We’ve all been told that our time at university will be amongst the best years of our lives, and in many cases that ends up being true.
However, amidst the whirlwind of moving somewhere new, meeting new people, the endless nights out (and all the mornings after,) it’s easy to forget that uni life can actually have a huge emotional strain on students.
We’re faced with deadlines, debt, uncertainty about graduate employment prospects and an immense pressure to do well, all of which can cause overwhelming amounts of stress and anxiety and make you feel like you’re just not coping.
Whether it’s you sat worrying in your room at night, or that friend who hasn’t been out in a while, there are some small steps you can take to look after your mental health.
Take care of your body
This might seem obvious, but the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ cliché is a cliché for a reason: it works. When you’re working with a less –than- satisfactory student budget, fancy meals and gym memberships aren’t always an option, but just making sure you’re drinking enough water and eating at least a few vegetables will stop you from feeling tired and run down (because who can concentrate on work when they haven’t eaten all day?) and going for a run (or at least a walk) is not only a great form of exercise, but it gets you in the fresh air, too.
Take a break
I get it, it can be hard to justify taking the night off if, like me, you’ve got an assignment due in a week that you haven’t even started yet, but it’s important to remember that working non-stop really isn’t going to get you anywhere if your heart just isn’t in it. Giving yourself a day off to do something completely unrelated to work is a great way of reminding yourself that, however important, your assignment deadlines really aren’t the only thing going on in your life. Oh, and try to make sure you get enough sleep- there’s no shame in going to bed before 10pm, and there’s very few things that a hot shower, a cup of tea and an early night won’t fix.
Have a routine
For me, it’s actually getting up when my alarm goes off (a challenge, I know) making sure I go to all my lectures; getting in at least an hour of exercise a day and writing in my journal before I go to sleep. It might seem trivial, but sticking to a schedule helps you to organise your day and make sure you have enough time to do everything you need to- and a journal is a great way of collecting your thoughts, whether they’re good or bad.
Check in on your friends
Remember that guy that turned up for every night of fresher’s who you haven’t seen since? Or what about your flatmate who’s started leaving their door closed when everyone else is sitting together? It’s always worth having a knock and inviting them out, or just letting them know you’re there if you want to chat- you never know the difference you might make.
Recognise your mental health
Again, obvious, but the most important step in taking care of your mental health is recognising it for what it is- university life is stressful, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with disclosing that you may be struggling to cope. It’s vital that you learn to understand the things that stress you out, as well as things that help you to relax, however scary it might seem- I guarantee there’s someone else feeling just the same.
Ask for help
I know it’s usually easier to put it off and say “I’m really not that bad, I just need to man up,” but there really is no problem that’s too small or silly or inconsequential, and there are a plethora of ways your university can support you, from your friends to your personal tutor, from the student services team to a buddy scheme like Tyfy. A connected campus means you’re never alone, whether you want some help with a module you’re struggling with, or just need a little cheering up. Everyone feels a little out of their depth from time to time, and asking for support is the quickest way to get back on track.
Written by Emily Goodwin.