1. Take care of your body
“Healthy body, healthy mind” might sound like a bit of a cliche, but in general cliches are cliches for a reason – they’re true. Taking care of your mental health means taking care of your physical health, too. Eating healthily, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, exercising (praise to the God of endorphins) and cutting back on alcohol or caffeine are all small ways you can improve your mental and physical health at the same time. Think about it: you’re not happy when you’re tired, hungry or hungover.
2. Write everything down
Whether it’s full on, pour-your-heart-out journalling, a quick mood diary or even writing songs, getting your feelings down on something tangible is a great way of letting them out, as well as keeping track of how you’re feeling.
3. Practise mindfulness
Okay, maybe a little bit hippy, but trust me, it works. For me, the worst part about having anxiety is the spiral: the worry that turns into mild panic, the mild panic that turns into full blown panic attack. Mindfulness helps you to stay in the moment, remember that the problem probably isn’t as terrible as it seems, and keep your feet firmly planted in the ground. You can read more about mindfulness (and how to practise it) here.
4. Take time for yourself
This is a really important one. It’s easy to feel like we’re living our lives to please other people (parents, tutors, friends, boyfriends/ girlfriends) without ever actually putting ourselves first. There’s no shame in taking some time for yourself: skipping the party to stay home with a cup of tea and a book; staying single and focusing on yourself; cancelling plans if you don’t feel up to it (I am the Queen of this one). In fact, taking care of your mental health depends on it.
5. But don’t forget your friends
At the same time though, no one likes to feel lonely. When I’m at my worst, a phone call or a visit from my best friend is the best method to pull me out of the rut. Meeting up with old friends, taking a night off studying to go dancing with your flatmates, or even just ten minutes on the phone is sometimes all you need. Take comfort in your friends.
6. Do something for someone else
Take me writing this blog, for example. Okay, so it is technically my job. But I get genuine satisfaction from knowing maybe even one person is reading and taking my advice – I actually wrote a whole blog on it, which you can check out here. So you don’t have to do anything quite so big, but putting your spare change in a donation box, ringing your mum when you haven’t spoken in a while, picking up a coffee for your friend on you way to a lecture, are all guaranteed to make you feel good.
7. Try new things
One of the worst thing for my mental health, personally, is the monotony of doing the same thing, day in, day out. My favourite thing to do when I feel like this is to book a cheap train ticket and visit a new city for the day, but it could be anything. Learning to play an instrument, writing for a blog (hint hint) – you could even book a holiday for when your exams are over.
8. Have a (loose) structure
That said, I’ve found that one of the best methods of improving my mental health recently has been having a structure. Waking up and going to sleep at about the same time every day, working for specific periods, making sure I go for a run in the morning. So you don’t always have to stick to it exactly, but it helps to have some sort of a schedule. You won’t lie in bed until noon or waste hours miserably scrolling on your phone – and it’ll make you more productive, too.
9. Go off the grid… at least for a while
Speaking of phones, I know we’re all addicted to them, but they’re toxic. Now I’m not going to suggest anything drastic like deleting your Instagram, but limiting the amount of time you spend looking through fabricated pictures of other people’s perfect bodies and perfect lives can’t be bad. One thing I do to help my anxiety is turn off notifications – you don’t really need them, and for some weird reason it really works. Just don’t miss any important calls.
10. Ask for help
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t have to manage your mental health on your own. You can speak to your friends, student services or an NHS professional. Help is always available. And in an emergency you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123, any time of the day or night.