Students can be particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles, given that they’re often living away from family and friends, dealing with the stress of deadlines, socialising to make new friends, all whilst usually settling into a new home and city.
That’s why University Mental Health Day is celebrated across the UK to bring the university community together to make mental health a university-wide priority and create ongoing year-round change to the future of student mental health.
In light of University Mental Health Day taking place this week, I have been reflecting on how I ensure that I put my own wellbeing and mental health first when I’m studying. In order to do so, I look out for signs that suggest I’m struggling – for me, that is a lack of energy and motivation and physical symptoms such as headaches and tiredness.
There are a few things that I ensure I do when I notice these warnings signs:
I keep active – although this is often the opposite of what I want to do when I’m feeling tired and lethargic! However, it’s true that exercise, and generally living a healthy life, can impact how we feel. Even gentle exercise, such as a walk around the block, can release those ‘happy hormones’ which not only helps us to feel better but can increase our concentration and aid our sleep too.
When I start to see signs that I’m struggling, I reach out to those around me. Strong family ties and supportive friends are so important, not only for keeping me grounded and providing advice when needed but for allowing me a safe place to off-load and de-stress! Keeping open the lines of communication with those around you is key.
No matter how hard I try to live a healthy and self-compassionate lifestyle, there are times when I require help and I realise now that it’s important to accept that help. The worst thing that I, and you, can do is try to ignore the problem.
You can let close friends or family help you work through a problem or, alternatively, support is available through Student Advice and Wellbeing year-round for all students, offering confidential support, information and advice on any concerns you may have regarding your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
There are plenty of things you can do to look after your mental health whilst studying; more helpful information can be found on the Mind website if you find yourself concerned about your wellbeing.
Rachael Woodroffe is a SOAS Digital Ambassador currently studying a distant learning online Masters in Global Corporations and Policy. Rachael lives in the South West of England and works full-time in Corporate Affairs alongside her studies.