Mental illness can affect us all, in fact, around a quarter of people in the UK alone experience a problem with their mental health every year. As a student at university, it can sometimes be difficult to cope with the demands of student life – and that’s okay.
Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health, neglecting both can have detrimental consequences. Today, it’s #unimentalhealthday in the UK, activities are happening across campuses up and down the country in a bid to raise awareness and support their students with mental health. Higher education is full of challenges, some of which you’ve likely never faced before; moving away from home, managing your own finances, meeting new people, and completing assignments to strict deadlines. It’s completely normal to experience stress at university, but there are ways to cope with these difficult times; the staff are there to make your experience as comfortable as possible. However, I know it’s tough taking that first step – so let’s see if I can identify some things you can do beforehand.
Whether you’re in campus halls, living with flatmates, or living at home; your bedroom is your safe-haven. It’s a place you go to allow your body to heal after a long day, so making it feel like home can really boost your mood. Get some pictures on the walls, buy some warm bedding, move stuff around – it’s your room for a reason! Clean it too, I’m not trying to sound like a parent but psychologically, a clean room makes you feel happier, more organised, and sleep better! Put the thought out your mind that someone used to have your room, or someone will have your room in the future – because right now it’s your room, so make it count!
If you’re at a campus university or a city university, there are tons of pros you’ve probably not even realised. A campus university is surrounded by nature, going for a short walk around campus is great for the fresh air and exploring. Walking is also exercise, which again, is great for us – 30 mins of walking a day has the power to boost your mood tenfold. It doesn’t cost a penny, gets your creative juices flowing and allows you to take a break from your busy lifestyle. A city university can be just as fun, you’re surrounded by life, public transport links that will take you anywhere, and tons of shops and restaurants.
University is a time of oversleeping, under-sleeping, and all-nighters. We all know sleep is important and without it you can’t function, experts recommend 7-9 hours for students; something I didn’t get until third year. Spending a few nights staying up late won’t kill you but doing it all the time will weaken your mood, concentration, and energy levels. Stumbling into that 9am after a night of painting the town red isn’t fun, but it’s all part of the experience – just don’t overdo it.
Work and Play
This one is obvious, but for many courses in the UK, the first year of a degree doesn’t count towards your final grade. But you still need to pass, I almost forgot that and had to whip myself into gear; a year of no sleep and partying is fun – but adding an extra 9k to your debt for nothing isn’t. Trust me, spending the last few months of the year in the library all night with energy drinks and Doritos is not a life (the memory still haunts me). Finding that happy balance is key, lay down some foundations early so you can enjoy your time; communicate with your lectures if you’re struggling because they can help. Keeping a good routine is also helpful, as you’ll start to realise there’s more hours in the day than you could’ve imagined.
If you’re struggling with your own mental health, the worst thing you can do is keep quiet about it. I know it’s difficult to communicate how you’re feeling, it can feel scary or even embarrassing; but support is available all around you at university and no one will judge you. I made that mistake of keeping quiet and it only got worse; talk to your friends, family, lecturers, GP – anyone! It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and stay in bed all day watching Stranger Things, but when the deadlines approach, you’ll kick yourself for not doing something about it.
At university, someone will always be there for you, even if you don’t feel it – you’re extremely important. If you’ve found other ways to cope, speak up; I’m not an expert at university, but I’m sharing what I’ve learned over three years and sharing your own experiences can really help someone who needs it.
Editors Notes: For an extensive list of services and support world-wide, please see our I Need Help page.