Looking after your mental health at university

The world rolls on and by and large it becomes more complicated. There is more pressure, less space, more impediments. Being on the cusp of your twenties is a period when young people need to have support and guidance on request, but instead for some it can seem as though they have entered a cauldron of inescapable strains.

Learning to be an autonomous adult is a huge step to take. Socialising and making friends in a strange place can be problematic. Loneliness is a big issue. The inexorable demands from the outside world at large may be distant, but are psychologically so close and can be overwhelming… and on top of this it’s the hardest brainwork a young person has ever had to do.

Most of us have heard of student debt. Being in debt is one of the biggest causes of stress, anxiety and low mood. Furthermore, if a student has been raised with a view that a degree is essential in order to progress in life, then this burden can weigh heavily.

“There are over 2.3 million students studying in UK universities, with many experiencing academic, social and financial pressures*. The modern students’ mental health and wellbeing is being tested as never before. Life was simpler for previous generations. ”

University Mental Health Day (UMHD) which takes place every year on the first Thursday in March, is the national day for focusing on student mental health with the aim of promoting awareness and support for students at universities to manage their wellbeing.

In general terms, most therapists believe that the five ways towards wellbeing are:

  • Connect with other people. Be sociable. Join in. 
  • Be mindful. Take notice. Be in the moment. Don’t over think and look too far ahead.
  • Give. Do something for someone other than yourself. 
  • Keep active... get out the trainers.
  • Keep learning. Be curious and take up a new skill or learn something new… possibly an odd concept for a stressed student, but a diverse interest is often a release and a recuperative force.  

The University Mental Health Day campaign’s collective aims are laudable and all movements towards mental wellbeing issues being recognised as not out of the ordinary and accepted, is an essential step in my opinion, but I feel that one on one therapy is often crucial.    

As a psychotherapist I see many students and I feel, as do my colleagues - and it warms me to know - that most of these young people will be able to move on through this period of their life and forward into their future with self-awareness and fluidity. They will be able to place themselves safely within their own contented balance despite the apparent mayhem.


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