Whether you’re returning to your studies, or you’re a new student transitioning from school and home life for the first time, it’s particularly important to take steps to look after your mental wellbeing during the academic year.
Organise your time
Break assignments down into smaller more manageable chunks and set some SMART goals with deadlines you can achieve. Review your to-do list each week to help reduce last minute stress. Check out if your college or university offers study skill support to develop these skills.
Try to prioritise – decide what needs doing now and what can wait. Think about which tasks will make the biggest difference and try to concentrate on one at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once. If you’re feeling very stressed it can help to pick one task now and focus on that.
Keep a structure to your day – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes when juggling your studies with other areas of your life, especially during these difficult times. Keeping to a routine can help you to focus and create a sense of normality – try to get up and go to bed at the same times, for example, and eat at regular times.
Reduce the pressure
Feeling some pressure can help you to feel motivated when working towards a deadline or sitting an exam, for example. But everyone can have days when things can get too much.
Take regular breaks while studying – taking a break can help you feel more relaxed and better able to cope with any pressure. Get up and move around, go for a walk outside or take some gentle exercise. Open the window if you need some fresh air. It’s also important to plan for some time to rest and recharge between terms whilst also meeting your study deadlines.
Create time for yourself each day – build in at least 30 minutes each day to shut off and do something you enjoy – read a book, watch your favourite TV programme, take some exercise or listen to music.
Be kind to yourself – leaving home for the first time, adapting to new ways of learning and trying to develop new relationships is a big deal. Adjusting can take time. Hang in there! And remember being at college or university is about developing yourself; it’s not about being perfect all the time.
Find out more about stress, why we experience it and what we can do to help manage it.
While some regular student social activities are returning to campus you may still be concerned about making new friends at college or university.
Make a plan to meet new people – make sure to nurture relationships with people you connect with. Stay in touch through Whatsapp or meet for a virtual coffee when you need a chat. Be there for your friends when they need a chat as well. Studentspace has tips for finding friends during the pandemic.
Join a group or forum – find out what’s still happening through your Student Union and look out for local volunteering opportunities.
Stay in contact with your old networks – it’s also important to stay in touch with your old support network whether that’s your family or school friends. Consider who supports you and is a positive presence in your life? Find ways to stay in contact whether that’s a phone call, online message or a catch-up chat by Zoom.
Talk to someone if you’re struggling
Don’t keep problems to yourself – talking things through can relieve some of the pressure and help you feel more supported. Whether you’re feeling stressed about exams, family or money worries or breaking up with a partner; another person can often see a problem in a different way and suggest things that might help. Try talking to a trust friend, family member, your tutor, student wellbeing team, or go to Need urgent help? for local and national helplines.
Print off this information sheet and keep it folded in your bag or download it to your phone.
Look after your physical health
Taking care of your physical health can help to improve your mood and mental wellbeing:
Try to take 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day – go for a walk or run. MindWell has videos and videos and resources to help you keep active at home.
Eat well – it’s easy to turn to sugary or processed foods when you’re busy studying but eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables can really make a difference.
Try to limit/avoid smoking, alcohol or drugs – we might feel like turning to some of these in times of stress. Unfortunately, they can make you feel more anxious as well as affecting your sleep and physical wellbeing. Find help in Leeds for alcohol or drug use and stopping smoking.
Keep hydrated – drink 6 to 8 glasses of water or other non-sugar added fluids.
Limit caffeine – try to drink no more than 2 cups of coffee or 4 cups of tea a day and don’t drink caffeine after 6pm – have decaff, herbal teas or water instead.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is essential for both our physical and mental health. Everyone is different but most adults need an average of seven to 9 hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your memory and mental processes like learning, concentration and problem-solving. Getting a good night’s sleep recharges you for the day ahead and can help you to feel stronger and better able to cope.
Take time to relax
Practise relaxation and breathing techniques every day – diaphragmatic breathing (a deep breathing technique) can help you feel calmer and reduce the effects of stress.
Try different ways to relax such as online yoga or mindfulness. Find what works for you.
Try a digital detox
Digital devices are now part of life of student life. They help us to work remotely and feel connected. But there can be downsides. Using devices for long periods can create ‘information overload’ and affect the way we sleep. Social media can also add to the pressures we’re feeling when we see constant posts about other people’s exciting and ‘perfect’ lives. It can also be a platform where the mistakes we make are recorded forever AND that some people use to bully others or share inappropriate information. Try to take a digital detox an hour before you go to sleep and cut down on social media.
Positive self-talk is important
Sometimes having negative thoughts can affect our mood and the way we feel. Talk to yourself kindly and with encouragement. How would a good friend talk to you? And if the going gets tough remind yourself of positive feedback you’ve had and your motivations in doing the course. You could also ask other people to share their positive thoughts as well.