collaborative post // Life at uni can be a bit of a mixed bag. There’s loads of positives – you’re learning a subject you enjoy, making new friends, and learning lots of new life skills. But there’s a side that doesn’t always get spoken about, and that’s the anxiety and stress that a lot of young people feel during their time as a university student.
Becoming independent, living in a new place, thinking ahead about a potential career, exam pressures, money issues…these can all lead to mental health problems.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then just know that you’re not alone. In fact, these issues are so common that we wanted to give you 5 tips to improve your mental health as a student – so that you can not only survive, but thrive at uni!
1. Get a good routine
First and foremost on our list of 5 tips to improve your mental health as a student is to get into a good routine.
An essential part of good student mental health is knowing when to work, and when to call it a day.
Lots of students treat exam season like a marathon, and get into cramming sessions with little sleep, poor eating habits, and no work-life balance. Other students live a party animal life, skip lectures, have a lie-in every day, and then wonder why they feel down and depressed.
The key to most things in life is balance and moderation.
By making a simple uni schedule, incorporating lectures, exams, study sessions, breaks and social events, you could start to take control of your uni life, and your mood.
Sleep is of vital importance to your health and wellbeing, and it also goes a long way to helping you ace your exams! A rested brain is more capable of retaining information, so it’s win-win.
Make sure you keep a consistent sleep pattern, and try to avoid using your phone before sleep as this seriously disrupts your sleep.
When it comes to studying, try to make sure you separate your study space from your sleeping area, and if possible, use communal study areas in your student residence or library.
Keep your room and study space uncluttered and tidy. And perhaps, most importantly, set achievable goals – taking on too much can make you feel overwhelmed and lead to poor mental health.
2. Set aside down time for things you love
Studying is important, but a crucial part of an effective study routine is resting and taking breaks.
We all need to set aside time for the people and things we love, and that’s even truer if you’re experiencing mental health difficulties.
When things get tough, it’s tempting to isolate yourself in your room and become a hermit, but that only leads to a vicious cycle of feeling worse and even less sociable.
You don’t have to say yes to every social activity or study group, but keep in touch with family and friends.
If you’re finding it hard to make friends at uni, join a club or society and you’ll soon meet like-minded people. Having a ready-made community can go a long way to beating homesickness and depression. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people, do good, and get a sense of perspective in your uni life.
When you go out with friends, try not to go overboard with the alcohol – it’s a depressant and can lower your mood. Moderation is the key.
When you take days off or breaks inbetween studies, do something you love. That could be something as simple as reading a book, watching your favourite TV show, having a video call with friends and family, or listening to music.
3. Ask for help
If things get really overwhelming and you need to talk to someone, then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Your university will offer counselling services and mental health support, and that’s because you’re not the only one who is going through something. That means there’s no stigma and no reason to feel embarrassed about seeking help from the mental health services available.
Don’t delay getting help if you need it – the earlier, the better.
The uni wellbeing service will be able to provide counselling and resources, and may even run group wellbeing sessions or activities like cookery classes, where you can meet other people.
These groups give you the chance to get outside of your own head in a safe space. So check out your university’s wellbeing web page, or speak to your personal tutor for advice on how to access these services.
4. Download some apps
Overthinking and worrying are some of the most common mental health issues that affect university students today.
Sometimes it can feel like our phones only add to the stress, with an information overload and mixed messages on social media.
But our phones can also be a force for good. By downloading some of the mental health apps that are available, you can make the most of your down time from revision, and find a bit of breathing space and perspective.
Some of the most popular apps include Headspace, Calm, Calm Harm, Student Health App, Stress and Anxiety Companion, and WorryTree. Well worth checking them out – most are free to download, with special features on subscription.
5. Eat well and exercise
Last but certainly not least on our list of top 5 tips to improve your mental health as a student – having a healthy, balanced diet, and moving your body!
Your physical and mental health and wellbeing are very closely interconnected. So if you’re eating well and exercising, your body will feel better, which will lead to an improvement in your overall mood and quality of life.
The hormonal high you get after exercising is scientifically proven, and can be one of the most rewarding ways to keep mental health conditions at bay.
That’s why some private student residences incorporate wellbeing and physical fitness into their student residences. If you decide to study in Ireland, for example, you can find student housing in Cork with great amenities such as a gym, personal training, and wellbeing services.
If the gym isn’t your thing, we recommend you get out of your student accommodation and go for a walk. Having a change of scenery can work wonders for your mental health. You could also practice Yoga, play Tennis or join a sports team.
What you put into your body also has a massive impact, so make sure you master some basic but healthy recipes, to get you through those long study sessions.
With these 5 tips to improve your mental health as a student, you’re well on track to get the most out of uni life. What’s more, they’re great life skills to be used even after uni. Give them a try – you’ll thank yourself for it.