A lot of people will tell you that university is supposed to be the best time of your life. There’s an expectation that you are going to enjoy every minute of it and be on a constant high here – when the reality is nowhere close to that.
University can be overwhelming – especially for most of us, having to move away from family and live on our own for the first time. Cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Suddenly, we have so many responsibilities AND a huge workload AND having to socialise and make friends AND having to exercise and eating healthily. It can be hard to cope with all these things, even when you get into your second year or third year. Stress is a norm that you cannot escape for too long and it doesn’t seem to go away.
Being in a rut or slump sucks. You can feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to cope, and you look at the people around you having a good time, and balancing a lot of things, and seemingly managing their time well. You start to think why are you not like them? Why are you not having a good time? Why do you feel so alone? What’s wrong with you?
I’m writing this post because this is something I’ve had to struggle with since coming to university and I want to be honest about my experience, and what you might expect to happen. While most of uni is great, sometimes it can really suck and can get you down – the stress can take over and manifest other feelings along the way. Last year, the first time I hit a slump, I thought there must be something wrong with me. University is supposed to be great –why does it not feel great? And I didn’t know how to get out of it. It’s only this year that I realised that I’m not alone in feeling this way at all. Many people feel the same at some point and it’s actually pretty normal. So don’t worry!
So this year, to make sure I don’t fall into a bad place for a long time as I did last year, I’m trying to make sure that I continue to push on and not let the slumps get to me for too long. Here are some of the ways I try to feel better:
(Everyone’s different in how they deal with their feelings but I’m just sharing some things that might help someone).
- Call someone
Do not try and keep your feelings to yourself – this is what I try to do all the time because I do not want to be a burden on other people who I know are busy with their own lives as well. But honestly, this is the wrong mindset I had and this year, I’ve tried to talk things out with people more. I do have close friends at university but my best friends are still my friends from school, and it’s actually really refreshing to call someone who isn’t here. If I feel down and off one day, I’ll go home and have a nice chat with one of them and I always feel a little better. Sometimes you just need to be listened to.
- Make your bed in the morning
This sounds really simple – but trust me, it does make all the difference. Whenever I make my bed in the morning, I don’t know what it is, but it sort of starts your day in the right way and makes you feel like you’ve done something, even if it was something small. Also, imagine coming back after a long day and having a nicely made bed. It makes your room look a little bit tidier and can just be a nice thing to come back to.
- Relax and take a day off
I always feel guilty for missing university – but if you are feeling incredibly down, sometimes a day off is what you need. I rarely do this, but I have had times where I just felt like going in would make things worse and having to pretend like I was okay. While a day off might make you think you’ll feel worse because you’ll be unproductive – I mean take a day off from everything. Don’t be afraid of being alone. Read a book, watch a funny show, play video games, or take a nice bubble bath (if you have a bath, if not then long showers can be nice as well). My day off usually would include a long shower, a face mask, some candles and a book. Simple, but makes me feel a little bit better (this is also how I usually spend my Sundays).
- Likewise – don’t be afraid of socialising.
This is a tricky one for me because when I’m feeling down, I can either find a social situation draining or refreshing. So it all depends on how you think a social situation can help – will it make you feel better? If I do decide to go out and meet friends, I make sure it’s with people I know well, because I wouldn’t think I’d have the energy to meet new people – but maybe meeting new people could help you! Also, just a little tip, but I’d probably advise staying away from alcohol, it can only make things worse for you. Try to stick to sober gatherings – but if a night out has worked for you before in making you feel better, it might work for you again!
What? Did you read that right? Yes you did, I really do think cleaning can be a solution. Think about it this way – if university and your work is what is bringing you down, you’re probably feeling unproductive and that you’re not doing enough. You probably feel demotivated. Cleaning is a great way to do something else productive to motivate you back into work. You not only do something for yourself (and something that needs to be done at some point anyway), and tidying things up, but instead of just sitting around and doing nothing, feeling a little bad, you’ll be doing something productive in a different way! While it might not be enjoyable, think about how you’ll feel afteryou’re done cleaning that bathroom and it’s sparkly clean!
Exercising is really hard to force yourself into when you’re feeling down – but trust me, exercise is a great solution. Exercise has been proven to help with moods, mental health issues and, if you’re having an annoying period that month, it helps with that too! I remember last year, I stopped exercising when I was in a slump and later, when I got back into it, it really helped me. It’s simple but makes you feel good about yourself and just releases a bunch of good things into your body that biologically makes you feel better somehow (I’m on a Law degree, not a Biology one – I don’t know how this works, I just know it does).
- Go on a walk
If it’s hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym or in running gear (or you’re not into exercise at all – which is absolutely fine!), an easier way to ease back into exercise is by taking a walk. I personally love taking walks at night. It can be especially good for you if you take a walk out into nature – campus is perfect for that, and Leamington also has a bunch of green spaces to walk through. It really helps you clear your head and can help you relax a little bit.
- Drawing – or be creative!
So this is very personal to me but I love drawing and it always helps me to sit down for a few hours and just be creative on a piece of paper. But if you don’t like drawing or painting, be creative in other ways! Creativity and just letting your imagination go free is refreshing and opens your mind up more. You give yourself the space and freedom to be yourself for a while and that can help ease your mood more.
I love cooking so I do it all the time, but if you don’t, cooking your favourite meal and taking your time with it can help put you in a good place for a few hours – and enjoy all that yummy goodness after all that hardwork! I also love baking but don’t do it very often. I tend to do it when I’ve had a bad or off day because I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s just the smell or the end result where I get a lovely warm banana bread that I can enjoy a piece of. But yeah this is something that really works for me and might work for you too!
- Seek support
Sometimes it’s not just a slump or a phase. It can be something more. If you think you might be going through something you cannot get yourself out of, and you need help – do not be afraid to seek support. There are many ways you can seek support on campus – the health centre, university counseling, the SU advice centre, Nightline, the Mental Health and Wellbeing team, and your personal tutor to name a few. You are in no way alone, and seeking help is in no way a bad thing, it is the best thing you can do for yourself! If you ever just need someone to talk to, contact Nightline and they are just a listening service run by student volunteers.
I hope this post was helpful! Please make sure you are taking care of yourselves – and seeking support when needed. Feel free to email me with any of your concerns or if you have any questions. I hope you’re all having a lovely second term, don’t let the stress get to you too much!
– Rana x