University and mental health

Written by Rachel, Student and Development Volunteer

University can be a busy time, which can make it harder for you to take the time to look after your mental wellbeing. When you’re busy, stresses can mount up and really take their toll, especially with everything else going on outside of your education.

It’s important to take the time to prioritise your own mental wellbeing. ​

Identifying challenges

Studying is likely to bring a number of changes to your life. It can be enjoyable and interesting, but it can also be challenging. You might face challenges such as:

  • Meeting and working with new people

  • Exams, deadlines for written work or presentations

  • Managing your own finances

  • Coping with homesickness

  • Balancing the demands of studying with other commitments, such as caring responsibilities or work.

Self-help techniques

We all have mental health and our mental wellbeing can fluctuate day-to-day. When you’re not feeling great, it can feel harder to take action to benefit your wellbeing.

However, there are small steps you can take in your everyday life to look after your mental wellbeing. 

This is particularly important because of the coronavirus pandemic, as the uncertainty that it has caused can lead to comforting behaviours that have a negative effect on wellbeing. If your diet, daily routine or exercise has lost structure due to the current circumstances, you might want to consider making some constructive changes.

Don’t feel the need to change everything at once: pick one or two small changes to make. Once you have embedded those, you might find it easier to make the next change.

Looking after your physical health:

An important way in which you can benefit your mental wellbeing is by making changes to your physical wellbeing. Our physical health has a direct impact on our emotional wellbeing; improving your physical health can help you to maintain concentration to study well and focus to confront challenges and solve problems. Here are some elements of physical wellbeing that can help improve your mood:

  • Good sleep

  • A healthy diet

  • Regular exercise and sunlight

Managing stress:

Stress is a natural feeling, designed to help you cope in challenging situations. Short periods of stress are normal and, in small amounts, can be good, because it pushes you to work hard and do your best, such as during exams.

Try to build up strategies to manage stress before it gets too much, so it's easier to respond to additional pressure. You could:

  • Work out what it is that's making you feel stressed. For example, is it an academic, social or financial problem? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you're under.

  • Try out some mindfulness exercises. There is a lot of evidence to suggest these can be really helpful, especially for managing stress.

  • Try using a planner. This can help to keep track of deadlines and key commitments and organise your study, which can make your workload more manageable.

  • Take time out to relax. Getting away from your desk, even for short periods of time, can help keep you calm.

  • Keep an eye on social commitments. This can help to avoid overloading your schedule around deadlines and exams

Finding extra support

Whether you have an existing mental health condition or are starting to find things difficult to manage, considering your options for support can be really helpful. Try thinking about who you feel comfortable talking to. You might want support from:

  • Your place of study

  • Outside of your place of study

  • Friends and family

National Mind has much more information about the sources of support that may be available to you.

Further information and advice

Mind - ‘How to cope with student life’ explains how you can look after your mental health as a student, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Student Minds - ‘Looking after your mental wellbeing’ gives advice as to when and how you can take action to support your mental wellbeing.

NHS - ‘Student stress: self-help tips’ gives advice about how you can recognise elevated levels of stress and what you can try to alleviate them.

Student Space - ‘Healthy habits can help your mental health’ provides suggestions of constructive changes you can make to improve your mental wellbeing, especially if your daily routine has lost structure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

South East and Central Essex Mind, 112a Southchurch Road

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 2LX

Charity registration number 1148451