According to the charity Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Between those long days at the library and blurry nights-out, it is important that we don’t forget about our mental health. Sometimes little changes to the way you go about student life can help you to feel and perform better. Whether you have recently been going through a tough time or are suffering with a long-term problem, these 5 tips can help you to maintain a healthy mind whilst at university.
1. Be kind to yourself and slow down
This may seem like the most obvious tip out there. It is almost cliché how often ‘self-love’ or ‘self-care’ is recommended to make you feel better. As cheesy as it may seem, a bit of ‘self-care’ really can go a long way. Self-care (sadly) does not mean letting yourself demolish an entire tub of Ben & Jerrys Cookie Dough Ice Cream. As great as the idea sounds, by the next day you will most likely not feel any better because of it. Instead, look for opportunities to rest both your mind and body. It is important to be able to slow yourself down when you get caught up during a busy day without a break. Whether it be listening to calming music, or following a guided meditation on YouTube, try to find time to step back from university life. Even just taking 15 minutes to sit in silence with a nice hot drink can change your entire mindset for the rest of your day – making you even more productive in the long run! Plan out your week so there is time for studying, socialising and relaxing. All of these in a nice combination will help prevent you from becoming too overwhelmed when essays and deadlines begin to pile up.
2. Avoid harmful social media and news
You don’t have to delete Facebook or Instagram to help your mental health. They are great tools for talking to friends, arranging fun activities and tagging your friends in hilarious memes. However, like coffee or alcohol, they are damaging in large doses. Try to follow your thoughts as you use social media. Are you feeling disheartened or angry by what you are seeing? It’s understandable to feel this way, especially if you are currently struggling. Similarly, don’t condemn yourself if you do catch yourself on a 30 minute-long scrolling-spree. Try putting your phone on silent so that your day can be dictated by you, and not the people who want to talk to you. The news can be just as toxic for your mental health – it is full of bad news because it sells better. However, all that negativity can be a lot to take, especially on top of the stresses of university life. Keeping this in mind can help you to not fall down the “rabbit hole” of negative influences that are everywhere online.
3. Adopt a new hobby
Keeping your mind active is important for helping your mental health. From experience, having nothing to turn to after a long day of studying can lead to a lot of problems. Finding a hobby or sport that keeps you engaged is a great way to help your brain relax and learn. This is especially important for university students. Studying is tiring and being able to strengthen other parts of your brain means that the part used to absorb and apply knowledge can be rested whilst you remain active. Engaging hobbies such as playing an instrument, learning to draw or trying out a new sport are all good places to start. An added bonus is that you will be able to leave university with not just a degree, but hopefully a fun and useful skill that you can use throughout your life!
4. Make some time for exercise
Finding motivation to exercise is hard. Especially when you are feeling down, the idea of going out to exercise may seem impossible. University life can be hectic with deadlines and revision. This is what makes university such a ripe place for mental illness to flourish. It becomes easy for us to dismiss exercise as something we can cut out. However, exercise is proven to help improve our mental health and is constantly recommended as a quick way to boost your mood! The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. So how should you approach this? For many the answer will be to explore your University’s huge range of sport clubs that have been set up to help you unwind! However not everyone enjoys team sports or feels like socialising (especially when feeling down). Instead you can try exploring the area that you live in! This could involve a walk round a park; a forest you have never explored, or perhaps take a train to a new town/village you have never previously explored, there are a variety of places to go!
5. Don’t try to solve your problems alone
You are never alone with your problems. Everyone is different, but a lot of our experiences are shared. Millions of people have gone through what you are going through, and millions of people will go through it in the future. This shouldn’t mean that what you are feeling is any less invalid though. Nor should your problems be taken any less seriously because others cannot see them. Crisis in mental health is a massive issue in modern society and its severity has only recently become more widely recognised. There is a link below that provides evidence of how important our mental health really is. Therefore, seeking the correct help when it is needed is important. Luckily there are some very talented professionals who are ready to help. If you have been feeling constantly low for a while now, or your mood has been interfering with your life, go and chat with your GP. They will be fully understanding to your situation and can best help you - so that you can excel at university. Friends and family are also a crucial part of helping your mental health. If you can, find someone that you can trust or can talk to about what you are feeling. Being able to tell someone how you feel can help you see your problems from a perspective you may never understand on your own.
Below are links and numbers to some amazing websites and people. The NHS and Mind Websites provide great detail on mental health problems, and general ways to seek help. Similarly, if you are looking for someone to talk to about any worrying thoughts the Samaritans helpline is free to use and is full of lovely people who just want to listen to you.
BBC statistics on Mental Health in the UK: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41125009
Samaritans: 116 123 (UK & ROI)