Taking care of your mental health at university – OurWarwick

Taking care of your mental health at university

Today is Warwick University Mental Health Day. To mark this important day I will share my thoughts on mental wellbeing, how I personally take care of my mental health and what I think we can all do to help each other out.   One of the main things I have come to realize is that we don’t think about our minds in the same way as our bodies. We rely on our bodies to take us places and to carry out various task and activities. To do so well, we know we need to take care of our physical health, by training our bodies regularly and fueling them properly. If we don’t, physical symptoms tend to rapidly show, prompting us to take action. How is our mind any different? We need our brain for so many things in our lives, from thinking and working to socialising and caring. It makes sense that we ought to take similar care of our mental health. And yet, this is not something many of us prioritise. And when symptoms start to show (both physical and emotional), we tend to explain them away as weakness, failure and incompetence. This makes little sense to me. As sedentary beings with the technology available to help transport us from one place to another, to build our homes and to make our food, we exert only a small amount of stress on our bodies. On the contrary, the challenges life throws at us, the pressure of school and work and the many societal expectations we try to meet every day puts a tremendous amount of stress on our minds. It would make sense, therefore, to spend more time taking care of our mental health, training our minds to be as resilient as possible.   Here are some things you can try to make sure you feel your best!  
  • You DO NOT have to struggle alone
I think that at university, it can sometimes feel like it’s “every man for himself”. There is definitely an element of competition with each other for the best grades, over securing graduate jobs and extra-curricular positions. It can therefore quite easily feel as though you have to “sort yourself out” on your own, “deal with your problems” and “get it together” by yourself. This is absolutely not the case and also does not work, which brings me to my second point.
  • Find someone you trust to talk to
If you can talk to someone you trust, who you know will listen and respect you, do. If that trusted person is not there, reach out to professional services. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. On the contrary, it is a strength. It is what will help you bounce back, realise you are not alone and that you are in control.  If you are the person doing the listening, make sure you normalize the feelings of the person sharing them with you. Do what you can for someone else, but be careful not to jeopardize your own mental health in the process. 
  • Practice self-compassion
We are often our own worst critic. But think about it. You wouldn’t say to a friend who is struggling with something: “what are you doing, you loser? Stop complaining. Don’t be so dramatic” right? Then don’t say it to yourself either. Be kind to yourself. 
  • Yoga and meditation
Any form of yoga, meditation or mindfulness practice are beautiful tools you can introduce into your life, as a way of taking time for yourself. Committing to a daily practice can be challenging. But, take it one step at the time, ease into it and start small. There are many free resources out there that can introduce you to different forms of yoga and mediation (think Youtube, various apps and Instagram).
  • Become in-tune with your thoughts and emotions
If you can recognize the triggers that make you feel and react a certain way, the emotions will become easier to manage and mitigate. For example, if you can pinpoint that rushing out of the house in the morning is what makes you feel anxious, you can take action by preparing your stuff the night before or setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier. 
  • Find a routine that works for you
There is no shortage of opinions, advice, tips and tricks out there on what you should be doing to take care of your mental health. The issue is that everyone is different and there is no “one tip fits all”. You need to figure out what works you: the amount of sleep you need, the people you need to take a break from, what you do to relax, what triggers you etc. 
  • You deserve to feel great! 
Once we get into a cycle of negative thoughts, stress and fatigue, we can come to normalize those feelings. You might start to feel like it’s normal to feel a little bit down all the time, a little bit anxious every day or just always somewhat tired. It’s not. You deserve to feel great and you have the tools for it! 

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