…by Allie / from New Zealand / studies Psychology / 3rd Year (UG)
This week the university’s student association held mental health and wellbeing awareness week. I hope a lot of you current students got to take advantage of some of the amazing events that were on, but looking after your mental wellbeing doesn’t stop after this week. University can be a really tough time for a lot of people – surveys have found that often over half of uni students experience mental health problems and a lot of them don’t seek help, or don’t know how to. In recognition of mental health and wellbeing week, I wanted to give you all some advice about dealing with these kinds of issues at university, and how the university can offer you support.
Disclaimer: I myself have been diagnosed with multiple chronic mental illnesses, but I understand what works for me won’t work for everyone. However, I hope this can give you some self-care ideas at the very least. Also, mental health isn’t just mental illness, anyone and everyone should look after their mental wellbeing.
When you’re struggling with any part of university it can feel daunting and embarrassing to have to talk to a teacher, a course organiser, or a support officer, but trust me – it helps. None of the staff at the university want you to have a hard time. At Edinburgh, there are lots of support services in place. Whether it’s ongoing stress, a particularly bad rough patch, or you have a history of mental illness, there are services and allowances in place to help you through it, and to stop it from having a negative impact on your studies. If you’re concerned that your mental wellbeing is having an impact on your coursework, exams, or any other aspect of your degree, I highly recommend one of the first steps you take is discussing it with your personal tutor, or the student support office. These people are awesome and will help you take the steps you need to safeguard your academic experience when your mind just isn’t co-operating. It can be a huge weight off your shoulders when you know that someone is aware of what you’re going through and that you’re working towards a solution to make sure that it has minimal impact on your grades.
While going to talk to someone can feel a bit intimidating, there are also lots of nice, incredibly helpful things you can do for yourself that can really make a difference. Something that I’ve found has been great for myself is finding a sense of routine in my week. This can start with regularly getting to all your classes (more of a hassle than it may seem to some), but it’s even more helpful to find activities beyond that, especially if it’s academia specifically that’s getting you down. A society meeting, a counselling appointment, a lunch out – any of these can be something that you have every week, that you make yourself do, to establish a routine that helps remind you to get out of the house and get busy with something other than your workload.
Following from this, and you will hear me plug this as often as I can, join a society. Finding something you’re passionate and interested in beyond what’s required of you for your qualifications is fun, rewarding, and downright lovely. You can make so many new friends through societies and friends are an amazing backbone of your support system. It can also keep you busy and distracted from any negative experiences you’re having. A lot of societies offer great opportunities for knowledge, socialising, and great experiences, that will make it worthwhile for you to get up and head out to a meeting once a week. Studies have also found that being part of societies or partaking in volunteering opportunities can have a massively positive impact on your mental wellbeing.
I feel terrible bringing up exercise, I know I hate it, but when you find a kind of exercise you love it can make such a difference. I’m a huge fan of the cardio street funk classes at the Pleasance gym – and dancing in general. For you, it could be running, swimming, kickboxing… I hear that one is particularly good for stress. I also dabble in archery and when you’re feeling angry at the world it can be fantastic to shoot an arrow at things. If you’re not sure what kind of exercise you might love, the sports union offers so many options for you to try. They almost always hold ‘have a go’ sessions toward the start of the semester, and stress buster sessions when exam time looms.
The final thing I’ll mention for now, for fear of going on and on forever (I have a lot of experience pulling myself out of a rut), is to be nice to yourself. It is important to work hard and push yourself at university, but if you can’t quite give 100% all the time try not to beat yourself up about it. Self-care is a delicate balance of pushing and pulling yourself out of a bad headspace, as well as indulging yourself and treating yourself to feel better. You shouldn’t be giving in and having a nap every single time you feel down, but if it happens, you’ll only feel worse if you get angry at yourself. Sometimes you sleep in, sometimes you leave an assignment too late, sometimes you just can’t wrap your head around what’s going on in a lab. It’s okay to forgive yourself for these things, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re awesome. Chances are if you’re judging yourself for any of these things, then you really are trying. Be good to yourself when you can. Getting out of a rough patch is easier when you’ve got yourself on side.
I hope this post has encouraged you to look after your mental wellbeing and take some steps to look after yourself the best you can. There is no shame in being stressed at university, everyone is! Below are some details of Edinburgh University services that can help you out with whatever it is that you may be facing.
I hope you all have marvellous, stress-free days ahead.
Student Disability Service: http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-disability-service
Student Counselling Service: http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-counselling
The Advice Place: http://bit.ly/2lbeJbl
Remember you also have your Personal Tutor, Student Support Office, or GP to talk to.
Read more blogs from the School of Philosophy. Psychology and Language Sciences.