We’ve all heard the rumours of Fresher’s flu, but how many of us have been warned of the dangers of Fresher’s fright?
Numbers of students battling with mental health issues is rising faster than ever before. And yet somehow, it’s still a closet issue. Very few people have the confidence to stand up and offer support, never mind admit they are struggling.
For example, almost 9 out of 10 of first year students find it difficult to cope with social or academic aspects of university life (The Guardian annual Student Experience survey) which often leads to anxiety. The Guardian also found that the number of university drop outs due to mental health issues has trebled since 2010.
So we thought we’d offer a few top tips to help prevent, or relieve the symptoms and struggles of mental health issues as a university student:
1. Look after yourself
There really is some truth behind the phrase: healthy body, healthy mind.
Spend some time focussing on your daily routine. Are you getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night? Are you eating a balanced diet of 3 meals a day? And are you getting any exercise?
2. Don’t lock yourself in
When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it often feels like the easiest or even best thing to do is hide yourself away in your room. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the emotional capacity to socialise or you don’t want to be a burden on those around you, but honestly, staying on your own only allows your mind to wander and problems to escalate.
Even if there’s only one or two people you feel you can talk to or spend time with, make sure you do. Don’t feel guilty about being in a low mood – true friends should be there for you through the good, the bad and the ugly!
3. Surround yourself with positive people
So once you do get out of your room, try and prioritise spending time with people that are both understanding and motivating. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be helpful to spend time with other people going through similar issues to you, but you also need people that will encourage you to head to your lectures and maybe join them on a social outing.
4. Set goals
Looking ahead may seem daunting right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set goals.
Start small – what do you want to have achieved by the end of this week? Maybe even tonight? Have a checklist – even ticking off that you did the food shop can encourage you that you got out of bed!
5. Try something new
University is the best time to branch out and try something new. Whilst this can be especially hard when feeling anxious and depressed, occupying yourself with hobbies or sports you enjoy is one of the best remedies.
Maybe ask a friend or flatmate to go with you to a society event or one of the university’s sports sessions.
MMU has a range of free sport sessions that require no commitment and are for all abilities.
6. Rest and renew
So while points 1-5 have been centred around making sure you don’t stay in your room and that you stay pro-active, some of you may actually be struggling with mental health because you don’t give yourself enough free time. Anxiety can build up when not addressed, and filling your diary can sometimes just put off feelings that need dealing with.
Maybe try looking over your week and scheduling a time when you sleep in, watch a film or unwind with a hobby you like to do on your own.
7. Know your limits
You might be looking for a solution for your suffering, but try to avoid becoming vulnerable to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. We understand that these are often used socially, but respect your limits. Getting high or drunk may take your mind off your mental health for a night but you’ll only wake up feeling worse. Of course, there are no long term health benefits to such things either.
8. Treat yourself
One of the stresses of being at uni can often be money. Maybe your student finance doesn’t quite cover your rent or you struggle to budget well. Firstly we recommend that you ask for advice. MMU has a great finance support team .
Secondly, still try and budget in some treats for yourself – even if they’re really cheap. Some of our favourites include 99p face masks and Lidl’s own brand 30p chocolate!
Treating yourself can lift your mood but also give you some perspective that while money is tight, you can manage it and still enjoy yourself.
9. Know you’re not alone
While this is number 9 on the list, this is one of our most crucial points.
As we said at the beginning, so many students struggle with mental health. This means if you mention to a random student that you are struggling with mental health, they are more than likely to be able to relate – or at the very least, know others who are in the same boat. So don’t be afraid to speak up. And definitely don’t think it’s your fault – because statistically speaking, it can’t be.
10. Get yourself the help you need
If you still feel you can’t speak up about what you’re dealing with, here are some links for different forums and charities that you can get in contact with.
Anxiety (08444775774 Mon-Fri 9.30-5.30)
MMU also has a ‘counselling, health and wellbeing service’ with specific advice for different mental health issues.
The MMU GP is also really close to campus and will be able to help you – doctors there will be well trained to deal especially with student mental health needs.