Going through life at University isn’t always a positive, life-changing experience like you may have been lead to believe by others. From a study in 2021, 80% of students in the UK say that the pandemic contributed to their declining mental wellbeing, and a 2018 study revealed that 1 in 5 students have a mental health diagnosis, with depression and anxiety being the most common. With that being understood, it’s safe to assume that university can be a particularly difficult and confusing time as you go through changes and development.
We believe that if students are able to implement healthy habits, knowing when to seek help, you too, can manage your experience better without feeling like you’re struggling alone and so we’ve put together some steps to help look after your mental health as a student.
1. Establish a Self-Care Routine
Self-care is about finding what works for you to look after yourself. Not everyone’s idea of self-care is the same and doesn’t always have to be something like baths and healthy eating. Self-care means doing what’s best for your mental sanity. This can be executed in the form of unfollowing accounts or taking breaks from social media, surrounding yourself with friends that are like-minded and uplift you or simply switching off your phone at a certain time to focus on yourself.
2. Create structure
Transitioning from living at home with parents to being more independent can be difficult and especially in first year, it can make you fall into bad habits such as not sleeping enough, not eating and procrastinating studying. Although it’s important to have fun, it’s essential to highlight that such habits can negatively impact your mental health over time. If you feel like you’re falling behind on life, try setting a routine for yourself like waking up at the same time every day, moving your body and relaxing activities. Having your day structured can work well if each task is small enough to achieve.
3. Be proactive
At university, it’s important you find your local GP is and that you register. Freshers flu is very real and you never know when you’ll need your GP. Making sure you’re registered will make going there easier, remember it’s okay not to be okay. Recognising that you may need help is the first step to getting better.
4. Recognise your Triggers
Although it’s not always easy to identify what can be triggering, waves of depression and especially anxiety can come out of the blue. Unhelpful habits can lead to blips in your mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, these habits are quite common at university and are something to be aware of so that you can work around them.
5. Consider Therapy
Sometimes implementing healthier lifestyle habits may not be enough to get you feeling better, and that’s a very real possibility for some students. Therapy could be another option for you. Now, there are so many accessible ways to do this like apps which can get you through to certified therapists or through a GP referral. The stigma surrounding therapy can be discouraging however acknowledging you might need professional help takes strength and should not be something shameful. Therapists are there for a reason and are a valuable resource for anyone – not only students!
Here are some helplines in case you’re in need:
Anxiety UK – 03444 775 774 www.anxietyuk.org.uk
CALM – 0800 58 58 58 www.thecalmzone.net
Mind – 0300 123 3393 www.mind.org.uk
Samaritans – 116 123 www.samaritans.org