It’s often described as some of the best years of our lives- but beneath the boozy nights out and takeaway-fuelled all-nighters in the library, university can soon become a really daunting place.
We’re taught that university is a place in which by the end of your first year you will have eaten beans on toast and dry pasta approx 250 times, got with someone from your course and then had to face them the next day, slept in for every 9am lecture and still somehow managed to come out with a 2:1 at the end of the year.
Realistically for some of us, among floors littered with unwashed clothes and curtains that haven’t been opened for days, this isn’t always the case. Statistically, 1 in 4 of us will live with a mental health problem every year, and with student suicide rates at their highest level since 2007, 32% of ambulance call-outs to universities are self-harm or suicide related. According to the National Union of students, 78% of students surveyed in 2015 reported having a mental health problem. That’s a LOT of students cooped up indoors all day.
Anyone living with a mental health issue of any kind will understand the frustration of not always being able to access the services you need straight away (thanks Theresa May). However, there are plenty of effective self-help techniques you can use to pick yourself up on those shitty days where you find yourself watching 1440 YouTube videos of old Simpsons episodes and scoffing endless tubes of Pringles.
Make lists. Lots of lists. Things you like, your favourite movies to watch, things you need to do- just endless lists. This is something that most therapists suggest (besides the classic “healthy eating and lots of exercise”), and it can actually help with keeping you busy and adding more structure to your day. Even if your list tells you to watch season 4 of F.R.I.E.N.D.S at 2pm and eat a whole pizza to yourself at 5pm, you’re technically still becoming a more organised person- it’s a win/win!
Stay social. Especially with friends you can speak with about your problems casually, even if it’s down the pub. It’ll make everything seem more normal, and having friends you can relate to makes you feel less lonely. If you don’t feel like going out, you can even just ring an old pal for a chat or tag each other in stupid Facebook memes, so at least you’re not staring blankly at the wall for the 50th time that day.
Most importantly, pace yourself. Don’t feel forced into doing something you know will push you into a bad place. It takes time to recover and be ready to do something you’re not comfortable with, so don’t think that to overcome fear you have to jump into it. For example, if night clubs give you bad vibes, don’t pay £20 entry when you know full well you’re gonna have a bad time (and who on Earth can be arsed with that price?), and more importantly, don’t come out with a stinking hangover for no reason.
Tanya Woolf, Clinical Lead at the Efficacy Cognitive Behavioural Therapy branches, believes a lot of the issues students face today stem from financial worries and the ever-increasing pressure to do well.
She told INK: “Going to university can be a great experience for a person as an opportunity to pursue studies in subjects that they love and maybe want to turn into a career. However, it can also be a source of huge pressure with the combination of continual performance assessment in exams and written assignments, financial worries and comparing ourselves perhaps negatively with other people.”
“Some of the things we can do to help us manage these pressures include setting realistic goals and schedules. How much work can you really fit into the time available that will be productive?”
“Remember to include activities that give you a sense of achievement (e.g studying) and pleasure (e.g social events, reading for pleasure, exercise or whatever you enjoy). Physical exercise, even just walking, helps us manage our moods, so it’s good to include it in our regular routine. Keep up with social contact and ask for support if you need it.”
Don’t let your grades dictate your life. University is probably going to be your first time away from home, and it’s ok to be nervous about it. Universities have a huge student and staff support network with trained councillors if you need to talk. University is not about worrying. It’s about being care-free, it’s about finding yourself, getting comfortable with becoming a “real adult” for the first time, making friends for life, wasting all of your student loan in the first week then regretting it, and mostly importantly finding your local with the best deal on Jagerbombs.
If you need some support, please check out these websites:
C.A.L.M (this one is just for guys)