University is hard enough by itself, and even more difficult with mental health conditions! Sometimes it’s difficult to cope with the stress of it all and it can feel like it’s not going to get any easier…but don’t give up.
These are my tips for dealing with the stresses of uni and general uni life when you also have a mental health condition. These are my own personal opinions & what have worked/work for me. I hope they can help others as well!
1) Ask for help 💙
This is the most important tip, because unless you ask, no one will know how to help. All universities offer some form of support for those who are having struggles or are suffering with mental health conditions. You can speak to your GP or one of your tutors about who to speak to about getting extra support.
My university has a Student Support Unit where you can book an appointment to speak to a qualified tutor about any struggles you are having. I also have a mental health adviser who I am able to speak to about any worries I am having.
Most likely your uni will be able to offer you exam and assessment extensions, and you may be able to sit your exams in a smaller room which is really helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.
Universities will also have on-campus counsellors and therapists which you will be able to book appointments to speak to. Although the waiting lists can be long, it is really worth getting yourself onto one because it can be really difficult getting a referral from your GP outside of uni, and private therapists are super expensive.
At the end of the day, you are paying £9000+ each year to study, so I would really advise that you accept as much help as you can whilst you’re there.
2) Surround yourself with positive people and do positive things 💙
As uni stresses build up, it’s really important to do something you enjoy to take your mind off things. Try and join a society or club at your university (there are so many to choose from!); either something new, or something which is a hobby of yours.
Likewise, try and spend time with positive people who are going to help uplift your mood! If a particular assessment is causing a lot of stress, try not to spend too much time with people who are going to constantly remind you how soon it is due and how difficult it is! Instead, find people with similar interests to you and spend time talking about the things you enjoy. This is the perfect distraction when work gets on top of you.
3) Talk to your family 💙
This can be tricky if you are living far from home, but you should always try to keep your family in the loop with what’s going on.
Your family are constant and will always be there to support you, so talking to them about things you are worried about, and your general mental wellbeing can take a huge weight off your shoulders.
If you are not studying far from home, try to visit your family at least once a month to talk about everything that’s going on, good or bad! If you are far from home, a phonecall or Skype video call is just as beneficial.
4) Don’t just accept medication! 💙
This really depends on the severity or unpredictability of your mental health, but universities do have a tendency to offer anti-depressants and anxiety related medications before offering other treatments.
Studies have proven that medication is actually most effective in treating disorders when combined with some kind of therapy (CBT, counselling etc.), so try to emphasise to your GP that you would like to see what is on offer in this area.
As I mentioned before, most uni’s will have on site counsellors and therapists who you can speak to without having to go through the GP first, so this is definitely something worth doing. If this isn’t on offer, speak to your GP about what is available in the local area in terms of support.
There are loads of websites which list local charities and organisations all over the country, so definitely have a browse and see what support groups/therapies you can find! Some will be self referral and others, you will need to be referred by your GP. If this is the case, tell them that you would like to be referred and why you think it would be suited to you.
5) Have a ‘sick day’ routine 💙
Some days it can be really difficult to get out of bed if you’re not feeling right. On days like this, it is practically impossible to get yourself into uni! Nevertheless, staying in bed can be even more detrimental to your mental wellbeing, so you have to make sure you look after your physical self to help your mind feel better.
On days when my mental health is at its lowest, I try to stick to a very simple routine, and this helps me to feel a lot better.
My basic ‘rules’ are that I get out of bed everyday and eat breakfast/lunch in the lounge and not in bed. I also make sure I shower every day, moisturise my skin and get dressed and eat three meals a day. That’s it!
It may not sound very productive, but when depression kicks in, it is so hard to leave your bed. If you set yourself four or five simple daily ‘rules’ you will get into a routine of making sure you look after yourself, even when you’re not feeling your best, which is so important!
6) Let someone in your house/someone close to you know 💙
Mental health can be unpredictable at times, so make sure that someone you are living with knows what is going on, so they can be there to help if there is ever an emergency situation.
You don’t need to tell someone straight away – make sure it is somebody you trust and feel you can talk to. If there is nobody in your flat who fits the criteria, try and find someone in your building or who lives close. It is important that they can easily come and help you in times of need.
In my first year living in halls, I spoke to my flatmate Elliot, who I felt I could trust, and he helped me through tough times. Long story short, he is now my boyfriend and we are living together, so again, he’s always here to help me <3.
In the same vein, try and live with that person who you trust through the duration of your degree, because a friend who is constant and always there to help you is priceless, and difficult to find.
7) RELAX 💙
Absolutely, 100% certainly promise that you will give yourself time to relax each day!
Even in years two and three when your workload seems never ending, give yourself at least 1 hour each day to sit and unwind. You might want to watch a movie or your favourite TV show, or maybe read a book (non uni related!).
I really like to draw so I will spend even a tiny bit of time each day doing some drawing. It really helps me to relax and take my mind off things for a moment.
8) Be sensible with drinking 💙
I think this applies to all uni students… but especially those of us with mental health conditions.
Alcohol affects serotonin and dopamine levels, which a lot of medications (particularly anti-depressants) also act on.
Try to avoid binge drinking, because this surge of hormone can affect how the medication is being released within the brain, which can seriously affect your mental wellbeing. Even if you are not taking medication, alcohol leads to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain which, if you have a mental health condition, can be very detrimental.
You also get drunk a lot quicker (which is great because a night out costs £10) however, this means that you have to be extra cautious and drink less than others. If after two drinks you are feeling quite tipsy, whereas your friend (who isn’t taking any medication) is feeling tipsy after four drinks, this doesn’t mean you need two extra drinks to keep up! (Trust me, you will end up on the floor).
Try to drink within your limits, because your mental health is more important than being super drunk!
I hope this post has been helpful and has offered a few tips on how to ‘do uni’ with a mental health condition. These tips are just what work for me, and I cannot say they will work for everyone!
They are based on my own personal experiences and opinions, which I am sharing in the hopes that I can help as many people as I can,