Dealing with Mental Health Issues at University
University is more often than not the first time that a student moves away from their parents and becomes independent. They have to learn to cook, clean and manage their time while also making friends and being an active participant at university events. This can often be a daunting task, especially for individuals who have come a long way from home to a new city or even country. Moving out of home is always hard, but it’s even more difficult if you’ve come to a new place where you have no friends and family. In this scenario you’re left to fend completely for yourself, and you know that even if something goes wrong you don’t have anyone around to help you. For adolescents who have never even lived alone before, this can feel like being thrown in the deep end of the pool without learning how to swim. Even if you’re still living with your parents, being thrown into a completely new environment is always difficult and facing problems such as depression and anxiety is very common in university. So if you feel as though you’re going through a rough time, make sure to read this article and don’t bottle in your feelings.
1. Don’t isolate yourself
If you’re dealing with depressive feelings and negative thoughts, it’s normal to want to lock yourself in your dorm room and throw away the key. However, this will only make your situation worse as you will have nothing to do but think about everything that’s making you feel this way. If you have a circle of good friends at university, share how you’re feeling with them. Maybe they have experienced or are currently experiencing something similar and can offer words of advice. Join them when they go out and try to focus on the external world. Being with people who you care about can distract you from the mess that is happening internally. Your problems will still be waiting for you when you get back home, but after a day spent with friends they may not seem so hard to overcome anymore. If you haven’t made friends you can trust at university yet, don’t worry. Reach out to your family, get in touch with old friends from back home and let them know that you need their support. Remember that even if you feel alone, there is always someone out there who cares about you and wants you to be happy.
2. Try Not to Go Home Too Much
While reaching out to family and old friends is always a good idea if you’re feeling lonely, you should resist the urge to go back home every chance that you get. You might think that it’s going to make you feel better, but if you have an amazing time at home then your life at university will be even harder to come back to. Instead of trying to go backwards, focus on the present and trying to move forwards in life. Think about ways that you can make your life at university feel more homey, like buying decorations for your dorm room so it feels more familiar. You could also explore your new surroundings to try and find restaurants, cafes or bars that you like. If you visit these spots a lot you will become a regular and soon have a connection to that place. The key to adjusting to a new environment is to make new attachments so you don’t keep thinking about the old ones that you had in a different setting.
3. Take Part in Activities at University
A great way to distract yourself and meet new people is to be active at your university. Join any society that catches your eye because you’ll be sure to meet a lot of people who share the same interest, or possibly even interests, as you. If you like sports then join a team, as physical exercise releases endorphins that are scientifically proven to lift your mood. You could even join the student union to help students’ voices be heard and make life on campus a better place for them. Making a difference at your university could help you feel accomplished and battle the mental struggles that you’re going through. At the very least, it’ll be a distraction. If societies don’t catch your eye and the union isn’t for you, consider taking up language classes if your university offers them. Learning a new language allows your brain to think in different ways, and there are ways of seeing and describing the world that we are not exposed to unless we are using a different tongue. Maybe learning a new language will help you to see the beauty in yourself and your surroundings once again.
4. Develop your artistic side
There’s a reason that most of the best artists, authors, poets and singers are not really the happiest people. Happiness, while a great feeling, is not very character building or inspirational. If Sylvia Plath was happy her poems might not have created the impact that they did (not to say you should follow her example because she did end up sticking her head in an oven). It’s true that it’s the toughest times that help us to become the people that we’re meant to be; resilient, confident and relentless. Therefore in order to cope with negative feelings and come out on the other side, you could try to channel those emotions in a creative outlet. Whether it be painting, writing, or even just curling up with a good book, there are ways that you can turn your pain into something positive.
5. Most importantly, don’t forget to ask for counsel
There is only so much that you can do for yourself. If you are unable to overcome these feelings on your own, please seek help from your university’s counsellor. Going to counselling doesn’t mean you’re crazy or irreversibly mentally ill. Many people go to counselling even just to have someone to talk to about their lives that they know will keep everything to themselves. A trained professional will be able to give you in-depth advice about how you can become happier in your new life. If you are unable to perform in classes due to being mentally unwell then they can even contact your lecturers and help you gain some leeway with deadlines. Remember though that while there is only so much that you can do for yourself, there is only so much that somebody else can do for you. The only way you will get better is if you are actually determined to get better.
If you think that this article helped you, check out our instagram (@loveatuni) and our webpage for other articles that can help you deal with life at uni