As the new academic term approaches many of you may be worrying about how to manage your mental health whilst away!
Moving away from home and being thrown in with a bunch of strangers is daunting at the best of times, but add in a mental health illness and it becomes a whole new level of difficulty.
Unfortunately for some, university and mental health issues simply won’t mix, but for many it does. So, how do you survive university whilst dealing with a mental health issue?
#1: Do not shut yourself away!
Feeling alone whilst surrounding by people is crippling. The chances are, everyone is feeling awkward, anxious and extremely self-conscious. Whether it’s said or not everyone is worrying about other’s perceptions of them. Try to put that aside and get stuck in. Everyone is in the same situation.
#2 : Nights Out?
During freshers week most people will be partying the nights away. Whether you drink or not, you may enjoy the social atmosphere. Join in with the drinking games with a glass of orange juice, chances are people will just appreciate you making the effort. However, if that simply isn’t for you, then don’t worry about it! There will be plenty of others who prefer a night in with a good film and munchies too. You’ve just got to find them.
#3 : Be Honest
Don’t talk about yourself ALL the time, but it’s completely ok to be be open and honest about who you are. There will be people you click with, and those you don’t get along with so much, but just be yourself and you might just find people you can laugh with, cry with and everything in between!
#4 : Don’t be afraid to start conversations
Whether it’s via text, Facebook messenger, or over a good cuppa, try to at least say hello to those you’ll be living with. Chances are even the super confident will be feeling a bit awkward too.
1 in 4 of us deal with mental illness of one kind or another, so the chances are you’ll be in a class with, or living with someone who has an understanding anyway. Give them a chance just as you’ll be asking them to give you one.
#5 : Support Available
It’s essential to know where to phone or visit to get support. Many universities have great student support services who offer anything from counselling to helping to find your way. Student union reps are always a good to approach, most have Facebook pages if face to face is too difficult, but they’ve been there. They known the stresses and strains university can bring, and you never know, you might end up making more friends there. At least it’ll be another friendly face in case you start to struggle or are simply having a bad day.
Being successful in university and life is something that takes determination, a balance of time, courage, acceptance, and self care.
#6 : Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
There are so many societies, sports groups etc at university, you may be tempted to join them all in a bid to find like minded people. But don’t forget, by the time you go to every event, join every group, and fit in some studying, there’re be very little time left for yourself. Choose wisely how you spend your time!
#8 : It’s Ok To Take A Break
Everyone will be having days where they feel isolated, alone, or just pretty rubbish, including those with mental health issues. That’s perfectly ok! It’s natural to have bad times, it’s part of what makes us human, so don’t punish yourself for having a day in bed, but know where to go if you need to ask for help. (friends, tutors, GP, student services, student union etc).
#9 : Homesickness
Sooner or later homesickness will kick in for most people. For some it briefly passes, for others it’s a long battle. Speak out. Tell someone you can trust there that you’re feeling this way. The chances are they will at some point too. It’s another opportunity to build bridges with those you live with or that are on your course. It could be as casual as saying ‘I’m just missing home a little today’ instead of ‘I’m fine’ when asked if you’re ok! But it’s good to make time to keep in contact with friends and family at home too.
The thought of a new place and the unknown is terrifying to some of you, and may not be the way forward, but give it a chance. Make you you’ve a list of places or people to go to should you need help.
#10 : Explore
If you’re moving out of home for the first time, take the chance to explore your surroundings. You’ll find some interesting facts about your new place, find the best walks, or places to go for nights out. You may even take up a new sport, but take time to appreciate what’s around. It’s ok to keep returning to your favourite spots!
#11: Mistakes Will Happen
Things at your university home will go wrong. You’ll burn things, or drink too much, not clean enough, or not know how to use the washing machine… but these are all things you can do together or alone. Everyone goes through it, for most of you it’ll be the first time you’re taking care of things like that, and there will be disagreements over who’s left washing up for days, but they don’t have to become a massive deal, laugh them off and try again next time. It’s all part of the learning curve!
And if the worst comes to the worst and you drop out, then at least you’ve given it your all! It’s not for everyone, and accepting that is sometimes to most courageous thing to do!