New Students - How to Protect your Mental Well Being at University

Posted 9th of October 2019 by Gill Wier

If you have just started University, welcome to Sheffield!  This is a significant time of change in your life and it’s not surprising if you are feeling a mixture of emotions.  This may be the first time you have lived independently, away from your parents’ home and while you may be enjoying the freedom it can also feel scary and unsettling.  There are a lot of new experiences to navigate and new choices to be made.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and sometimes this can lead to anxiety or depression and for some people, more serious mental health issues. Here are some tips on enjoying your first year at University while protecting your mental well-being.

Don’t try and do too much!

You may have heard “it’s the best time of your life” but high expectations of Uni can be unhelpful as they may not match up with reality.  If you go out every night alongside studying hard to get high grades you are at risk of burnout.  If you are also working part time alongside studying you need to be realistic about how much you can fit into your time and allow yourself time to rest and relax as well. There can be pressure from others to socialise all the time but not everyone can keep up that pace - it’s important to allow yourself time on your own if this is something you need.

Be wise in your relationship choices 

As you are meeting lots of new people, it will take time to discern which of these people will become good friends and be a healthy influence on you.  When choosing who to spend time with, bear in mind that in healthy relationships the other person respects your boundaries and allows you to have your own opinions and make your own choices.  Be wary of anyone who puts pressure on you to do things you feel uncomfortable with.

Find like-minded people  

Student clubs and societies are a great place to meet people you can really connect with.  If you have a shared interest or enjoy the same sport or activity this common ground is a good starting point for building a healthy friendship.  Also consider connecting with people beyond the student community to give you a broader perspective and wider support network.  You might consider volunteering with a Sheffield charity or joining a church or other faith community to meet people outside the student bubble.

Five Ways to Wellbeing

1. Connect with others – don’t allow yourself to become isolated – step outside your room and make contact with others 2. Be active – exercise releases endorphins which promote feelings of happiness, 3. Keep learning – well you are already doing this as a student but how about learning for fun – a new musical instrument or a new language, 4. Give to others – look out for those around you, consider volunteering, 5. Be Mindful – learn skills to be more aware of the present moment – this helps us be less worried about the past and the future.  Apps like Headspace can help.  There are more ideas here.

Be aware of the impact of alcohol and drugs on your mental health  

University life includes many opportunities for drinking alcohol socially and possible exposure to recreational drugs.  While enjoying yourself and seeking new experiences, bear in mind that all substances have an effect on your mental health as they disrupt the balance of chemicals in your brain.  Inform yourself in order to make wise choices about alcohol and drugs and don’t allow yourself to be pressured into taking substances you are not sure about.

Seek help if you are struggling 

If you are finding University life hard for whatever reason do reach out and talk to others – friends and family are a good starting point and beyond them there is plenty of other help available.  Personal Tutors/Academic Advisers can help with academic difficulties; both Sheffield Universities have mental wellbeing services available including their own counselling services, Nightline which you can ring to talk about any concerns and Big White Wall, an online community to support your mental health  We also see many students here at Sheffield Central Counselling and offer private counselling to help with things like relationship issues, anxiety, depression, self-esteem and confidence issues.

This week from 10th October Sheffield University is running its’ own Mental Health week – check it out.

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