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The importance of student wellbeing when settling into student life

May 20, 2024
Louise Wills

Going to university offers so many exciting experiences. You’re likely to be living with friends, exploring new places and going out. However, while there are lots of positive things about this new chapter, there can also be certain challenges which can take a toll on your mental health.  

You might be moving far away from friends and family, perhaps to a town or city where you’ve never been. You’ll be finding a new routine, meeting new people and possibly learning how to budget for the first time, all while balancing your studies, which to start with, might feel like a step up from school or college.  

If you find that all of this change is stressful and overwhelming at times, then you’re not alone. Around one in six undergraduates report experiencing mental health challenges, which according to research, has almost tripled in recent years.  

Whether you’re preparing to go to university, or you’re already a student, here are some helpful tips for taking care of your mental health and wellbeing:

Check in with yourself

Take the time to check in with how you're feeling; have you noticed any changes in your mood or your behaviour? Are you missing classes? Have you found it hard to motivate yourself to study or socialise? Are you no longer enjoying the things that you used to? Are you unable to sleep? If the answer is yes, this could be a sign that you’re struggling with your mental health.

Don’t compare your experience

There tends to be an expectation that university will be the ‘time of your life’, which creates pressure to have the ‘perfect’ experience. So, when things aren’t as easy or as fun as you’d hoped, this can leave you feeling disappointed.

You might be tempted to compare your experience with what your friends are posting on social media, which can make you feel even worse. However, it’s important to remember that social media isn’t necessarily a true reflection of reality and that people tend to share the good, without the bad.

Ups and downs are normal and just because you’re not having fun right now, doesn’t mean that there aren’t good times to come.

Take control of your finances

For lots of students, going to university is the first time that they will need to pay for rent, food and bills. Managing a larger budget can feel overwhelming, so it’s best to put a spending plan in place early on. The Student Space offers advice on money problems and you can also use this budgeting planner to manage your money.

Open up about your feelings

If you’re feeling down, stressed, anxious or you’re not enjoying university as much as you hoped, it can help to open up to someone. Call a family member or a close friend and let them know what’s going on. There’s a good feeling that comes from talking and being listened to and hearing a familiar voice can be really comforting.

Remember, it’s normal to feel a bit lonely to begin with at university; it takes time to build connections and you might not find ‘your crowd’ right away. Even though it might seem daunting, it can be helpful to join a society, club or sports team to help you find like-minded people.

If you don’t feel as though there’s anyone in your life that you can talk to, the Samaritans listening service is always open. Call for free on 116123.  

Set healthy boundaries

There’s bound to be a lot happening at university, from studying to society meet-ups, social clubs and nights out. It’s natural to want to make the most of these opportunities, but if you’re not careful, you can wear yourself thin. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and say no to things when you need to.  

Similarly, if anyone tries to persuade you to do something that you feel uneasy about, such as drinking or drug taking, remember that you’re in charge of your actions and it’s okay to be assertive about what you’re comfortable with. Read more about setting boundaries here.  

Practice self-care

Self-care means looking after ourselves physically and mentally. This could involve sticking to healthy habits, like getting plenty of sleep, keeping your space clean, eating healthily and exercising. It could also be an activity that helps you to unwind - watching your favourite TV show, going for a walk, breathing exercises or cooking. Anything that prioritises and supports our wellbeing is a form of self-care.

Seek support if you need it

If you notice that your mental health is suffering, it’s best to take action sooner, rather than later; mental health issues are like physical health problems - the longer you leave them, the worse they can get. It’s worth investigating what support is available at your university, but it’s also a good idea to make an appointment with your GP who can advise you on what action to take.

Your GP might suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is an effective way to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. CBT helps you to challenge negative thoughts and behaviours and gives you the tools to manage them. At ieso, we offer typed CBT, where the patient and therapist ‘speak’ by typing back and forward, plus video call sessions in some areas. Our service is flexible, remote and free for some NHS patients. Find out if you’re eligible here.

Helpful resources for student mental health support:

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/student-life/about-student-mental-health/

Student Minds: https://www.studentminds.org.uk/

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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