University should be the best three years of your life. Right?
Meeting your life-long friends, discovering new passions, having a few (a lot of) memorable nights out, and of course receiving a good degree at the end of it. However, it’s also a prime petri dish to culture stress and anxiety. Balancing your studies, social commitments as well as keeping on top of finances can become overwhelming, so much so that your mental health suffers.
A recent study by YouGov, surveyed 1061 university students and it was recorded that 1 in 4 undergraduates have a mental illness. Even more concerning; 54% of students do not seek help or support when symptoms show. It’s important to clarify that many people experience symptoms of mental health issues, but this does not mean that they have a mental health condition.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to seek help when you do experience symptoms, whether that be from a professional, a friend or family member or organisations and charities. The Think Mental Society at King’s is an excellent organisation that lifts the stigma that surrounds mental health, hosting regular events and seminars, and is always happy to provide support for students. Their most recent talk, with special guest speaker Michelle Robinson, provided some top tips for making sure you maintain a happy and healthy mental wellbeing.
You are considered adult learners at university, who have voluntarily taken up higher education. You’ve also (hopefully) chosen a degree that reflects your interests or at least needs for the future. You’ve also come to university to develop important life skills, become involved with wider culture, and develop lasting friendships and memories. Reminding yourself why you’ve come to university, will help you validate your time here and push you to keep going.
The most common issue found in all mental health conditions is not getting enough good quality sleep. Students are known for not getting enough sleep; those late nights out or the all-nighters rushing to get that assignment done. Poor sleep plays a huge impact. It causes fatigue, but also affects your appetite, and so you tend not to feel like studying, meeting up with friends or really doing anything at all. This greatly affects your mood, which makes you less likely to pick yourself up, and so we have a vicious cycle. The blue light from your phone or laptop screen also prevents the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, so most of us aren’t doing ourselves any favours.
Understanding how you learn and study best will save you time and energy. Are you a visual or auditory learner? Do you retain information best through practical sessions? Pre-reading and actually attending lectures should help you feel in control and less anxious. The “lastminute.com” approach, although you may feel is effective, increases our anxiety levels and you actually tend to produce a lower quality of work, adding to your stress when receiving assignments back.
For a lot of people, there is nothing more stressful than needing more time than you have. Lectures, reading, social events, meals, societies, and just about anything else can be planned. It allows you to maintain control, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all the studying and other personal activities we want to do, but feel we don’t have enough time to do it all. An exercise for you to try, schedule every activity you do in one week, including sleep, eating times, classes, studying sessions and social interactions. You’ll most likely be surprised at how much free time you actually have.
Maintaining a good social support network is key to easing the strain on your mental health. By having friends that you can confide in about what goes on in your life, not only allows you to offload, but it also gives you a fresh perspective. Feeling alone at university is common, but sometimes it’s beneficial to force yourself outside of your comfort zone to find good friends, whether on your course, from societies or outside of university. Keeping in contact with your family or significant others may seem difficult when you move away, but it will help you feel less alone.
While extremely useful, there are a lot of situations in which medication for mental health is not necessary. Simply making lifestyle changes can make a huge impact, and prevent more serious mental health problems from arising in the future. Changing habits and routines can be challenging and tedious, but if you continuously work at it, you’ll notice huge differences, and your mental health will thank you.
University is supposed to be fun, so hopefully by following some (or all) of these tips will lessen the stress and in the long run, maintain great mental health.
If you feel you are struggling or notice any symptoms associated with mental health conditions, these are the people you need: