As a recent graduate and a mental health advocate, one of my biggest concerns is the mounting pressures on students. These are continuing to increase year on year with UCAS reporting a 450% rise in declarations of student ill mental health in 2021. Given the stressors of university, I don’t find this figure surprising, especially when factoring the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s normal to worry about things such as whether you are going to be able to make friends, paying rent, and if you will be able to keep up with the workload. These worries are always a concern for all students. But for those of us who face challenges with our mental health, sometimes the most basic tasks can be a real struggle. The good news is, you are not alone, and you have loads of options when it comes to seeking support.
The University of Reading has been building links with Compass Recovery College, where my colleagues and I work hard to create and deliver FREE mental health workshops, Co-developed and delivered by people with lived experience. In fact our whole team as some lived experience to one degree or another. Our sessions focus on everything from mental health education (such as understanding low mood and depression, understanding anxiety) right through to our wellbeing courses such as yoga or even our weekly coffee socials. You can find out more on our website about what we do and how to attend.
Tips for Wellbeing
As a former student and a mental health recovery worker, here are my tips and tricks to help you keep yourself grounded and your wellbeing in check.
1 – Be Kind to Yourself!
It’s okay for you to feel up and down sometimes, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Take the time to reflect on how you’re feeling and what the signs are for you personally that you’re starting to struggle. These might include things like having less interest in your usual hobbies, or wanting to isolate yourself more than usual. When you’re aware of the signs that you are struggling, you can make the adjustments needed to sustain your wellbeing. Self-care is not only for those who are already suffering.
2 – Make time for yourself!
It’s important for you to ensure you have enough time for your everyday basic needs, if you are not making time for these your mental health will suffer. Below is a list of things I make time for each day.
- Allow yourself enough time to get a good night’s sleep every night. Sleep is one of the most important factors to well-being.
- Allow yourself enough time to eat well. Diet has a large impact on your mental health, and studying whilst hungry is not going to help you focus or retain what you’re reading.
- Allow yourself some down time. Be it catching up with friends in person or on a call, streaming your favourite Netflix series, yoga or even just chilling with a lit candle and some music, find what makes you feel relaxed and make time for it. Your brain is a beast that never switches off, but giving it sometime for less intense activity can really help you to maintain your well-being.
Studying and Getting Organised
Now let’s talk about the actual studying and getting organised. start with daily planning. Making time for your studies is vital to managing your workload.
- Create a visual timetable that plans for your daily activities such pre-recorded lectures and your readings, and your online classes. By having dedicated time for each of these tasks in your academic life you will begin to develop a routine in which allows you time for the other things mentioned above. It may be beneficial to input these on your Outlook calendar, for example, so you don’t have to be in front of a physical calendar in order to know what you should be focusing on.
- Use a to-do list and Set short achievable goals.
- Complete Reading for Module A
- Watch lecture for Module A
- Celebrate those Small Achievements. It’s not easy when you have a large amount of things to do each day, but you don’t have to do everything immediately. So cheer yourself on and be proud of the small wins, because they all add up
- Take breaks. The brain can only stay focused for certain periods of time, so allow for that natural distraction by planning to have short breaks throughout the day. For myself, I study for an hour, then I take a break to fetch more coffee, use the bathroom, scroll my social media, check the news or any other activity that I can do for 5 minutes. Now some of these can become a distraction that leads to procrastination, so I simply set a 5 minute timer on my phone.
- Self-Validate, and by this, I mean: You belong here, you are here because you belong here. Your merits got you to university, into Reading – a high achieving university. You are on your chosen course because you are capable – You belong at Reading! Do not forget to tell yourself this.
Reading has 5 key services to ensure you get the help you need, and these are them:
Support Centres – your first port of call, offering support and advice on all your needs. If they are not the right service, they will be sure to sign post you to the right one.
The Welfare Team – On hand if you’re unsure about what support you need, they can provide both advice and support on a wide range of issues from settling in to worries about studies.
The Counselling Team – this service offers support including one-to-one (either face to face, on the phone or over Teams), groups, workshops, online guidance, and onward referrals to other support services, and is open to all registered students (undergraduate or postgraduate) at the University, free of charge.
Academic Tutors – all Students have a tutor who’s a member of academic staff in your School or Department who acts as a key point of contact throughout your degree. They can help with any academic issues and can sign post you for further support.
Disability Advisory Service – Readings very own dedicated advice and guidance service for students with a disability, mental health condition, or specific learning disability.
Still unsure? Why not use the ‘Ask A Question’ function on RISIS