space

Image of a desk from above. On the desk are a laptop, a plant, a cup of coffee and various technical equipment including a phone and some headphones.Whether at home, at the library or somewhere else it's important to ensure that your study space works for you and the type of studying you're doing. Some people need complete silence to work whilst others need to have the background noise of a cafe or groups of people to concentrate. If you need to focus on a difficult task you might choose to study somewhere different than when you are working on a group project.

Over time you will find a range of study spaces which are suited to your needs. You can use the Spacefinder tool to see a range of options available across Cambridge (note: some of these may have changed since the pandemic so always check before visiting). If you want to work in a quiet library environment the Betty and Gordon Moore Library is open to all and offers nearly 200 study spaces available on a first come, first served basis. You can recreate the feel of the Moore Library from home with our range of virtual backgrounds below. All you need to do is right-click on one of these pictures, left-click on 'Save image as...', and apply them as your 'virtual background' the next time you take an online video call, so that you can be in the Moore Library!

You can also get into the mood with our science themed playlist on Spotify. Our colleagues at the Engineering Library have a range of other Spotify playlists you might enjoy - including some devoted to revision and relaxation.

Ground Floor
Moore View from 1st Floor
Glass Room External
Glass Room Internal

Take a break

It's vital to build regular breaks into your study routine to reduce your stress, boost your energy and improve your memory. Most people can only truly concentrate on a task for between 10 and 50 minutes and research has shown that working in short blocks of time with breaks in between is one of the best ways to achieve your overall goal. The Pomodoro Technique encourages us to work in 25 minute bursts to break up a study session.  How long you want to work between breaks will depend on both your project and your individual preferences but why not try some of the ideas below to give yourself a rest.

  • Move to another space. Changing location during your break time can help you to mentally disconnect from your studying and actually enjoy some downtime without getting tempted back to work too soon.
  • Grab a drink or a snack. It's important to stay hydrated to aid concentration and it can be easy to forget to top up your water bottle if you're engrossed in studying. Many people also swear by brain food to help them study - it's hard to concentrate if your tummy is rumbling.
  • Try some gentle exercise. Bupa recommends a series of stretches you can do at your desk if getting up to move around isn't possible where you are.
  • Listen to some music. Your favourite tunes can help to relax you or get you energised for more studying. Check out our science themed playlist on Spotify for inspiration.
  • Try another form of mental stimulation. We know how popular our collection of library jigsaws are and so to replace these, we have created a number of online jigsaws of our own library spaces that you can play during your breaks between study.
  • Read. This might be the last thing you feel like doing but if you've been reading on a screen why not take a break with a paper novel? If you're at the Moore you can check out our Literature Collection on the ground floor.

Wellbeing reading

The Cambridge Libraries Accessibility Service have put together an online reading list of ebooks on various wellbeing topics. You may be prompted to log in with your Raven password to access the list but no record will be kept of what you have read.

Create your study space

If you're working from home there are some steps you can take to make sure that you create an environment that helps you to study.

  • Think about your set up. Do you have a comfortable seat which is the right height for the surface you're working at? Have you got good lighting so you can see what you're doing? Try to sit near a window if possible so you have some natural light. Make sure the temperature is comfortable - too hot or too cold can impact you ability to concentrate. 
  • Remove any distractions. If you're not using it for study move your phone to the other side of room, close extra tabs on your device, invest in some noise cancelling headphones. If you find the temptation of checking your phone or opening new tabs too much you can look into tools such as Forest which grows virtual trees during the time you study or Freedom if you want to block access to certain sites. If you want some motivation to write try Written Kitten which rewards you with a cute cat picture every 100 words.
  • Make sure you have any equipment or resources you need close to hand. This will stop you having to pause your study to go and find a highlighter and risk getting distracted on the way.
  • Give your space some personality. Try and make the space your own. Can you add some pictures you find appealing, a noticeboard to hold mementoes or even something as simple as a set of stationery in your favourite colour. 

Digital wellbeing

Wolfson Digital Wellbeing GuideIncreasing amounts of our lives are conducted online and it's important to pay attention to wellbeing in this space. Taking a step back and thinking about how and why we are using technology can help us achieve a balance and be more productive.

Our colleagues at Wolfson College have produced some great advice on digital wellbeing in their library guide, including how to build your online identity and switch off when you need to. 

Feeling overwhelmed?

We can all feel overwhelmed at times but it's important to know when to ask for help. The University offers a range of advice and support services who can help you in confidence and without judgement.

Reflective practice

Being able to reflect is a valuable skill to have both during your studies and as you move on to the workplace. Even if it is not immediately obvious from the description, many assignments contain some form of reflection. Courses will increasingly expect you to reflect on your own learning, either formally or informally. This reflection can help you to assess what has gone well, identify areas for improvement and set achievable goals.

You can find out more about reflection and how to use it in the the Reflective Practice Toolkit

3 What's Model of reflection - what, so what, now what?

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