If you are struggling at university, you’re not alone. It’s a testing time and the pressure can pile very quickly without warning, which can mean your mental health can suffer. In fact, 71% of students say workload has the biggest impact on their mental health according to a survey by Save the Student, Therefore, it’s extremely important to take the time to give yourself a break and step away from the mountains of paperwork and library computers.
Sometimes it may seem as though you don’t have the time to do the small things, like going for a walk or cooking a nutritious meal. However, these are crucial to ensure your mind and body are running at 100%. So, here are some simple but effective actions you can take to help improve your mental state:
First of all, the small things should be a priority. For instance, making sure you’re taking a break, eating healthy, fresh food and stretching your legs. If you’re overworking yourself, not moving from your desk and surviving on Oreos and caffeine, your mood is likely to reflect this. You may think forcing yourself to sit in front of your computer for hours on end is productive, but it’s not. By not giving yourself a break, you are actually being counterproductive as your work will begin to suffer.
Start by cooking yourself your favourite comfort dish, go for a walk at lunchtime and make sure you are allowing yourself time to relax in between work.
Sleep and mental health are closely related. Often mental health problems can lead to a lack of sleep, of which a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. It’s a vicious circle, so make sure you are actively trying to get a good night’s sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, Mind, the mental health charity, has some recommendations. Establish a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and only go to bed when you feel tired enough to sleep. You can also try meditation or visualisation.
Alcohol and drugs often exacerbate mental health problems. We understand avoiding alcohol in particular at university can be difficult, but reducing your intake can provide benefits. You are less likely to have anxious periods the next day and time lost from cocooning in bed away from sunlight. Time lost during your hangover day means more time worrying about the time you’re losing.
Make sure you surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Whether this be friends, family or both. Good relationships are vital to mental wellbeing. Your friends and family can help provide you emotional support when times are tough or you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Being mindful or practicing mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment and the current world around you. For many, this can help improve mental wellbeing as we are often so caught up living in the past or worrying about the future. The concept is that the more we are aware of the present, the more we are aware of unhealthy patterns of thought that do nothing but cause us unnecessary stress. The NHS provides some handy tips on how to be more mindful.
Sometimes, when your mental health is struggling, a growing list of tasks can seem impossible to achieve. That’s why it’s important to put things into perspective and set out smaller, fewer tasks for you to complete. Write a list of achievable tasks for you to perform each day. This prevents you feeling overwhelmed and helps give you a sense of accomplishment with every task and goal you set for the day.
This can be as simple as opening a window. Letting in some fresh air will wake you up and clear your mind. Even better, by going out for a walk in nature, you can calm your stress levels and get some exercise at the same time.
Though it’s normal to experience periods of stress from time to time, if these feelings start to affect you frequently and they aren’t going away it is important to recognise that you may need help. You can speak to your GP or University counsellor who will be able to recommend the next best steps for you to take.
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