Mental health and wellbeing at university

One in four students suffer from mental health problems, so it's important to think about self-care while studying at university.

Moving away from home, however far that may be, looking after yourself, and trying to juggle all the aspects of university life can be difficult. I know I certainly found it difficult. It wasn’t until I was all moved in, my family had left and I was in an unfamiliar room that it dawned upon me - I was on my own. But just because you’re on your own, doesn’t mean you’re alone. And what’s better than taking this opportunity in your stride and embracing your newfound freedom? The aim of this post is to emphasise that although university can sometimes affect your mental health negatively, you can overcome it and put your well-being first. And I'm going to tell you the ways in which good mental health and wellbeing can be achieved during your time at university.

Focus on what you love doing

Make sure you find something you love, or continue to pursue something you were doing before university as it will make you happier. To maintain well-being, you need downtime and to not feel pressure on your shoulders. Personally, when I feel anxious or want to release some stress, I love going to the gym. And if I want some relaxation time, I tend to meet with my friends, watching a film or going out. To keep positive, you could consider joining societies, sports clubs, or SU events.

Put your mental health first

If you think you can’t get that assignment in on time due to your mental health, let your lecturers know and they may be accommodating. If you think you can’t go out with your friends due to your mental health, a true friend will understand. And believe me, you'll find many of those at university. Everyone has bad days - you can’t expect to be 100% all the time. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s best to put yourself first.

Don’t overload yourself

Make sure you stay up to date with lectures and assignments - you’ll thank your future self. A lot of what affects my wellbeing and mental health is when I feel overwhelmed as I've left my responsibilities to the last minute. If you plan your time effectively, but also realistically, you’re more likely to complete all your tasks. For example, if you have three lectures on a Wednesday, it's unlikely you’ll get hours of extra reading done on that day, too.

Don’t be afraid of asking for help

Whether this be specifically with your mental health, academically, or socially. Every university will have a student services hub that may offer counselling, academic advice, accommodation information, etc. You can talk specifically with your module coordinators if you have an issue with an assignment, or a question about an exam. Additionally, make sure you have a close friend at university/home to talk to when things get tough. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Seize opportunities that may seem anxiety-provoking

It's good to push your own personal boundaries, as sometimes we're our own worst enemy. A prime example for me is taking this role at Pearson. Over a year ago when I first started university, the prospect of working in an environment like this petrified me. But I'm so glad I took this opportunity as I got to meet some amazing people and work on projects that really interested me.

Be open-minded to new experiences

There'll be lots of new experiences at university: meeting new people, learning new things, living in a new city/town. At first, they may seem daunting but you may absolutely love something you never thought you would. For example, moving out the home I'd lived in all my life scared me senseless, but I wouldn’t have changed my decision for a second. You don’t necessarily have to be happy about these new experiences at first, but if you’re open to them turning out well, it’ll likely have a positive impact on your mental health.

Make sure you take time for self-care

Eat well and sleep well - your body will thank you for it. And you'll feel more in control and healthier, too. It's hard to concentrate in your lectures if you’ve only had three hours sleep. Also, take time to relax. Go for a walk, write lists to unload the thoughts on your mind, write a journal, etc. This will allow you to have a clear mind and again, be able to concentrate on the tasks you need to do. And don't forget to treat yourself. To feel good, sometimes I like to indulge in a little online shopping. 

Stay in contact with those back home

It can be difficult juggling so many responsibilities that you forget about those around you. A text or call every now and again can go a long way. Remember to text your dad that you miss him or tell your nan that you miss her roast dinners. Also, try to make an effort with your friends at university. I know sometimes when I’m tired, I don’t want to go out, but most of the time, I end up having an amazing time.

Portrait of Paige Leggett

Paige Leggett

Psychology, University of Essex