Student Mental Well-being: Why is it important to look after yourself while at University

Whether you’re adjusting as a first-year student or a third-year student juggling uni and placement, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.

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Attending University can mean making a big change in your life, opening yourself up to new opportunities, connecting with peers, and moving away from home. And with change usually comes negative emotions in the form of anxiety, stress, and fear. These are common reactions to a new environment. Whether you’re adjusting as a first-year student or a third-year student juggling uni and placement, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Everyone around you is on their journey and facing similar situations and emotions that you are. 

Find your middle ground

University is supposed to be a time where you push yourself to achieve the best of your potential, but it is also the time to enjoy life and try new experiences. Living a balanced lifestyle will benefit both your studies and your mental health. A common mistake people make while studying is neglecting their wellbeing and prioritising their studies over basic human needs. Instead of replacing sleep with assignments, and a healthy diet with a chocolate bar and energy drink, find the middle ground that works for you and see the benefits from this decision. 

Plan and Organise your day

Being organised is a great way to stay on top of your work and reduce the stress of being behind in class. You could create a schedule with allotted time to study for each course and maximise what you intend to cover over that period. Use a reward system throughout your study, try working for an hour and then taking a 10-minute break.  Get up and stretch your legs, and give your brain a rest before you settle in again. Find a way to enjoy studying, figure out how you learn best, and work under those conditions; listen to recordings of lectures, write everything out or make a game out of studying. Plan for upcoming exams and make a record in your calendar for due dates on assignments. Aim to finish before the due date so that you have time to go over your work.

Recognise when you need a break

If you find yourself procrastinating, allow yourself time away from studying without feeling guilty, the added pressure won’t encourage you to work harder in that moment. Having a schedule will help you be proactive with your mental health and education, recognise when you need a break, and take time to destress. Be as compassionate to yourself as you would be to a friend struggling with their wellbeing. We lack sensitivity towards ourselves due to the stigma around mental health and don’t often admit when we’re struggling, but that’s the first step in taking back control over our lives. There will always be hard days now and then, but don’t let it get you down, start each day new and embrace whatever comes your way.

Enjoy the little things within your day

With the continued pandemic interfering with every aspect of life, it’s natural to be confused and frustrated. Dealing with the unknown impact on every area of life, not knowing if classes will be online or if you’re allowed to attend exams, fearing for your safety and those around you. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can affect your well-being significantly. Show compassion to those you encounter and make the extra effort to interact through zoom and social media. Find ways to keep yourself entertained, like trying out new hobbies. Get involved with TikTok hacks, learn a quick skill, and enjoy the little things within your day.

Reach out and express how you feel

University provides a safe space for students to challenge themselves, with access to support networks for when this feels overwhelming. Stay in contact with those you’re close to; friends, family, and tutors. Reach out and express how you feel to the people around you; they can’t help if you stay silent. If this feels like a temporary fix and you still don’t feel like you’re managing, then approach your GP or the University Doctors, they will be able to connect you to councillors or discuss other options to help you. Councillors can provide coping mechanisms to help you manage day-to-day life, help you work through emotions, or can be an ear to vent to. 
 

Taking care of yourself and your well-being can be as simple as going to bed early, socialising with friends, exercising, or eating a good meal. By caring for yourself, you can prevent any potential burnouts later in the year. It’s not always as simple as watching a movie or getting take-out. It takes time to find the best method that works for you, but it’s worth putting in the effort. Acknowledging your emotions is the first step, then you look at finding ways to elevate them. What works for others might not necessarily work for you, and that’s okay. The hardest expectations to meet are the ones you place upon yourself; University isn’t pass or fail; the system wants to assist students in any way possible. All you need to do is ask for help when you need it. 

Be consistent with prioritising your well-being every day of every week, and remember to treat yourself with kindness.
 

- Shannel Milne, Nxtstep Content Writer

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