As I write this in mid-May 2022, it is mental health awareness month and because I normally write so much about mental health on my podcast and in my books, it can be very difficult to remember what I have and have not mentioned for this blog. So, I wanted to create a post where all the information was in one place. If you’re a university student wanting to protect and maintain your mental health then this is a great post for you.
Note: as always this blog is not professional or any sort of official advice, and if you are struggling with your mental health then please seek professional help.
Some more unofficial advice can be found here: How To Find Mental Health Support Services For University Students.
Why Is Mental Health Important For University Students?
To put it simply, when students come to university and are studying throughout their degree, they will be placed in a very different environment. For example, you might have moved away from home for the first time, you might not have any friends at your new university, you might struggle to keep up with what your degree demands and so on. Many, for instance, also struggle with imposter syndrome.
All these factors might be liberating and interesting for some. Personally moving away from home was not a big deal for me because I’ve always been highly independent, but it was still great to go home and see the family throughout the year. However, some people these might be factors that you struggle with. For instance, moving away from home for the first time can be a very scary thing to do, and you might feel lonely.
All of these factors may play into your mental health, making it incredibly important for you to look out for your own mental health.
How To Protect Your Mental Health?
Whilst different facets of the next few sections would have been mentioned in other posts, this will focus on these topics from the mental health viewpoint.
This almost goes without saying these days but considering May is not only Mental Health Awareness Month, but the start of the exam season. This is even more important, because you need to remember to study, revise but socialise too.
As a result, if you don’t socialise or take a break. You will burn out, hate your studying and you will harm yourself for the long term. As well as you will hardly do your mental health any favours but creating all this psychological distress for yourself. Therefore, please remember to study but make sure you have breaks too. Make sure you go out with friends, watch a film or just do something else that is not university-related.
There is a bit more information in How To Be Kind To Yourself During Exam Season.
However, when it comes to mental health, making sure you prevent a meltdown, unneeded stress and more. You do need to take your work-life balance seriously, and please know that doing all-nighters does not make you a good student. Sure it might make you feel like one, but it won’t do you any good.
Just bear that in mind.
Socialising and Combating Loneliness
I’m pretty sure there is a loneliness blog post coming in the next few weeks but university can be a very lonely time for people. Especially people who don’t want to go out to clubs, bars and do the whole drinking side of university.
Additionally, making friends can be difficult for people to as there isn’t a very set way of meeting people and actually engaging with them. Ultimately, we’re all university students and we can all remember times when we all just went to the lecture theatre, barely anyone spoke to each other and then we all left. For people who struggle to make friends as it is, that is hardly helpful. This may result in an increased risk of loneliness, followed by the associated mental health difficulties.
Thankfully, because of how universities are set up (at least UK universities), there is a wide-ranging set of ways to help fix this problem. The most obvious being that people should try to engage and talk more with their fellow students on their courses. I know that is hard but you’ll be surprised by where some conversations can lead you.
Also it’s a good thing that UK universities have societies (social clubs) formed around a particular activity so you can almost always find like-minded people who are into the same things as you. I’ve met plenty of great people throughout societies.
The only slightly negative thing I will say is you do need to be aware that some universities do not update their society listing to get rid of the ones that are closed. I was a little disappointed when I first started my university because there were plenty of amazing sounding societies, but they were closed.
Equally, there are some great ones that are open, filled with great people and you definitely fill less lonely after going to a society event.
With my podcast being psychology focused, mental health does pop up rather often (because it’s what me and my listeners enjoy) so I wanted to share two posts with you from the early days of the podcast. Surprisingly, I haven’t covered stress since 2020 (a very stressful year indeed!), but there was one episode that discussed a brand new study at the time that found the most effective stress relief was reading.
In which case, you might find New Ways To Deal With Stress useful too.
As a frequent reader (who always has a scarily big reading pile) I can testify to the powerful relaxing nature of reading. Because the problem with modern English teaching in school is it kills a lot of people’s enjoyment for reading, because people think they have to analyse everything they read.
And there is nothing better than enjoying a great book by some great authors. A book that can transport you to another gripping world with loveable characters and endings that are just perfect, and leave you wanting more.
As we’re on the topic of mental health, reading makes perfect sense why it would be relaxing and protect mental health. Due to the entire point of commercial and genre fiction is to be escapist, and given how your real life can be what is causing you the stress. Reading is the perfect way to escape your real life and relax for a few hours.
Therefore, I cannot recommend reading enough to help mental health. And with it being the summer soon, if your friends and family are busy (and you have a garden), then read in the garden for a bit. That’s very relaxing.
Finally, if you want some book recommendations, please check out:
As mentioned before, mental health is something to take seriously, but you can really improve it if you simply take a few steps and adopt them into your lifestyle. Make sure you maintain a good work-life balance, you socialise and combat loneliness and it never hurts to read.
If you start adopting some of these tips now, you might be able to avoid a lot of distress down the road.
And isn’t that what we want?