University offers amazing opportunities to students looking to pave the way for a successful future, but this is not without its challenges. Facing university can also be a difficult time.
With so many changes and shifting experiences that remove you from what you once deemed as the norm, mental health can also shift. From homesickness to assignment-related stress, to simply feeling low, our mood can take a toll if neglected and if the right action is not taken.
All students need to understand that they are not alone. Every year many students report feeling mentally unwell, or admit to struggling with the pressures that higher education comes with. We are here to shed some light, and offer you actionable steps to improve your mental health, all whilst navigating the difficult experience of university.
If you are feeling low now, rest assured that a more positive state of mind is achievable. Take a look at our suggestions to take care of your mental health while in college or university.
Mental Health Warning Signs in College
If you have been feeling low, or not quiet yourself for some time while in college or uni, there are some tell-tale signs that you might need to reflect on your current mental state. This includes:
- Lacking motivation to do daily essential tasks, such as showering and cooking full meals.
- Avoiding social interactions, or detaching from relationships
- Feeling low and having low patience for others
- Feeling overwhelmed with stress
- Experiencing the feeling of isolation
If any of these symptoms resonate with how you are currently feeling, you may be dealing with an untreated mental health problem. It is okay to seek help, as taking the steps towards change will give you the best opportunity to work through these emotions.
Measures to Maintain Good Mental Health in University
Once you have come to terms with the need for change, consider implementing the following steps to maintain your mental health while in college or university:
1. Eat a nutritious diet
Changing your diet is probably not what you were expecting to hear, but the foods we put into our bodies can directly affect how we feel.
When we are feeling depressed and anxious, we tend to neglect the most important needs of our body, such as getting exercise and eating a balanced diet. This can lead to an unhealthy diet consisting of processed, and calorie-dense foods that leave us feeling deflated due to excessive carb and sugar levels.
Start with cooking full meals for yourself when you are feeling low. This can be anything from adding one source of fruit or vegetable into every meal. Trying out new recipes can also be therapeutic as you teach yourself how to cook.
Eating healthy does not have to be expensive, either. If you cook your meals in bulk to have them ready for the week, and also shop at discount supermarkets - opting for their unbranded ingredients, you can save a lot of money and live affordably within your budget in college.
2. Spend some time in nature
Spending time in nature is a great way to ground yourself and take some time away from the buzz of university. Especially if this is your first time at university in a new city, being in the busy environments that universities are often situated in can feel suffocating.
Find a nature spot or walk within commutable distance to your accommodation, and ask a friend to join you for a walk. Having a quiet, open space with fresh air can lift the weight of low mood off your shoulders. Take a train or bus for budget transport.
3. Keep your accommodation tidy
Making the change to complete small tasks is another way to work towards a better mental state. Often cleanliness and tidiness take a backseat when we are feeling low.
Spend a couple of hours making your room fresh and clean, maybe even treating yourself to some new university decor to make it feel more like your own. This is especially helpful when you are feeling homesick.
4. Limit your alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol is a common practice when you are at university. Going to freshers and partying might seem like the solution when you are feeling low, but this can actually be the cause and result of a worse mental state.
If you do feel like you are struggling with your mental health, avoid drinking unless you are in a safe environment or a stable mental state. Alcohol is a natural depressant and will worsen any low mood.
5. Speak with university councillors
Your university will have access to mental health support if you are feeling low. Speak with your councillor, or a trusted professor at your university and ask about the available support.
Keep in mind there are often waiting lists to gain support from their teams, but they will do their very best to make sure you have a circle of support whilst you push through this difficult time.
6. Open up to trusted friends
University is a place to make friends for life. If you have built relationships with people who make you feel comfortable and supported, open up about how you have been feeling. This of course should only be done if you feel comfortable.
Not having a circle of friends at Uni is also completely normal. Sometimes it takes a while to find the circle of people that you can be yourself with. In this case consider speaking to your hometown friends, and arranging a meet-up to experience the feeling of home.
7. Make short-term and long-term goals
When we are in low or depressive states, this can often be due to a lack of the feeling of purpose. The future can seem unknown when you are at University, especially when you are unsure of what you would like to do upon your degree competition.
To move forward from this, start setting short-term and long-term goals. This can be anything from fitness goals to meeting new people. You can also set long-term goals such as buying a car once you finish uni or landing a graduate role at your dream company.
Having aspirations and committing to goals gives us purpose, and provides a reason to be grateful and want more of ourselves.
8. Maintain a healthy sleeping schedule
Finally, you need to understand the importance of sleep. If you have suddenly been feeling low without reason, you should look to your sleeping schedule for a better understanding.
Not having enough sleep can lead to mental and physical illnesses. The recommended hours of sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours.
Start maintaining a strict sleeping routine if you have fallen out of schedule. More practical courses in uni such as medicine and nursing degrees can be very demanding, leading to a lack of sleep.
Make the time to catch up on any missed sleep when possible. It is also vital to avoid oversleeping, as this can also lead to brain fog.