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Keeping on top of your mental health at University

Josie tells us how university put pressure on her mental health and the Positive Minds wellbeing team share some wellbeing tips for students

Being at University, especially during a pandemic, can put pressure on your mental health. For University Mental Health Day 2021 we want to raise awareness of the pressures students can face and show that there is help available. Josie studies at Portsmouth University and tells us how her time as a student has put unexpected pressure on her mental health: 

"University can be the best of times and the worst. For me, it was a mixture of both, I found it very overwhelming and difficult at times, whilst also having some great times and creating some amazing memories. I think to the outside world, there is a stereotype of what a typical student is, one that drinks a lot and goes out partying every day, wastes their money and does hardly any work. The fact of the matter is, that’s a narrow minded view of what being a student is like and does not take into consideration that there is so much more to being a student.

At the beginning of University there are so many changes, from living on your own and away from family, finances, food shopping, making new friends and finding your way around. This can be quite overwhelming for some and many struggle within those first few weeks. However, for me, the first year of University didn’t impact me as much as second year. My second year definitely took a toll on my mental health.

My course got a lot harder and more difficult to understand, and the assignments also got more complex. 

This jump from first to second year was a lot more intense then I originally thought. When talking to family they would always presume that I would be out partying every night, when in fact I was working on one of many essays. Each essay would take a great deal of preparation and reading, which may take a few weeks to do. It wasn’t all partying and fun, there was a lot of hard work involved and lot of long days and nights working on them. This did impact me mentally as there was a constant feeling of being drained and burnt out, there was not an equal balance of having fun and doing work.

My mental health was also impacted during my second year by financial stress. 

This was a huge struggle for me, as I would only have a small amount of money each week to do a food shop, which really didn’t consist of much. I bought hardly anything and only the cheapest items. It was a huge strain on my mental well-being. I had so much work to do, whilst I was also trying to find a job and any sort of income. It got to the point of having to go into my overdraft to pay for my rent and keep me afloat. To help during those times, I completed psychological studies for money to help get by per month and completed any sort of paid survey available.

This was really hard for me. Being away from home you miss out on so much, you feel out of the loop from your family in many ways.

Therefore, when Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries come by, I wanted to get them presents and gifts that would make them happy, but realistically I dreaded every celebration that came my way. It was something I couldn’t afford to do and would have to make cut backs of my finances somewhere else. But, I felt guilty that because I wasn’t at home and spending time with them, I had to get them something nice.

I think the most difficult thing about University life and being a student, is the lack of understanding that many have on what student life is really like."

Positive Mind’s Tips for Students

1. Eat healthily - For many uni students this is the first time they have lived alone or without any parental guidance. There is a new sense of freedom and sometimes eating habits are the first affected. Continue to eat a balanced diet focusing on nutrients.

2. Monitor drinking - There is a big drinking culture at uni and it can be easy to get swept up by it as alcohol is usually present in every social activity. Keep track of how much you are drinking and how it is affecting your energy levels, ability to focus during lessons, and complete assignments.

3. Balance - It is important to find the balance between studying hard and enjoying yourself. Going full throttle in either direction can be detrimental to your wellbeing and mental health. Finding the balance between focusing on your studies and allowing yourself the time to for to explore your interests, hobbies and passions is important for self-development and growth.

4. Sleep – It can be easy to slip into unhealthy routines that involve either sleeping too much or not enough. Aim to get 9 hours sleep a night as often as possible.

5. Loneliness - While you may be excited to embark on a new adventure, it can feel lonely at times. It is important to reach out. Find communities/organisations that you feel connected with and a part of.

6. Don't compare yourself - You will find yourself amongst people with different upbringings and different social and economic backgrounds. This can often lead to self-comparisons if you do not feel you measure up. It is important to remember how hard you worked to get there.

7. Ask for help – If things are feeling too much or you are struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. 

Reach out to your student union or dedicated wellbeing service. 

Positive Minds is able to support Students in Portsmouth – call them on 023 9282 4795 or email positiveminds@solentmind.org.uk.

Call Solent Mind's Support Line on 023 8017 9049 for on the phone support and advice on what services are available to you. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 111 or the Samaritans on 116 123. 

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