How to Take Care of Your Mental Health at University
May 12, 2020
As a student, you juggle a lot of responsibilities and commitments. There’s enormous academic pressure to perform well, adhere to deadlines and churn out a workhorse-like volume of papers, assignments and essays. Then there’s the looming uncertainty of life after graduation and student debts to pay off.
The pressure can be a lot to take on — and if the stress prolongs, it can even be debilitating. Some stress is good (also called eustress) as a motivator, but when you are juggling multiple things, it can get tricky to be able to remain calm and the stress can take a toll on your wellbeing.
The solution? Practicing self-care just as rigorously as you study for your finals. Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate rituals of long baths or scented candles, instead think about your overall wellbeing and sanity. You can preempt these situations of extreme stress by following some simple guidelines, rounded below:
Establish a routine
When it comes to your mental health, do not underestimate the cathartic power of everyday activities and routine. Studies have suggested that a routine helps you have a healthier sleeping cycle, thereby reducing your predisposition to mental health difficulties.
Such routine will come in especially handy at the peak times of your University life: during the finals week, the thesis submission period, the peak of the semester when you are practically running from one class to another, or when you are juggling part-time work with academic deadlines and networking events. Get into the habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, at least on the weekdays. Reserve the weekends for some fun. A routine gives you some semblance of control over your life and when everything seems uncertain, routine can help to ground your anxieties.
Create a balanced schedule with regular, short breaks
In extension of the previous point, you should create a routine where work, study, chores and errands are punctuated by regular albeit short breaks.
Try the Pomodoro Technique. As per this time management technique, you set up a timer to break down work into intervals (traditionally these intervals have been 25 minutes in length), separated by short breaks. Use these breaks to de-stress, get up from your desk, move around, catch up, get a change of scenery — you get the drift.
Regular de-stressing helps you get more productive and you can return to the task at hand with a renewed perspective.
Incorporate physical activity in your routine
Regular exercise is extremely important for your physical as well as mental wellbeing. Universities usually have an on-site gym, sports club, recreation centre, badminton courts, etc, along with yoga classes, cycling groups, walking groups and other informal groups. You can choose to engage in either of those or simply go for a jog/run every day, although with the weather that the UK presents, we’d think getting a membership to work out indoors might be the best option.
It might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but mindfulness can help you with more concentration, focus and present-mindedness. These will translate as efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to work.
It can also curb instances of anxiety. You can try journaling with an app like Longwalks, or workbook-type apps like Calm and Headspace, or take the simple route of self-help books.
Seek help from professionals and your support system
If you feel that the workload is unmanageable at any point, express your concerns and anxieties. Begin by sharing this with your course supervisor. It is possible they’ll be able to help you figure out a way to manage studies without burning out. If that doesn’t suffice, reach out to the counselling services at your University and book a drop-in session with them. Student Minds run support groups for students struggling with their mental health. There are also plenty of helplines and other organisations providing psychological support. Here’s a resource toolkit that lists all the resources available in the UK for such support.