Preparing for exam results can be a stressful time for everybody; parents, teachers, and worst of all students. You might not achieve marks as good as you’d hoped, your grades might come in where you expected, or you might find your results sheet gives scores you never even anticipated. But once the initial impact of results day is over, you have to consider life at university.
University can be the start of a huge transition for many young people. Not only is it likely you’re moving out of home which means you now need to be responsible for all your meals, your washing, and those dreaded bills everyone seems to talk about, but you’re also thrown into a new world. It’s a world full of exciting experiences, new people, new subjects, classes, and lecturers. It might be that you’re moving to a new city, living in a shared house with people you don’t know, or you’ve found a room at halls. So with all this going on and countless possibilities lying ahead of you, how can you prepare and look after your mental health?
Make a Smart Choice
When you’re looking at universities, make sure you visit them and get a feel for the place. Don’t just visit the university, make sure you look at the town and see what’s around you. Also consider the location and how far it is from home. If you suffer from mental health problems or you know you get very homesick, picking a university at the opposite end of the country might not be a great idea as you could feel isolated. Staying closer to home can mean you have better support links, your family and friends can visit you easier, and if you ever need to go back home you’ll be able to without too much additional stress. It can also make the transition easier knowing you’re not too far away.
Get the Support You Need
If you have mental health problems or a disability, disclosing that to the university can mean you get the support you need, to make the transition smoother. It might be that you have a counsellor to check in with or access to other mental health professionals, or if you suffer with an eating disorder you might be able to pick a halls of residence preference for catered or self-catered. One study showed that 78% of students who asked for support at university noted a positive effect on their time there and studies.
Whether you’ve struggled with mental health problems for years, or find you’re developing some issues at university, you can try and prepare yourself as best as possible. Keep some emergency money in a bank account so that if you don’t budget quite right in the first semester you don’t need to stress, or if you need to go home for a weekend you’re able to make that choice. Stay in touch with your friends from home and arrange regular meet ups when you’re both back so you don’t feel like you’re losing contact with important people that are sometimes pillars in our lives. Write letters to family and arrange daily, or weekly, Skype/phone calls too.
Try and take up some form of exercise to keep the endorphins flowing and make sure if you begin to feel your mental health deteriorate, you reach out and ask for help or do things that make you feel better. If you have any routines in your life, try and stick to them to keep some normality. Lots of students find their mental health can come under some pressure at university because it’s such a big transition, but keeping an eye on any warning signs can help you take steps to improve your wellbeing quicker. You can even try some mindfulness.
Put some Sunshine in Rainy Days
Everyone has rainy days where things can seem a bit hopeless or you might just feel a bit flat. One recommendation we’d make, is to create a vision board. Pin things you’d like to achieve, include photos, uplifting quotes, dates for your next trip home, letters from friends and keep it positive. Additionally, if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health problem which might cause you to think unkind things about yourself, have a book with positive things written in about you. Every time someone gives you a compliment, write it in there so you don’t forget it and can read them when you feel bad. Before you head to uni, you can even ask friends and family members to write individual messages to you in a little notebook, so that you can read them throughout the year if you feel homesick.
Know Your Triggers
If loud crowded spaces increase your anxiety, try and avoid those events, or if you go, make sure you know how to get out should things get too much for you. While a lot of parties at university involve drinking, if alcohol tends to deepen your depression or heighten your anxiety, be careful with how much you drink. Don’t be afraid to say you’re only drinking soft drinks, and if people try to peer pressure you, you can always say alcohol just isn’t good for your health.
We hope you have a fantastic time at university, but make sure you make your mental health a priority so you can really make the most of it. Just in case, here are some support numbers.