This week the university’s student association held mental health and well-being awareness week. Hopefully you took advantage of the amazing events, but looking after your mental well-being doesn’t stop there. University can be tough for a lot of people. Surveys have found that often over half of uni students experience mental health problems. A lot of them don’t seek help, or don’t know how to. In recognition of mental health and well-being week, I’m sharing advice about managing mental health and seeking support.
Disclaimer: I myself have been diagnosed with multiple chronic mental illnesses, but I understand what works for me won’t work for everyone. However, I hope this can give you some self-care ideas at the very least. Also, mental health isn’t just mental illness, anyone and everyone should look after their mental well-being.
When you’re struggling with any part of university it can feel daunting to tell anyone, but it helps. At Edinburgh, there are lots of support services in place. Whether it’s ongoing stress, a rough patch, or you have a history of mental illness, there are services in place. If you’re concerned that your well-being is impacting your studies, I recommend discussing it with your personal tutor, or the student support office. These people are awesome, and will help you take the steps you need to take to safeguard your academic experience when your mind just isn’t co-operating. It can be a huge weight off your shoulders when you know that someone is aware of what you’re going through, and you’re working towards a solution to make sure it has minimal impact.
Make daily goals
There are lots of nice, incredibly helpful things you can do for yourself that can really make a difference. Something I’ve found has been great for myself is finding a sense of routine in my week. This can start with regularly getting to all your classes (more of a hassle than it may seem to some). I’ve found it even more helpful to find activities beyond that, especially if it’s academia specifically that’s getting you down. A meeting, an appointment, lunch out – any of these can be something that you make yourself do to establish a routine. It helps you get out of the house and get busy with something other than your workload.
Try new things
You will hear me plug this as often as I can, but join a society. Finding something you’re passionate about beyond what’s required of you for your qualifications is fun, and rewarding, and downright lovely. You make so many new friends through societies, and friends are a backbone of your support system. It can also keep you busy and distracted from any negative experiences. A lot of societies offer great opportunities for knowledge, socialising, and experiences, that will make it worthwhile to get up and head out to a meeting once a week. Studies have also found that being part of societies or partaking in volunteering opportunities can have a massively positive impact on your mental well-being.
Look after your physical health
I feel terrible bringing up exercise, but when you find a kind of exercise you love it can make such a difference. I’m a huge fan of the cardio street funk classes at the Pleasance gym – and dancing in general. For you, it could be running, swimming, kickboxing… I hear that one is particularly good for stress. I also dabble in archery and when you’re feeling angry at the world it can be fantastic to shoot an arrow at things. If you’re not sure what kind of exercise you might love, the sports union offers so many options. They almost always have ‘have a go’ sessions toward the start of the semester, and stress buster sessions when exam time looms.
Be kind to yourself
Be nice to yourself. It’s important to work hard at university, but if you can’t quite give 100% all the time don’t beat yourself up. Self-care is a balance of pulling yourself out of a bad head-space, and making yourself feel better. Don’t give in and nap every single time you feel down, but if it happens, you’ll only feel worse if you get angry at yourself. Sometimes you sleep in, sometimes you leave an assignment too late, sometimes you just can’t wrap your head around what’s going on in a lab. It’s okay to forgive yourself, There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re awesome. If you’re judging yourself for any of these things, then you really are trying. Be good to yourself. Getting out of a rough patch is easier when you’ve got yourself on side.
I hope this post has encouraged you to look after your mental well-being and take some steps to look after yourself. There is no shame in being stressed at university, everyone is! Below are some details of Edinburgh University services that can help you out with whatever you may be facing.
I hope you all have marvelous, stress-free, healthy days ahead,
Student Disability Service: http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-disability-service
Student Counselling Service: http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-counselling
The Advice Place: http://bit.ly/2lbeJbl
Remember you also have your Personal Tutor, Student Support Office, or GP to talk to