Tuesday 21 November 2023

Importance of mental health during university studies

Ellen explores the importance of mental health during one's university years as well as strategies to nurture and maintain it.

- Ellen

University life is an exciting and transformative period in someone’s life. It's a time of exploration, personal growth, and academic development. At the same time, it can be a period of intense stress and mental health challenges because you are about to start something new. Navigating the academic and social pressures of university can take a toll on students' mental well-being. Academic pressures at University can often impact you and affect your mental health. The competitive nature of higher education, coupled with the high expectations for success, can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. It’s completely logical that exams, assignments, and the pressure to excel academically can be overwhelming. One key to nurturing mental health during university is effective time management. You should find a way to balance your academic responsibilities by setting realistic goals and allocating time for both studying and relaxation. It’s important that you don’t overdo it though because you will be exhausted and lose motivation by the end of the semester. Seeking support from academic advisors or mentors can also be invaluable in managing academic stress. In my case, we had personal tutors and we could talk to them. 

Social and Emotional Challenges 

University is a time when students often leave the comfort of their family homes and establish a new social network. Adjusting to the social aspects of university life can be challenging, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness, or peer pressure. These emotional challenges can have a profound impact on one's mental health. Maintaining strong social connections is crucial for nurturing mental health during university. Try to be social and make friends, this is your chance to make friends from all over the world, just step out of your comfort zone! Furthermore, seeking help from campus counselling services can be beneficial for addressing emotional difficulties and building resilience. 

Balancing Studies and Work 

Many university students find part-time jobs to cover their expenses. While this can be very helpful for financial reasons, it can also lead to exhaustion and decreased mental well-being. It's essential for students to strike a balance between work and life, ensuring that they allocate time for relaxation and self-care. Financial planning and budgeting can also alleviate some of the financial pressures, reducing stress and promoting better mental health. It’s also crucial that you keep on top of things because there are people who prioritise work and they are very disorganised with their studies. 

Take Away Thoughts

Nurturing mental health during university years is a multifaceted endeavour that involves managing academic pressures, addressing social and emotional challenges, balancing work and life, coping with transitions, and embracing personal growth. It's essential to recognize that mental health is just as important as academic achievement and that the two are often interconnected. This is what helps you to survive at university. Many universities have mental health support services, offering counselling and resources that are easily accessible to students, if you need them, contact them! Additionally, you should actively seek help when needed and take steps to build a strong support network. During your studies, nurturing mental health is not a sign of weakness but a testament to resilience and self-awareness. It is essential to recognize that mental well-being is crucial for success and overall quality of life during and after university years.

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available. 

Hi! I'm Ellen and I'm a third-year university student. I'm writing on this blog to share my experience during university and help freshers.

Thursday 16 November 2023

Starting a new university year at a new university

Amber shares her story and tips on how to make the most out of starting at a new university during your final year.

- Amber

Year 3. Final Year. 

One of the most critical times in a university experience is when all of your work finally begins to pay off and I found myself nervous and anxious when I thought I’d be excited and full of ambitions. Finding myself in a new institution where most people had already established friendships was quite scary! 

I had decided to make the move to a new university as the previous one had lost its accreditation from the BPS (an official psychology board that supplied recognition for degrees) so I felt it was essential to move somewhere that had this recognition to ensure I wouldn’t be hindered by it in the future. Whilst I already had got over most of the nerves throughout the summer this transition was still one of the most daunting yet exciting experiences of my academic journey as it felt like I was leaving behind my family to start somewhere new. Whilst it was overwhelming at times I am now settled and it’s like I have been here since the beginning of year 1. Throughout this article, I will share my experience of navigating this transition and hopefully, you will be able to use these in your own adventures moving forwards. 

Adjusting to a New Environment

A completely new place is a very daunting experience for anyone, it is just an added challenge that this is a new university in my final year of study. No problem though! I already have had a routine set up, had friends that I had to leave behind and became comfortable in my previous university so starting new can be a major change… Not a setback, just a change. 

You will overcome the anxious feeling that might be eating away at you! Being in a new environment can make you grow in ways you never thought you had. It can bring you new opportunities, new friends and a new adventure. During this adjustment period, I felt completely engulfed by worries, to combat this I got in touch with the new course lead at the new university and arranged a meeting. This settled my nervousness about the available opportunities. Now, 2 weeks into this new environment, I am integrated into a new routine and seeking out new things. It’s important to keep an open mind, adapt and embrace any changes that come your way! 

Bridging the Gap

There can be many gaps that you can pinpoint during this adjustment to your new university. These can be things such as knowledge gaps and relationship gaps. The knowledge gaps I was worried about were that the other students might have been taught different content than I had (despite it being the same course!) I was worried about there being gaps within the relationships between my classmates as well as my lecturers, after all, they had already created friendships and built rapport with the lecturers over the 2 years whilst I had to do this in only a few months. Knowledge gaps were a big worry of mine during this transition as I hadn’t been with this peer group throughout years 1 and 2, and this led me to worry that my knowledge was not enough. However, I contacted academic support and they assured me that the course I had done had been more than sufficient which meant my knowledge was on par with the other students. 

When it came to the gaps in relationships this was something that took time to build and develop. As I was completely new in classes where friendships had already been formed it was daunting to approach these people with feelings of anxiety and nervousness. However, as the weeks have passed I have become more confident and have approached people, which has created some new long-lasting friendships! The overall advice from this part is to not be afraid to ask questions and to use the resources available. If you feel like you are behind USE academic support! Don’t be afraid to approach people, in your own time when you feel ready, they will be understanding. We are only human after all. 

Make the most of your time

Whilst starting a new university in year 3 means there is limited time to fully immerse yourself in the experience it shouldn’t discourage you from making the most of it! It’s never too late to create new connections and experience new things! It is a time to make sure you enjoy what may be your last academic year! This is a chance to make memories and prioritise your goals to get the very best out of the experience. Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself! Whilst this journey can seem overwhelming just remember, with the right mindset and attitude this will be a very rewarding experience. Ensure you have enough time for work/life balance, I find that using a planner is one of the most efficient ways to ensure I have enough time allocated to specific things. I have a study timetable that I use to ensure I am prepping for my dissertation alongside my other assignments, this helps with the stress and pressure it can bring. I try to make sure I get all of my studying done during this time so I have time to myself to do things in order to relax and take a break.

This has been things such as reading books out of my own interest and other creative hobbies! This has helped make sure I keep a routine and don’t spend too much time worrying about the new environment and how different things work here so by having it all laid out I can see what will get done and when. It is important to do things like this to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed or burn yourself out!  Remember to prioritise your own needs and you will make the most out of this time!

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available

I'm Amber, a third-year undergrad student studying psychology, psychotherapy and counselling! I'm sharing this story and some advice as when I transferred universities it was a daunting experience so by sharing some advice from this experience I hope someone will feel less stressed than I did during the transition.