University can be one of the greatest experiences of your life. However, some people may experience mental health challenges that could develop from a change in surroundings or routine.
Trying to balance coursework and revision alongside connecting with people, keeping healthy, and getting enough sleep can be tricky. But, it is possible to manage all these things.
We speak to Humanistic and Integrative counsellor Nicola who has put together top tips to help you look after your mental health at university.
What top tips would you give to students for managing their mental health?
Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.
It is important to start university with a healthy work/life balance to manage stress and of course your workload. Visualise your self-care and set time aside to look after yourself.
Research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel. Some foods can help us feel better and others not so good. Eating a balanced diet full of vegetables and nutrients – can improve your wellbeing and your mood.
The Eatwell guide on the NHS website has detailed information on how to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.
Good sleep routine
Sleep and mental health are closely related. A lack of sleep can make people feel physically unwell. Sometimes when feeling anxious or stressed it can be hard to drift off but here are a few things you can try to help yourself sleep well.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that allows you to unwind. This could be listening to calming music or having a bath. Or it might help to go to bed only once you feel ready to sleep, but still get up around the same time. You can try different things before you find what works for you.
- Create a restful environment. Some people prefer bedrooms that are dark, cool and quiet or some may prefer a night light and background music
- Screen time can stimulate your brain. The blue light emitted from your device screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. This makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day. You could try setting boundaries such as not using your device 30 minutes before bed or even put it in another room.
Exercise has many benefits, not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. When you exercise it releases ‘feel-good chemicals called endorphins helping to improve your mood. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking can increase your energy and wellbeing. Even better, it can help towards a better quality of sleep.
Connect with other people
Social connection is a fundamental human need that can impact our mental health, physical health, and longevity.
Get involved, engage in enjoyable activities, and take small steps first to make new friends. Just remember everyone will be new.
Also, take the take to connect family and friends back home.
Planning allows for more efficient use of time as well as improving productivity and setting goals. Being organised means, you can put important deadlines first and not worry about completing forgotten coursework last minute.
Just remember that all students have their own goals and will have their own journey so try not to compare yourself. Don’t forget that you can also stay engaged with your wellbeing advisor as every student is allocated one.
How can counselling support mental health whilst at university?
Counselling can help students cope with the overwhelming feelings that come with transition and change and find ways to manage any anxiety and uncertainty. It can also help promote change, growth and can empower students to overcome their issues and move forward in a positive light.
Interested in counselling?
The first step is to complete and return a referral form. Following an assessment, we will pair you with a counsellor best suited to your needs. We want to get it right for you so that you have a good relationship and experience, which will help you to achieve your goals.
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