As the university academic year begins, thousands of freshly turned 18-year-olds pack up their bags and fly the nest. This is a momentous time for budding students. The majority of students will be moving away from home for the first time, cooking for themselves, doing their own laundry, making new friends and joining new clubs, and having the pressure on them to turn in assignment after assignment. This can all be a bit overwhelming, but that’s okay.
18-year-olds aren’t the only ones jumping into university life. Many older adults decide to venture into something new and pick up a university course to support their new career/passion.
This can be a stressful time, and you’re allowed to feel stressed. Understanding that everybody is in the same boat is a comforting thought. However, this doesn’t mean your mental health remains positive and is not something to brush under the carpet.
Students can experience struggles with all aspects of emotional and mental health. These can range from managing stress, change and pressure, all the way through to mood disorders. Research has shown that rates of anxiety, depression and suicide are high among students and recent graduates; one in five students currently have a mental health diagnosis.
Sometimes you’re not necessarily aware that you’re suffering. However, there are some warning signs to look out for:
· Withdrawing yourself socially – becoming isolated from your social groups and peers.
· Lacking motivation and concentration
· Change of eating and sleeping patterns
· Indulging in addictive behaviours
· Low mood
Unfortunately, there it is often difficult to know if somebody is struggling with their mental health, and there is no one size fits all, symptom checklist; no two people behave the same way. If you feel low, regardless of your situation and feelings, reach out to somebody and seek advice and help.
Managing Student Stress
Successful coping mechanisms are different for everybody, but helpful strategies which can have a positive impact on your mental health are:
· Exercise – this releases endorphins, “the happy hormone”. We feel a great sense of accomplishment from exercise, and whether you exercise alone or with company, you’re taking positive steps towards social settings which provide motivation.
· Mindfulness – Various relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or yoga, can significantly lower stress levels. There are amazing apps such as The Mindfulness App or Headspace, which make this sort of practice accessible.
· Getting enough sleep – maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can be paramount in upholding good mental health and managing stress.
· Taking a break from social media – Today we are so consumed in what other people are doing digitally we begin to compare ourselves to this fake reality.
It’s also very important to know that there are people out there who are willing to talk. Whether that’s a family member, friend or an outside resource (e.g. a chatline or professional service).
Here are a few links to establishments who provide 24-hour advice and information for people suffering, and for people who are supporting sufferers.
Student Help: https://nightline.ac.uk/want-to-talk/