College, or university as we’d say in the UK, usually brings independence, amazing memories and success- but with that comes challenges, stress and, quite often, disruptions to our mental health. In research studies, it states that 27% of students report having a mental health problem during their studies- with this being more prevalent in females and LGBT students. Can you imagine the huge stress related to moving away from home, meeting new people and getting accustomed to a whole new ‘life’- as well as experiencing issues with health and well being? According to some studies, 77% of the students experiencing a mental health problem, experience depressive symptoms. Now, here comes my story.
Unfortunately, I cannot recall ever noticing ‘first’ symptoms, other than gradually spending more and more time in bed. I felt safe there. Despite past and current education currently, I didn’t notice myself slipping into Depression, and was in fact, in a form of denial for the first few months of feeling this way. It was completely unexpected. I was excited to move away from home, to have independence and to meet new, exciting people. I was supported by my amazing family and had a new, exciting love life. What possibly could I be depressed about? That’s exactly the point. We naturally tell ourselves that we do not have the right to feel so low when nothing traumatic has occurred. This is a common misconception. Anyone can have these feelings.
This isn’t a post about my mental health story; 1) because my story really isn’t that interesting and 2) because I haven’t yet discussed this on an online platform. What I do want people to be aware of, however, is that you are not alone. If you have found yourself finding it too over-whelming to juggle the pressures of university and feel as though your mental health is suffering from this, here are my tips:
PROBLEM: NEW, STRANGE ENVIRONMENT
It is natural to feel the need to stay in the known when you feel vulnerable in a new place, I get that, but you can slowly make this safe place bigger and bigger. Depending on your level of anxiety regarding this strange new place, you could even start by venturing out into communal areas of your accommodation. Perhaps then take a short walk around the accommodation grounds. Slowly increase this radius until you feel quite ‘at home’ (although nowhere will beat Mum’s home cooking) in this new place.
PROBLEM: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
It’s scary, but those nerves will soon go away. There are so many new people, some of which can seem intimidating, but despite how extravagant their personalities are it’s important to remember that they are in the same position. Outside they might have a beaming smile and loud voice- but inside they are probably just as nervous.
Speak to people and make an effort to make friends- but don’t try to change to fit in. There are thousands of people at university- and it’s likely that you will meet lifelong friends here, but don’t force this to happen only with your flat mates. Coincidentally, there always seems to be some friendships formed by random allocation to flats, but there are lots of other ways to meet friendly faces. You can join online forums for students of that particular university or course, you will meet people with similar interests in course specific lectures and there are always societies available for extra-curricula fun.
PROBLEM: BUT, WHAT IF I GET HOMESICK?
Let’s face it, the majority of people do. Nowadays it is so easy to see what other people are up to via social media and other networks such as Skype. Heck- don’t forget about simple texts or phone calls. What has made it so much easier for me is remembering that, despite the view on a map, you are always able to jump in the car or on the train and go home to visit. It isn’t another planet. When organizing home visits you should be conscious of creating a positive balance- not going home too much or too little. Everyone will be different in this respect and what suits them. For me, at least once per month if possible.
PROBLEM: I CAN’T EVEN HAVE PETS.
Who said this? Most universities will not allow pets in accommodation on campus, true. Most landlords will not let students have pets, not necessarily true. I have spent time in two completely different rental properties whilst living in my university town- which have allowed me to keep my African Pygmy Hedgehogs. Personally, my first hog (Pippa) helped with my mental health more than I can explain. She gave me something to look forward to, something to get up and be responsible for and something to give continuity between home and university. She was the only thing that was the same whether I was at home or away. Of course, this is the same for Autumn, but she is a relatively new addition to our family.
PROBLEM: I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER MY ROUTINE.
Well take control. Some aspects of your new life can’t be controlled- such as your lectures and placements (if your course includes placements)- but some aspects can. Make sure you integrate your current hobbies and interests into this new routine. If you find comfort in the routine from home, try to involve this as much as possible. It’s impossible to go through life never changing parts of your daily routine and adapting to these changes will prepare you for employment in the future. Try to look at this positively. It’s providing you with a new, exciting adventure.
I believe that it is super important to practice self-care in these circumstances using tips like those stated above- however, if you are really out of your comfort zone, there are people there to help. I cannot speak for specific university/ colleges- but I do know that the majority include student services that can help with anything you need. My university in particular had student counselling, so it may be beneficial to look into this too. There are also charities that are able to provide support, such as student Mind, you can speak to your local GP and simply express concerns to family and friends. A problem shared is a problem halved.
If you have any other tips or advice for people at university/ college who may be struggling with their mental health- feel free to share them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,
Kayleigh Rose x
If you want to hear more from me, or simply want cute pictures of hedgehogs, follow my mental health/ self-care/ lifestyle blog at http://kayleighrosee.com. You can also find me using my other social media links: