University can be a challenging time for many students for a variety of reasons.
Not only have you got the pressures of university with assignments and exams, but you may also be trying to balance part time work to support yourself financially, as well as trying to maintain a social life and enjoy your university experience. This is perhaps why a recent NUS-USI student union survey suggested that 78% of students have mental health issues.
All of these different pressures can be hard to manage, and it can slowly start to affect your mental health. But there are things you can do to help minimise the impact of this. Aside from the support Queen’s and Ulster provide, there are steps you can take to make sure you get through the tough times so that you can really enjoy your time at university.
This seems like a given but exercising once or twice a week can really help you in many ways. It is not only good for your physical health, but there are benefits for your mental health too. Exercising has been proven to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety and depression, increase your brain power and boost the happy chemicals in your brain.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym either, find physical activities you enjoy and think about how you can fit them into your daily life. Allocate time for study early in the day and then take up a gym class or yoga class for example in the afternoon. This will give your day some balance and could improve your productivity as well as your mood.
- Eating well
Another one that may seem obvious, but one we are all probably guilty of neglecting. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a balanced diet on your mental health. As tempting as a Dominos or a Chinese takeaway may be, this will not only hurt your bank balance but if you are eating these regularly, combined with copious amounts of alcohol, this will make you feel pretty rubbish.
You don’t need to deprive yourself of the foods you love, just try changing a few things at first by adding in some healthy alternatives. For example, instead of grabbing a sausage roll for breakfast on the way to uni, why not make eggs and toast instead. This will fill you up for longer (less money on snacks!) and is also full of protein that will help kick-start the day in a positive way.
- Manage your alcohol intake
Yes uni is just as much about the partying and going out as it is studying, but try to keep alcohol use in moderation and avoid taking drugs. Both of these are depressants and if your mental health is already suffering, then excessive drinking and drug use will only increase the negative impact on your already suffering mental health, and this could make you feel worse in the long-term.
- Talking to someone
All of the above can help you, but if you are having a day when nothing seems to be working and it is all getting on top of you, try talking to someone. This doesn’t have to be going to see a counsellor, this could simply be calling a friend to vent, speaking to a housemate over your dinner or maybe just going for a coffee with your friend after uni. Getting it off your chest will make you feel better – a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say!
If this doesn’t work, your university will have wellbeing services available that you can use. This may involve speaking to a counsellor, or they may be able to give you 1-1 advice or even refer you to a group or organisation who could help you. Getting help is a sign of strength – not weakness.
- Value yourself
There is no getting away from the fact social media has taken over. The vast majority of people these days have a profile on at least one social media platform, but spending too much time on these apps can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. You may not realise it, but subconsciously comparing your life with those that you see on social media can impact how you see yourself and your life.
Switch off. Take some time away from these apps and focus on something more fulfilling. This could be something as simple as reading a book before bed instead of endlessly scrolling through Facebook. You can also disable notifications to stop you giving into the temptation of checking your phone just one last time. Time off your phone will also help you get a better night’s sleep, as the blue light in your phone tricks your brain into thinking it Is still daytime, meaning you are away for longer.
Don’t suffer in silence
You can receive support from Queen’s Student Wellbeing Service or if you are a student at Ulster University, they also have Student Wellbeing support available. Alternatively, an appointment with your GP may be the next step if you feel as though nothing is working. They can refer you to support services that can help with a range of mental health issues. Don’t suffer in silence, this is a very exciting time in your life – enjoy it!