5 Ways to Support Your Mental Health at University | Student Reviews & University Rankings EDUopinions

5 Ways to Support Your Mental Health at University

14/05/2024

University can be an exhilarating experience. But amid all the excitement of meeting new people and gaining freedom, many students find themselves struggling with their mental health. So, what can you do to support your mental health at university?

According to the latest statistics, about 40% of students across Europe experience mental health issues. This includes common (yet still serious) diagnoses like stress and anxiety, as well as more severe problems like depression and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can be devastating for students, and impact their social experience at university and their studies.

It’s important to remember that anyone can be impacted by mental health problems. Students are particularly prone to mental health troubles because of how significant a lifestyle change university can be. Often, they must handle moving to a new country, juggling the demands of studies and a part-time job, and living with strangers. These are stressful situations for anyone.

But there are ways for you to protect your mental wellbeing while at university. Here are five possible actions you can take to support your mental health at university.

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Supporting Your Mental Health at University

When you’re already struggling with your mental health – unable to make it to classes, or dreading the thought of a Friday night with classmates – it can feel impossible to make any valuable changes. That’s why it’s so important to develop healthy habits for yourself early in your university experience.

Understanding the ways that different factors can affect your mental health, and building a support network around you – whether of friends or counsellors – can make it easier to survive the low points.

It’s not guaranteed that these five factors will transform your brain. However, there is evidence that a combination of them can strengthen your mental well-being.

In an emergency, always remember to seek support from a professional.

1. Organise your study schedule

Organising Studies Mental Health

Stress is one of the most common mental health problems that students struggle with. Often, it can creep up on you – you might think you’re staying on top of everything, but one unexpected deadline can cause a crisis.

Early on each semester, ensure you’re aware of all the classes you’re signed up for, when these will take place, and what the examinations or classwork looks like for each one. Organise these in a notebook or planner, or keep a calendar on the wall of your student room to help you remember the most important deadlines.

Today, there are lots of AI tools that can help you stay on top of your studies and make you more productive. For example, Notion is a great way to organise your study notes. 

Include time to relax

Organising your study schedule isn’t just about factoring in time to revise, write essays, or prepare for classes. You should also think about organising non-negotiable time to relax. This might include:

  • Dedicating one or two nights a week to hanging out with your housemates or other friends.
  • Spending Saturday mornings exploring the town or city you’re living in.
  • Organising a regular movie night with your friends.

It might seem that you don’t have time to relax with all your study work, but taking a step back can make your studies easier.

Take breaks

This also counts for revision days. Taking 5-60 minute breaks from studying can actually help your brain focus and energise you. It might seem tempting to cram all your work into an intensive 8-hour study session, but regular breaks will (paradoxically) help you stay focused and result in a better revision session.

During these breaks, you might take a walk outside, stretch in your room, listen to some music, read a book you’re enjoying, cook a meal or get snacks, or unwind by chatting with a friend.

2. Prioritise your sleep!

Sleep is one of the first things that gets de-prioritised at university. Late nights in the city, hanging out with friends after classes and late nights in the library can all take a toll on your sleep schedule.

However, sleep is one of the biggest factors in your wellbeing. Multiple studies have found a link between longer sleep and better mental health, including one run by the University of Sheffield in the UK. Their research found that improvements in sleep resulted in better mental health, regardless of the physical health of each person.

If you’re struggling with a severe case of insomnia, seek advice from a doctor. They will be able to recommend ways to improve the condition.

3. Join a university club or society

Student Societies Mental Health at University

It’s well-known that socialising helps our brains stay healthy. Frequent contact with other people (that we enjoy being around!) can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression – but often, introverted students may struggle to prioritise this.

So, see what kinds of clubs or societies are available at your university. Join something that aligns with your interests naturally – don’t force yourself to choose a club, that you know you won’t enjoy, just to meet people!

You may be surprised by the variety of societies on offer. At most universities, these encompass sports, culture (cinema, art, languages, or international student clubs), and hobbies (crafts, music, theatre).

If there isn’t a club that corresponds to one of your interests, see if you can create one. Having a project outside of your studies that helps you meet other likeminded students can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and improve your wellbeing.

4. Try to keep active

It’s certainly not easy to keep up with a workout regime while at university. We all know it’s good for us to move our bodies, but while we’re juggling studies and socialising, it’s hard to prioritise exercise.

It becomes even more difficult when you’re feeling particularly low. When you’re struggling to make it out of bed in the morning, a run is the last thing on your mind.

However, exercise can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing. The 2024 of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health.’ Aside from producing endorphins (which make us feel good), exercise can provide your brain a break from other stresses, such as your studies or a job.

In keeping with the above tip, if you can find a sports society at your university, it can be a great way of meeting people and staying active. Don’t worry if you’ve never played a particular sport before; societies will usually be inclusive of all abilities.

If you don’t fancy being part of a sport society, the Mental Health Foundation has other ideas for being more active. For example, instead of heading to the library to study, you could walk to a local park. Or, get a bike and use that to explore your town or city.

5. Don’t wait to seek help

Support for Mental Health at University

One of the most important ways to care for your mental health is to actually seek help when you’re feeling low. There is support available for mental health at universities, though you may find it difficult to pinpoint where you should go for help at first.

For example, many universities have a free counselling service, where you can get support for anxiety, stress, and depression. Counselling is usually limited to a specific number of one-hour sessions (say, up to 10) with a professional counsellor. Sessions will be totally confidential, and won’t be shared with other university staff – unless they feel you’re at risk and need to let someone else know.

If you’re struggling, you could also ask your university for time off from your studies. Most universities will allow students to take time off for their health where needed, so if you really feel that you need some time off to help you access support, there’s no shame in asking about this.

If you want to continue with your studies but are finding deadlines incredibly stress-inducing, reach out to someone at the university like a student advisor, tutor, or professor. Let them know how you’re feeling and that you may need some support to continue your studies, like deadline extensions or exam resits.

Conclusion

Your mental health is the foundation for your entire wellbeing. Feelings of anxiety and depression can rapidly affect your physical health, and as a student, can have consequences for your entire university experience.

There’s no shame in having anxiety or depression. Your tutors and advisors at university are there to support you, and it’s important to reach out when you can feel yourself becoming unwell.

Having people you trust around you will make it easier to come out of a mental health crisis. Whether that is a friendship group formed in class or at a society, your family, or a particular professor that you trust, try to remain in contact with these people and be honest about how you’re feeling.

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Written by
Abigail
Abigail is a freelance writer specialising in higher education. She has lived in London and the Netherlands, and has a Masters degree in American Studies.

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