How to look after your mental health at University

Stress, anxiety and depression have always been part of university life and can affect the way you feel, think and behave. There are many factors which contribute to a heightened psychological tension; these can include, sleep deprivation, loneliness, financial and academic factors.  Recent studies suggest that mental health problems amongst students are rising at a staggering rate and can no longer be ignored. Universities are devoting more time and resources to promote mental well being of their students. If you are a student who is suffering from mental health, remember there is always help available. 

Practice self care

Self care is important and should be a prioritised.  This involves maintaining a healthy diet, regular sleep and exercise, which all contribute to regulating mood and equipping one to handling stress in a more constructive manner. 

Before starting university, try to establish a self care routine. Good sleeping habit is the key to helping your cognitive thinking. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem solving abilities. When winding down, ensure that your room is cool, dark and quiet allowing you to feel calm and relaxed; ensure that all laptops, smart phones, ipads and tvs are switched off, as they can be distracting and prevent you from getting to sleep.  Try a milky drink or herbal tea, as these can be calming and help improve sleep. Most definitely, try limiting coffee in the evenings. 

Exercise releases endorphins which not only make you feel good but helps to diffuse stress and improve sleep. In addition, certain activities, such as yoga, tai chi, and rhythmic, repetitive exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rowing, draw out the relaxation response, too. If you are pushed for time, make sure to take time out of your study routine for a jog or a mindful walk.  

Food high in sugar and fat can inhibit stress. Eating healthily does more than just keep your body healthy; it improves concentration, boosts energy levels and reduces that low, tired & sluggish feeling. Opt for healthy snacks and keep well hydrated to enhance concentration.

Help on campus

Course work, exams presentations are nothing new to students however a surge in the intensity of  work and having to manage your own time to meet deadlines is a contributing factor to mental health problems. If you are struggling, whether with the volume of work or understanding the task or even family/financial situations whic are affecting your studies, emailing the tutor would be good starting point.  Tutors are there to help and your mental well being is important to them. 

Many universities also have a mental health adviser who can help you access the support you need. 

As well as counselling or therapy, you may also be entitled to “reasonable adjustments” such as extra time in exams, extensions on coursework, and specialist mental health mentor support.

Your GP

Mental health problems are just like any other physical illness and should never be ignored.  If you GP are suffering, make an appointment with your local GP. Your GP will point you towards relevant services and resources and in some cases prescribe you medicine.

University is a challenge and everyone faces hurdles at some point or the other. Looking after yourself, your health and mental well being is essential, so if you do find matters becoming overwhelming, make sure you seek help. There is always help available. 

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