With 1 in 4 experiencing a mental health problem, if you’re not the sufferer, someone you know will be.
University is seen as such a positive opportunity – a chance to open doors for your future, make lifelong friends, study a subject you love, and explore your newly-gained independence. What isn’t often talked about, however, is: strict deadlines , exam pressure, being away from home, and loneliness. All the above cannot only affect this ‘amazing’ experience, but have an extreme impact on your mental health – often leading to disorders such as anxiety and depression.
I’m not saying that everyone will experience these things. I’m not saying you will suffer at all – but the sad fact is, there’s a strong chance it could happen if you don’t look after yourself.
Whether you’re currently suffering, know someone who is, or want to be prepared just in case – here are 5 small ways to protect your mental health whilst studying:
1. Take care of yourself
Self-care is vital at University, and there are many things contributing to this:
· Getting enough sleep (remember, we need 8 hours!)
· Drinking water and having a balanced diet (for an actively working brain!)
· Taking time for self-care (having a long shower, going to the gym, doing your makeup… whatever makes you warm inside)
2. Be aware of the help out there, and how to access it
Ensure you know where to find contact details of your university well-being service and counsellors, if you did feel like you would benefit from their services. Each university will offer different things, so make yourself aware of them.
3. Avoid alcohol and drugs
Yes, going ‘out out’ can be extremely damaging for students, especially in peak times of stress like exam time. Whilst making time for yourself is vital in protecting your mental health, abusing alcohol and drugs is never the way forward. Often being referred to as depressants, both drinks and drugs can have devastating effects if used in large quantities; take extra care in times of stress with nights out.
4. Surround yourself with the best
Friends and family can play a great part in your university experience, and in turn, have an effect on your mental health. Surrounding yourself with kind, true friends and family will allow positivity to exist in your life, being a source of comfort and guidance when you need. Negativity need not exist.
5. Don’t stay silent
And finally, the most important thing you can do to protect your mental health whilst studying, is to talk about it. Regardless of whether it is slight exam stress, or symptoms of something much bigger, all mental health concerns are worth talking about. Talking to a close friend, a family member, your university tutor, or a well-being service directly, there will always be help available to those who seek it.
Remember, your mental health concerns are completely normal, and deserve to be talked about. Stay safe, always.
A collection of helplines: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
Written by: Shana Taylor