Posted on: 07 February 2017
Moving away from home, making new friends and living independently can be an overwhelming experience. Whether you’re the confident or shy type, one thing’s for sure – it’s daunting.
University is a time where you truly become independent and whether you’re thousands of miles from home or just around the corner, most people find that they will miss home every once in a while. It’s a big change going from being around your friends and family to living with people you’ve never met before – and may not necessarily have much in common with.
Transitioning from your home to a new environment can sometimes cause or trigger underlying mental health issues that you may not have even known existed. In the UK one in four people experience a mental health problem each year, according to mind.org. The most common for students is anxiety and depression.
Once the hype of freshers is over, you may start to feel bored or lonely and this is when anxiety and depression can kick in the hardest. Missing home, getting into a different routine and keeping on top of deadlines can seem almost impossible if you are struggling to even get out of bed in the morning.
Unlike physical health, mental health is something which is often ignored, or swept under the carpet at some universities. Often students will be prescribed with anti-depressants or other tablets by the GP without even being given any other options to try out first – and spending £8.40 a month on prescription hurts when you’re a student!
Here are some tips for coping at university:
Stay fit – It’s so so important that you keep active when you are suffering from anxiety or depression. Exercise is a way to let off some steam, it helps to relieve stress, clear your head and helps you sleep better. University gyms are cheap and usually offer access to classes in which you can also participate – there are so many options, you’re bound to find something you like!
Get out of your room – Go for a walk, go shopping, go to the library, DO ANYTHING – just don’t stay cramped up in your room all day. Take some time to clear your head and stretch your legs and this will help to break up your day and feel better. You’ll be surprised at the difference it will make even just moving from your room to the kitchen.
Avoid drinking too much – This is easier said than done at university! Everyone around you seems to be out all the time and it’s easy to get into a habit of binge-drinking, but don’t! Anti-depressants and alcohol do NOT mix well. In some people, it can bring out aggression and you could end up doing something you regret. Drinking games are also a bad idea, just pace yourself and when you feel like you’ve had enough don’t feel guilty for leaving early.
SLEEP!!!!!! – Sounds obvious, but make sure you’re getting enough of it! Six-eight hours is the recommended amount of sleep you should be having. Get yourself into a routine, set an alarm to go to bed and wake up to, or if you know you’ll just snooze it then ask a house mate to wake you up. Also, switch off your television, phones or tablets half an hour before you go to sleep as they are likely to keep you awake.
TALK- Pick up the phone, log on to Facebook, send a text – do whatever it takes but make sure you talk to your friends and family when you’re feeling low. Talk to your housemates, course mates or tutors – remember anxiety and depression are more common than you think you can guarantee someone else is feeling the same. The majority of universities offer professional counselling services for students. The university website or student services normally have guidance on how to book sessions and it’s fully confidential.
Eat healthy – Living independently can make anyone lazy. A takeaway or ready meal can often work out cheaper than cooking from fresh but don’t get into this bad habit. Depression can make you feel tired so eat lots of greens to get iron into your body. Don’t skip breakfast as this is the most important way to start your day. Keep hydrated. Fruit and vegetables contain minerals, vitamins and fibre and other nutrients which your body needs.
University is all about finding yourself, making new friends and most importantly having fun, so the next time you’re feeling down remember you’re not alone.
What NOT to say:
There are many organisations out there to help you if you need to talk: