Starting university can always prove challenging - whether you’re full of confidence or nervous about change. But you should always take comfort in the fact that there is support out there, whether it’s in the form of a friendly word of advice or more structured, tailored counselling programmes. Here are ten tips from NTU Student Mental Health Champion Kerry Luff for how to look after your mental health over the next few years while studying at university…
1. Connect with your feelings and understand that they are valid. Moving away from home and onto your next chapter in life can be daunting and you will face many situations that you are unprepared for, or are unsure how to deal with. However, this is okay. Allow yourself to feel new emotions but try to remain present and understand that it is not a weakness and that there is always a solution. Try not to just shake it off and ignore it as things can build up and become too heavy to manage.
2. Keep connected. Thank goodness for technology! Whether it is a phone call, text message or a letter in the post, try to maintain frequent contact with your friends and family. Tell them about all the things you are getting up to while you are away - they are bound to be excited to hear all about it!
3. Know your sources. Universities offer endless sources of support to help students manage their well-being. Many support options are confidential and can assist you in planning a realistic approach to your university experience in a way that suits you.
4. Take in some fresh air! Even just a ten-minute walk can open your mind and reduce any stress. It has been proven that walking releases endorphins and gives your brain a healthy stimulation to improve your mood. You may also find yourself exploring and discovering interesting areas of your city that you had never seen before.
5. Keep your living space tidy. As the quote goes, ‘a messy room is a messy mind’, and it can be difficult to focus when you are surrounded by clutter. Air your room out intermittently to allow consistent fresh air and try to put things away as you go - it is unbelievable how quickly your room can become a tip, so this will help prevent this.
6. Plan one nice thing for yourself every day! You may find that the workload builds up quickly and although it can be overwhelming, try to do at least one thing that YOU love and makes YOU feel good. This could be watching an episode of your favourite show, a facemask or grabbing a coffee with a friend! Don’t let your studies take over your life.
7. Keep a diary! Write an entry once a day, once a week, or every so often. This allows you to recognise and reflect on your feelings and also keep a note of memories you make that you may later on forget about. These reflections can help you plan and make specific changes if things aren’t going quite right. It may also lift a weight off your shoulders as you share your feelings rather than just letting them build up.
8. Allow yourself balance. Joining a society or sports club is a great way to enjoy your university experience, meet new friends and push your boundaries. You may meet people with similar interests to yourself and feel a greater sense of community! Participating in extracurricular activities can also break up your time and give you a breather from constant studying.
9. Try out new routines! It is easy to fall into the trap of waking up at midday when you live away from home. Setting an alarm for the same time everyday regardless of whether you have plans or not will allow your body to adapt and feel at ease. You will find that there are students who begin every day at 6am and others not until 3pm! Find what is realistic and works for you and try to stick to it. Beginning your day with a ten-minute yoga session or a short walk is always a great way to set you up for a good day!
10. Don’t burn yourself out. Routines are great AS LONG as they keep you happy. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or exhausted, slow down and allow yourself some rest. Your health and well-being is a priority - a healthy mind and body sets you up to get the best out of life.
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