Starting university and living in a new environment is a big change. As with any major life event, this can sometimes have an effect on our mental health and wellbeing.
Even if you’re already familiar with a city, being on campus, surrounded by new people and getting into the swing of studying can be a challenge. If you’re just starting out at uni, or have been a student for a while, it’s important to look out for your mental health.
How can I look after my mental health and wellbeing?
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing means that you are more likely to enjoy your time as a student and feel able to deal with challenges that may come your way. It can also mean that you are more likely to spot signs that your friends or housemates may be struggling, so that you can help them get the support they need.
Here are a few tips to look after your mental health and wellbeing:
- Take time for self care
You may have heard the phrase ‘self care’ when talking about wellbeing. Self care is anything that we may do to look after our mental, physical and emotional health.
Some people find that taking exercise, such as going for a run or trying a yoga class, can be an important part of their self care routine. Even taking the time to cook a healthy meal or chat with a friend can help you to relax and reduce stress.
- Get into good sleep habits
Late nights and long lie-ins may be stereotypes of student life, but getting into a healthy sleep routine can help you to maintain good mental health.
Aim to go to bed around the same time each evening, and reduce screen use an hour before bed. This will help signal to your brain that it’s time to rest, and help you wind down. The same goes for getting up - try to wake up at roughly the same time each morning, and have a healthy breakfast to give you plenty of energy for the day.
- Eat well
Getting plenty of fruit, vegetables, fibre and vitamins and minerals in your diet will not only help you to stay physically well, but can help your mood too.
Try to have three meals a day, and include plenty of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables in your diet. Porridge with fruit, for example, provides plenty of slow-release energy to last you until lunchtime, and is often a cheaper alternative to processed ‘on-the-go’ snacks.
Keep an eye on your alcohol intake too. High levels of drinking, especially binge drinking, can increase low mood, anxiety and stress.
- Open up
Having someone you can talk to can make a big difference to your mental health. Whether it's a friend, family member or tutor, think about who you could speak to if you start to feel low.
You will likely find that sharing how you feel can help make things seem more manageable. Someone you trust can also work with you to find the support you need (see ‘Where can I get support’, below).
What are the signs that I may be struggling?
Everyone should regularly check-in with their own mental health and wellbeing. Signs that you or someone you know may be struggling can include:
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Suddenly losing or gaining weight
- Finding it hard to fall or stay asleep, or sleeping too much
- Not taking care of your appearance, such as not washing or changing your clothes regularly
Where can I get support?
If are experiencing any of the above signs, or have noticed that a friend seems to be struggling, it’s important to get the right support.
Your first port of call should be your GP. Be as open and honest as you can. It may be helpful to take a friend or family member with you for support.
Below is a list of other helpful resources if you are worried about your mental health and wellbeing, or that of a friend:
The national charity for those diagnosed with an anxiety condition
08444 775 774
Beat: Eating Disorders
Offering support and information on eating disorders
0808 801 0677
Studentline: 0808 801 0811
One-to-one web chat: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/helplines/one-to-one
A confidential information service, providing advice on drug and alcohol abuse
Directory of local services: https://www.talktofrank.com/get-help
0300 123 6600
Live chat available online from 2pm to 6pm
The national charity for mental health, providing information and support on mental health.
0300 123 3393
Anyone studying in the UK can access this confidential listening service, run by students, for students.
Support for anyone experiencing emotional distress.
Local branch directory: https://www.samaritans.org/branches
Helpline: 116 123
Students Against Depression
Offering advice, information and guidance to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking.
The UK’s student mental health charity, offering support and resources for mental health issues.
Newcastle University Student Health and Wellbeing Service
Northumbria University Support for Students