Managing your wellbeing at University
As someone with pre-existing mental health conditions before attending university, I had anticipated the difficulties I may experience. In hindsight, you can never have everything totally planned out because the unpredictable nature of life, especially during university, means there are always unforeseen circumstances. That is not to say it is not important to have measures in place to maintain your wellbeing, but I think it is also important to also consider mechanisms to cope with the times when things do go badly.
Firstly, and most obviously, I found that maintaining a structure is important. With university, it may be somewhat unrealistic to set yourself a rigid routine because every day differs so much, but a structure provides some sort of consistency. That is also not to say you must wake up at 9am everyday but waking up at a certain time consistently, ensures you don’t waste the whole day lugged up in your room which is never a good thing for people like me who spiral!
Secondly, organisation is something that is always drilled into our heads, but I want to put emphasis on prioritisation. At university, there is a lot to do because not only do you have to study but you have to survive. The list of things to do can sometimes seem never-ending with imminent deadlines, a scarce fridge and a party to attend. Creating lists is helpful but they are most beneficial when things are ranked. In doing so, the most urgent things are at the top or highlighted in one colour and other more trivial tasks are still recognised but do not add onto the pressure of everything else.
We all know how integral socialising and human interaction are to wellbeing but sometimes, simply put. we just can’t be bothered. Of course, I encourage making plans and hanging out with people but realistically there are times when you have no motivation to interact with others. The independent nature of university education meant that sometimes I could skip weeks of contact hours and not speak to anyone. For me, forcing myself to go to lectures, tutorials and seminars forced me to also interact with others which I felt was beneficial even if I wasn’t feeling 100%.
In terms of when things do go wrong, it is important to have support systems in place. While our friends and family can be helpful, keep in mind that other structures exist to help you, so do not feel bad reaching out for professional help.
I sometimes felt I wasn’t ‘bad’ enough to seek help but the whole point of the Wellbeing Support Service is to find out what support is best for you. It is simple to contact them as you can drop in and book a consultation but sometimes the wait for therapy is unfortunately long. I personally found the service to be efficient and non-judgemental as well as flexible in terms of providing me with a wide range of solutions.
In the meantime, the Study Happy programme provides a range of activities that can help in maintaining good mental health or simply keeping busy and active. The student volunteers are always very inviting whether you are walking in for study break or just to talk to someone.
For instant support however, the student run hotline called Nightline that runs from 9pm-9am is easily accessible by phone or in person and are always able to listen. Although I have never used Nightline, walking into the building and utilising some of their free resources was simple and easy.
In conclusion, it is important to know how you as an individual can take care of your own mental health whether that be through daily walks or lists (like me!) but also know that there is help at hand and be reassured that you will not have to struggle alone.