Looking After Your Mental Health In College – One Students Story

We want to put a focus on Mental as well as physical health this week, here we have the words of a UL  student that talks about just that and it’s key reading for absolutely everyone.

Life in UL can be amazing, but also very challenging for lots of us too. We won’t pretend that side of the experience of going to college doesn’t exist. We know it does, and we know it needs to be talked about.

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It’s Important To Look Out For No.1

Mental health can be defined as a person’s psychological and emotional well-being and unfortunately, college can be a time where your mental health is put through the ringer. We, as students, are faced with the tasks of making new friends, living away from home for the first time, budgeting, falling in love and monitoring our own academic input.

Each of these transitions, if not handled in a supportive, patient and self-caring manner can result in conditions such as depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders etc., which can affect our mental health, not only during our college experience but also later in life. Furthermore, each of these conditions can be deemed a gateway issue to further complications for our psychological well-being, resulting in an increased inability to be successful in our academic endeavours.

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College Is The “Best 4 Years Of Your Life”

The majority of these issues could stem from students feeling a lack of control and inadequacy, especially when we are told that college will be the best four years of our life, and that is certainly what I was expecting. As I sat in class for my first ever college lecture, a torrent of feelings swirled inside me. This was it, this was my fresh start. I didn’t know these people and they didn’t know me. I no longer had to be the girl that had suffered with general anxiety disorder, depression and self-harm. I could be the person I always wanted to be, but if you fast forward to one week later, it didn’t quite work out like that. After my second SPSS class (Statistics – yes, feel my pain), I found myself in the bathroom in floods of tears doubting my ability to do any of this, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I wasn’t what I was expecting.

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You Need To Be Able To Help Yourself, and Ask For the Help of Others

After struggling through school and dropping out of it twice as a result of my mental health, I realised that I didn’t want my college experience to be the same as every other previous experience: a total nightmare. I felt very alone with my feelings, everyone else seemed to be settling in fine, little cliques were forming here and there and I felt like I just didn’t fit it. I knew from past experience that suffering in silence was about the worst thing I could do, so I knew I had to take steps towards looking after my own mental health while I was here.

Not knowing my first port of call, I emailed the tutor of the class that ‘broke me’, told her my fears and she sent back a lovely email outlining what options she knew were available to possibly help me. I decided that one of my first missions was to introduce myself to every lecturer I had. I needed to make them aware of who I was, it would then make it so much easier to go to them if I felt I was struggling with something in a module, and it did! I then emailed the on-campus counselling service and set up regular sessions there which I found invaluable. I saw so many students using the drop-in centre during my times there, which was comforting in a way, as I felt I wasn’t alone in my struggles here.

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You Are Not Alone!

As the weeks went by there were ups and downs and I can honestly say it took me a full seven weeks before I felt like I was going to be able to get through college, and not only get through it, but actually enjoy my experience here. By talking to the lecturers I softened the harshness of academia that one can often be faced with. By engaging in the on-campus services it allowed me also to help fellow students who I found out had been having a similar experience and were too afraid to say anything.

 

Where I am now.

Now in my fourth year I can confidently say that college is one of the best times of your life. If you are willing to care enough about yourself to reach out for help, you can take away some of the worry and replace it with the time and space to find who you are, what you love, and what you are capable of. This is your life and even though you may feel alone, but here in UL the truth is … you definitely aren’t.

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Firstly, thank you to this student who submitted this. Secondly, we talk with students in the HUB regularly about connecting with the counselling drop in, so call in to us or send us a message online if you want more info about it.

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7 Tips On Looking After Your Mental Health In College

The transition from secondary school to university is an exciting time but it can be quite daunting for some. It’s a big change, and settling in can take a while.  College is a time to find out who you are, to make friends, to explore and to learn. Moving away from home for the first time is a big step, which is why it’s so important to look after yourself and most importantly, your mental health.

1. Party, But Not Too Hard …

Having spent the majority of your life so far having a routine and having things done for you, it can be quite hard to get a grip on having so many responsibilities. Yep, you’re an adult now! You’ve got to pay bills, wash your own things, study – willingly, ensure you go to your class, and make time for socialising!

It’s totally normal to let your hair down when you’re finally set free to come and go as you please, but going out every night and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will take its toll! You start missing lectures for that extra hour of sleep in the morning, and you leave your assignment off tonight to hit the tiles instead, before you know it you’re two weeks behind and end up trying to cram everything last minute!

This can have a serious impact on your mental health – you’re overtired, stressed, and beginning to panic. You’re anxious about failing and worrying that you won’t get stuff done on time. I’ve been there one too many times to know the feeling!

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2. … So My Advice Is This – Find A Balance!

College really is the best four years of your life, that’s why it’s so important to find a balance between work and fun! If you’re overtired, you may find it hard to concentrate in lectures; try to ensure you get enough sleep at night. So when it comes to doing assignments, you’ll be well prepared!

Set aside time for study, perhaps an hour or two in the evening to get your work done, and then you’ve the whole night to meet your friends or hit the gym.

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3. It’s Totally Normal To Feel A Bit Lonely …

Students can feel quite under pressure for the first seven weeks of the semester – trying to settle in, make friends, concentrating in lectures, finding their way around, and being away from home. It’s easy to feel a little bit lost. It’s totally normal to feel a bit lonely.

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(And yep, you guessed it, that’s Macauley Culkin, the kid from Home Alone!)

4. … But You Totally Need Your Crew

Group work always helps when it comes to making friends, you have the opportunity to chat to others in your course and work together outside of class hours. Even if you’re struggling with a topic in class, don’t be afraid to ask a peer for help. You could grab some lunch and go over notes after class. Clubs and societies are also a great way to make friends and get to know people with similar interests to you! The campus may be HUGE but there are 100’s of people in the same boat as you!

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5. Just Be Yourself

It’s vital that you put yourself and your health first while at college. Do not feel pressured to ‘fit in’ and do what everyone else is doing. If you’re not a big drinker, don’t feel pressured into keeping up with everyone else. And please don’t feel like you have to go out four nights a week, not to look like a total looser! If that leaves you feeling left out, find something else you can do that you enjoy. They’re plenty of events on campus every evening to get involved in.

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6. Speak Out To People Who Will Listen

A word of advice – it’s so important to make friends with people you feel can you talk to! If it’s all a bit much and you find yourself slacking behind – there are people who can help. After all, it is such a huge change from doing math problems for homework, to doing a 2,000 word essay in MLA style.

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7. Speak To Yourself Too, But Maybe Not Out Loud …

Be aware of your feelings and emotions, if you find yourself constantly worrying, ask yourself why? Are you worried about doing a certain assignment? Are you worried about money? Are you worried about skipping class? Trying to address these things before they become a bigger problem can be quite hard, but it’s not healthy to just ignore them and push it to the back of your mind.

One or two skipped classes can quickly turn into not going at all.  The thoughts of eating alone for the third time this week could cripple you with anxiety, so you chose to stay at home. Trying to concentrate on reading notes you can’t even understand is making your heart race. I found myself making excuses, blaming the lecturer for being boring, or the module for being too hard. What I didn’t realise, was that I was going completely into myself, hiding in my own little bubble. I was convincing myself I could work from home and still manage to pass everything. Who was I kidding?

I reached out to a lecturer, who I always thought was very friendly, and she recommended I see the counselling service on campus. “Just explain that you feel under pressure”, she said, understandingly. That didn’t seem too hard. Taking the step to talk to someone was the hard part, but little did I know just how many other people were in the same boat as me!

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Why was I hiding this the whole time as if I should be ashamed of it? There are tonnes of students who struggle with so many different aspects of college life. Be that exams and stress, to depression or alcohol abuse. The counselling service has met people from all walks of life, with all kinds of stories.

Whether it’s your friends, your family, a tutor or a counsellor you talk to, it is so important to talk. The campus might seem like a big place, but it’s important to remember there are a lot of people, just like you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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