Hi. I’m Eve. I’m 20, a third-year Law student at UoM, and I have a mental health condition. There’s so much I wish I could tell my first-year self about managing my condition around University, so I thought I’d share some tips with you! Here’s how to manage your wellbeing at Uni.
Don’t worry about being ‘cool’
- I spent lots of time in my first year of University trying to seem cool. I felt the pressure to socialise rather than spending some much-needed time alone, because I didn’t want to miss out on anything or lose potential friends. As much as socialising is great fun, don’t worry so much about constantly being around others especially if you’re an introvert who likes time alone. Good friends will understand the need to balance socialising and resting, and won’t make you feel bad about it, either!
Do what you want to do
- A healthy social life will look more active for some, and less active for others. It might involve sports, or chess, or computer games – no two people are the same! If you prefer watching a film to playing football, choose accordingly. There is a society for everything at Uni, so take advantage of this opportunity to meet like-minded people and make good friends. If you love classic films, go to film society and skip football. And, don’t make apologies for it!
Try new things
- If you’ve never tried needlework before, or photography, or creative writing – but you’ve always wanted to give it a go, now is the time! University is about dipping your toe into the water of adult life; and making your own choices. Trying new stuff is great fun, and you might develop a new interest you’d never have experienced if you hadn’t tried.
Look after yourself
- Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get enough sleep. Have a routine you follow each day and make looking after yourself part of it. This will help promote a stable mood, which is so important especially in Uni. You’ll enjoy social interactions so much more when you feel good. Something I’ve learned is that skipping an event to re-charge and rest will make the next event you do attend even more enjoyable.
Give it time
- Uni is a huge transition. It is often the first time in your life you’ve lived away from home, not seen your friends’ every-day, and this first taste of independence can be very hard to swallow. It’s normal to feel awkward at first. Just remember – everyone feels the same way, and this alien territory will be your new normal before you know it.
Take it slow
- Assessments and deadlines can be very scary. Days at sixth form are much more structured and controlled than at University, and sometimes independent learning can feel so overwhelming and can trigger anxiety. You will get better as you progress on your programme, and you don’t need to ace your degree in your first semester or even your first year. Your academic performance isn’t a measure of character or intelligence. You got onto your course for a reason – remind yourself of this in moments of doubt.
- In first year, I worked excessively and I burnt myself out, which had a really negative impact on my mental health. If you plan your deadlines, assignments and exam dates onto a calendar and work for a specific amount of time a day over a longer period, you’ll be doing more than enough. This will also leave plenty of time for self-care.
Speak to someone
- When I first started my degree, I didn’t even consider informing the School of Law of my mental health condition – that felt like asking for special treatment. It was only in my second year that I reached out for support; informing the Disability Advisory Support Service (DASS) of my diagnosis and difficulties. I wish I’d done it sooner. UoM wants to support you. DASS offers confidential advice, additional learning resources and can put measures in place to help you perform to the best of your ability such as podcasts, deadline extensions, and exam support. If I could go back, I would have been upfront about my condition from the start. UoM don’t consider mental health conditions to be weaknesses, and neither should you.
Be kind to yourself!
- UoM doesn’t consider diagnosis as a part of your identity. Mental illness is something they work with you to manage to maintain a normal, happy life. So, don’t be ashamed. Prioritise your mental wellbeing when applying to a University in the same way you would other factors such as course modules, accommodation costs, and campus facilities. Ask questions - do you have a counselling service, a DASS department, what’s your view on mental health in the student population? And, when you get to Uni, be open and honest and they will support you. Remember - you deserve to enjoy and fully participate in University just the same as any other student, and with patience and self-awareness, you will lead a happy ‘student life’.
Below are some resources that help me maintain good mental wellbeing during Uni:
- https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/my-possible-self/ - This app allows you to track your mood, then collates the data and provides insight on any patterns in your moods (helps identify triggers). Also lets you focus on different topics which might be helpful to you, such as overload, low mood, etc.
- https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/student-health-app/- Student Health App. Includes tips and resources for physical and mental health support, actions to take, self-care tips, and resources for emergencies. Turn to this in a crisis or to inform you about the link between lifestyle and mental wellbeing.
- https://moodspace.org/ - A great app designed to change your thought patterns and improve your mood based on CBT strategies. Includes small tasks to be done once a day to improve wellbeing.
- https://www.elefriends.org.uk/ - A lovely platform where you can share stories and experiences and connect with others who have mental health conditions. Helpful for when you’re feeling lonely.