By Ruth Harding, second year Biomedical Science student
I had a difficult time at home before I started at Newcastle university and I found that I was struggling to cope at points during my first year.
These are my top 5 tips to help improve your mental health while at university based on my personal experiences:
1. Access support
There is plenty of support available at uni, the first thing to do when you feel you are experiencing difficulties is to access the support that is available to you as soon as you possibly can.
I found the transition from sixth form to university to be a challenge especially when I was battling poor mental health at the same time. The university support I found to be the most helpful was my personal tutor and the student services team (student wellbeing). There is also an online CBT programme available to all Newcastle students here. There are also useful links and tips on the Ncl wellbeing app.
As well as university support I encourage you to build a wider network, I do not think I would have got through the year without the support of my friends, and family.
I feel it was very important for me to share what I was going through with people I trusted as it made me feel less alone. There is more information on the university support available here
During times of stress I found that my mental health suffered the most, in order to combat this it was important for me to look after myself.
While it may be tempting to skip things you would normally do during a pressured time of year, this can actually lead to you feeling worse and therefore you will not be at the top of your game when it comes to your studies. Some lifestyle factors that I found to be important during times of stress were sleep, exercise and diet.
In order to reduce stress it is important to plan your time effectively, this is an area in which I struggled a lot during my first year. I feel I learnt valuable lessons through dealing with the consequences of my poor time management however it is best not to have to learn through stressful experiences!
Towards the end of my first year I began to get more on top of my work and revision.
I tried to complete work as soon as I could after it had been set, make plans for my time and used techniques such as the pomodoro technique to improve my efficiency when studying.
During my first year I found that when I put off work for long periods of time it would cause me large amounts of stress and I wouldn’t be able to properly relax, by completing the work I needed to do sooner I was able to fit in times to do things I enjoyed without feeling guilty which helped my mental health enormously. There are many more tips on how to improve your study skills and there are group or one to one help sessions here.
4. Time to relax
As I said previously it is very important to plan in time to do things you enjoy.
I found many ways that worked for me but each person is different and so will find different things relaxing. For me it was spending time with friends, cooking and being creative. I found I was able to focus much better when I also prioritised spending some time relaxing.
5. Celebrate achievements
I think it is very important to celebrate your successes when at university, sometimes it can feel like you are always working towards the next deadline but when you plan time into your schedule to celebrate the results of an essay or your exams it can help you to feel proud of the work you are doing which is great for boosting your mental health.
Finally I would like to encourage you to be kind to yourself, university can be tough and so it is important that if you have a rough patch not to beat yourself up about it. I found that when I was more gentle with myself during the stressful times I felt much more able to cope with everything that was going on.
The NHS advises that you should see a GP if you have been depressed for longer than a couple of weeks or your anxiety makes it difficult for you to function. The NHS has put together a list of organisations you can call if you need someone to talk to urgently here. The Samaritans are contactable 24/7 all year round on 116 123 (free number) if you need to call someone for a confidential chat. If you are having thoughts of self harm or suicide please talk to someone you can trust such as your GP or a close friend/ family member, the Samaritans or student wellbeing.
Finally, let’s look out for each other, life’s not always easy but we can get through the dark times.
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