For part three of my mini-series on moving to university, we’re going to tackle the big issue – keeping a firm grasp on your mental heath and your studies at the same time. Now, if you look at my history of handling my mental health at university, I don’t seem like the best person to come to when you’re on the hunt for tips. But let me tell you, I’ve been through it all, and now I know better. These are my tips for keeping yourself above water and avoiding feeling overwhelmed, so you can sidestep the mistakes that I made and have systems in place as soon as you make the big move to somewhere new.
Register with a doctor, and go. Even if you don’t feel like you need help right this second, make sure you have a doctor for when you do hit a bump. It might help to have a little appointment to just lay the groundwork and ask about what extra help you can get when times get hard – they might be able to refer you to some local services that you can sign up to for free, whether it’s a kind of therapy or group workshops. Bear in mind that these things often have long waiting lists, so it’s best to get in there early and have these options lying as a safety blanket, rather than going when you’re desperate and can’t get the help you need.
Talk to your lecturers. I say this a lot, but it’s important. It can be too easy to skip classes without talking to members of staff about why you haven’t been turning up, and this can really have an impact on your studies. Although it seems pretty daunting pouring your heart (or your head) out to your course’s team, they’re there to help you, and they’ve seen it all before. It’s up to you how you want to do it, because you don’t necessarily have to tackle the problem in person – emails get the ball rolling too, and let your tutors know what’s going on with you. Lecturers can help you if you’re struggling with the workload, encourage you to get through an assessment you never thought you’d manage, and guide you towards other services (both on and off the university campus) that might help you. I owe Eden Sharp and Devon Campbell-Hall everything I achieved over this past year, so don’t underestimate the power of the people in the classroom!
Make use of the university’s services. You can guarantee that I’ll be making the most of that extra help as I go into my final year. Find out more about what your uni has to offer – most have free counselling services, so check out your uni’s website to get a grasp on how they can help you.
Take mini breaks at home when you need to. If you can grab a weekend at home here and there to recuperate, hang out with your pet, and get a bit of peace and quiet, then it could be pretty helpful. I find that when things are getting tough for me at uni, it’s nice to spend a few days at home to gather myself up into one piece again. If this isn’t possible for you, then keep close contact with friends and family at home if you find that this helps. They’re only ever a phone call away.
Find a happy place in your new city. For me, it’s the marina. Sitting by the sea and (if it’s a clear night) seeing some stars gives me the chance to be alone and think things through until I feel calmer and like my head makes more sense. Finding somewhere you can go to catch a breather, whether it’s a park, coffee shop, or just a particular bench, can make you feel less alone and less homesick if you’re struggling.
Keep organised with your uni work. Sometimes there can be a lot going on at once, and the more you let things pile up, the more overwhelmed you’re going to get. You might have no deadlines for weeks, and then three on the same day, so you have to organise your time properly. It might help to buy a cute planner, or download a good to-do list app so that you always know what’s going on in your life. I’ve used Wunderlist in the past and really liked it, but I’ve found that the Reminders app on iPhone is really handy too, and it’s already at your fingertips.
Take advantage of your support network. Your friends and family are there to help you, so don’t suffer in silence. A problem shared is a problem halved, and though they might not be able to wave a magic wand and make everything disappear, they can advise you on what steps to take next or simply be a shoulder to cry on. It doesn’t matter whether they’re people from home or new friends at university, as long as you know that you don’t have to go through hard times by yourself.
Got any more tips for people making the leap to university? Let me know!