University can be one of the hardest times in your life. You’re trying to balance your studies, social life, as well as cook, clean and balance money. It’s a huge responsibility, and usually a completely unique situation to anything else you ever have or will experience. This can have a huge effect on your mental health, especially if you are included in the 1 in 4 people who suffer with a mental illness in England.
All of the things in this article are aimed to help you, whether you have a mental illness, or are just feeling stressed. Self care is important for everyone!
So what can you do to help yourself?
- Talk to the people around you.
This can either be your parents, partners or friends. Being honest about how you are feeling can be one of the scariest things, but in the long run it will be worth it. Your loved ones will be able to support you in the ways that you need, and in being honest, it will actually take a weight off your shoulders.
- Talk to your university.
Every university has procedures in place to support students at stressful times generally, as well as systems to support students with mental illnesses. At Solent, Access Solent (located in the Student Hub) is a fantastic place to go if you have a mental illness, as they will alert all of your tutors on your behalf and help you look at Disabled Students’ Allowance.
Anyone can go to Access Solent to talk about their counselling and hypnotherapy services. These will help you to cope with stress, and you can also enquire about mentors, exam stress help, relaxation exercises and more.
Solent’s Students’ Union also runs a campaign called #SOSUOK, to support all students’ mental health. For academic support, contact our VP Education; for social support, it’s the VP Employability and Engagement, or for welfare, our VP Welfare is here to help! Otherwise, contact the SU President.
- Go to your doctor.
Whether you already have been diagnosed with a mental illness, questioning whether you are suffering with one, or just need a bit of extra support, don’t be afraid to go to your GP. There are lots of procedures in place to make sure that you get the help you need, but it all starts with you. Take it one step at a time, and give yourself the care you deserve.
- Use a walk-in centre or the Samaritans.
You can visit a walk-in or urgent care centre at any time when you feel like you need help, but can’t get to your doctors in time. Find our local WIC below.
The Samaritans is a charity that’s available around the clock to support people who need someone to talk to. You can call, email, write or visit one of their volunteers at any time, and the service is confidential. If you do want to get in touch, phone is the best way – and it’s completely free! Find out the contact details below.
You can also call 111 for advice.
- Take breaks.
This is not an excuse to skip lectures just because you’re in a bad mood. But if you are really struggling, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by going to classes if you really are not going to focus. Take a few hours out, wait for the slides to go up on MyCourse, and catch up when you’re feeling a bit better.
Also, go home if you need to. Being around your family, your room and your friends can be surprisingly comforting.
- Use study tools.
Okay, so taking breaks IS important, but so is studying. You will need to dedicate as much time as you can manage to staying on top of your uni work. The more you fall behind, the harder it’s going to be to catch up. Do small chunks every day – I find 45 minutes is the most I can focus on studying at once. Then, walk away and do something to reward yourself.
If you’re struggling to focus, put on some classical music (lyrics are distracting, especially if you’re reading), or use noise simulators. Mynoise.net has been designed with studying in mind, and their coffee-shop simulator has shown to boost creativity! There is also a MyNoise app you can download to your phone or tablet.
Study wherever makes you feel comfortable. Whether that’s your room, the library, or at Starbucks. It’s not a crime to lock yourself away from your friends for a while. Although group study can be really helpful, it can also be a distraction.
Maybe use some study sheets to help you plan your day. Tick each thing off as you finish it, you’ll feel better at the end of the day, even if you’ve only completed one task on your list!
Try to keep your sleeping pattern as normal as you can – being nocturnal will not help you feel better. A lot of your mental and physical welfare depends on you getting a good night’s sleep, as does your ability to concentrate at uni.
Some tips for improving your sleeping pattern:
- Stop using your bed for studying, gaming and movie nights! Your mind will start to associate your bed with things that aren’t sleep, preventing you from ‘switching off’ when you need to sleep.
- Try breathing exercises. Meditation and controlled breathing are a trend at the moment, but should not be underrated! They can help to relax your body just enough to let you drift off.
- Take some time out from technology. This doesn’t work for everyone, but there’s a lot of studies that suggest that the light emitted from screens such as phones, computers and TVs stimulate our brains, stopping us from being able to sleep!
- Reset your body clock. If you’re really struggling, set your alarm for the same time everyday and GET UP at that time. It will change when your body clock feels like it’s time to sleep.
- Try doing some relaxing things, such as colouring or reading (not on an electronic device).
- Listen to a noise simulator, or make a playlist of songs that are slow and gentle.
- If you’re still really struggling, herbal remedies are great. Whether that’s Calms tablets (available from Asda), or Camomile tea, they will help you to drift off!
- Look after yourself.
You won’t ever feel better without basic self care. Make sure that you’re eating regularly, getting a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. When you’re at a low point, this can seem like the most difficult thing to do in the world, but even if you eat with one of your housemates, it’s a start. Surround yourself with people that remind you that you’re loved and do things that make you happy.
Walk-in / Urgent Care Clinic:
Care UK, Level C,
Royal South Hants Hospital,
Phone: 116 123
Visit: 11 College Place,
Steps to Wellbeing:
Phone: 0800 612 7000 or 023 8027 2000
Buddy box – send to you friends when they need a pick-me-up!
Contacts at Solent University:
Ben Martin (Student Advice) – firstname.lastname@example.org or 02382 016431
Naomi Oiku (SU President) – email@example.com or 07508205444
Jasmine Barton (VP Engagement) – firstname.lastname@example.org or 07508205449
Charlotte Winfield (VP Education) – email@example.com or 07508205441
Sam Spencer (VP Welfare) – firstname.lastname@example.org or 02380319553
Accommodation – email@example.com or 02382 015040
Student Finance – firstname.lastname@example.org or 02382 013970
Accessibility Support – email@example.com or 02382 013201
Counselling – firstname.lastname@example.org or 02382 013427
Chaplaincy – email@example.com or 02382 013427
Students@solent – firstname.lastname@example.org or 02382 015200
Students 1st – email@example.com or 02382 013427
Images courtesy of EMM, not Emma.