Managing Mental Health for University Students
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a strange year for us all. As a university student, you’ve adapted to online classes, assessments and limited social bubbles. Now, with the arrival of the exam and holiday season, it’s essential we are doing what we can to look after our mental health.
Make a Plan
It can be tempting to hold everything in our minds, but this can cause additional stress and impact our ability to focus or study. Some methods you can use to organise your thoughts include:
Writing down a list or mindmap of everything you need to study for each subject. This might seem overwhelming at first but it means you can be sure you've covered everything.
Identify your strongest and weakest subjects and divide your study content into more manageable chunks per week.
Now, you know your strengths, weaknesses and can vaguely visualise what you'll be doing in the time period before exams. You can use that plan to guide daily study sessions. This will make it easier to get started and avoid procrastination.
As you go along, don’t be afraid to adjust your plans. You might find a topic harder or easier than you thought, and may need additional time. Trust yourself and adjust your study sessions accordingly.
Look After Yourself
You now have an idea of what needs to be studied. That’s a great starting place, and has probably freed up some thinking space. But to ensure you have the mental and physical energy to study efficiently, you need to look after yourself.
Be sure to get regular and quality sleep. Sleep is key for consolidating the information you learn. So, avoid sacrificing sleep for extra study time.
Stay hydrated and eat healthy where you can. It can be tempting to survive off snacks and hot drinks but for a clear mind and adequate energy - you need proper food and some healthy snacks too.
Get in some light exercise. It’s easy to become inactive during study periods like exam season. Even a walk or some light stretching can leave you feeling refreshed.
Avoid comparison or things you know make you feel distressed. If you compare yourself to your peers, this might leave you feeling as if you aren’t doing enough and cause you to lose trust in yourself. But it’s important to focus on yourself, trust the methods that work for you and not let those feelings take away your time. Likewise, if you know the news or social media causes a sense of anxiety, it might be worth avoiding it during this already stressful time.
Anyone would become tired of constantly studying. It’s important to take breaks and do something you enjoy. If catching up on a series you enjoy helps take your mind off things, treat yourself to one episode after completing a certain amount of work. If you’re worried about getting too distracted, ask a friend or family member to check you have gone back to studying after your chosen treat.
After a long study day, you can also spend some quality time with family or call a friend. These acts can give you the much needed distraction from exam stress and allow you to go back feeling refreshed.
Don’t Suffer in Silence
If you find yourself feeling persistently sad, demotivated, or anxious, reach out to someone. Sometimes it can be easy to think we are just being lazy but when such feelings persist, you might need to seek support and talk to someone. Even if that’s venting to friends and family about how you’re feeling.
Likewise, if you’re finding an aspect of studying hard, reach out to your lecturer or other students. Always remember, if things are really difficult for you, there are options - you can speak to someone at your university about accommodations that can be put in place, or even taking time off. You can also reach out to mental health services at your university for additional support.
Amirah is a psychology graduate, interested in improving perceptions of mental health conditions and promoting positive wellbeing.