Although university can be the best time of your life, it doesn’t come without its challenges. With assignment deadlines, exams, having to budget and trying to adjust to your new independent lifestyle, many students experience depression and anxiety at some point during their studies.
So, if you’ve experienced university anxiety or depression and you’d like to know how to deal with these mental health issues, our article can offer you some advice and guidance.
University is an amazing opportunity – but it can also be stressful. Lots of students feel pressure to succeed, others find themselves struggling to complete coursework and meet deadlines, while many have difficulty budgeting for everything they need in uni life. Sometimes because everyone tells you uni is the best time of your life, if you don’t find yourself loving every minute this makes things worse. As a result of these stresses, often mental health begins to suffer.
Two of the most common mental health issues students face are depression and anxiety. These conditions share similarities and students may experience both at the same time. Any or all of the following are symptoms of depression:
- Feeling down or sad
- Not taking interest in things you usually enjoy
- Little or no motivation to do things like uni work or seeing friends
- Feeling hopeless, guilty or worried
- Eating more/less or losing/putting on weight
- Low energy
- Sleep problems
- Thoughts of hurting yourself in some way
Anxiety is extremely common and most of us will experience it in our lives. For students, the intensity of uni life can have a knock-on effect on your personal life and studies. The following are some common signs of anxiety:
- An inability to stop worrying
- Feeling agitated, stressed or fearful
- Fidgeting and inability to relax
- Trouble concentrating on uni work or lectures
- Sleep problems
- Panic attacks
However, it’s important to remember that if you are finding things tough you should seek help whatever your symptoms are.
Taking care of your mental health
If you’re concerned about your mental health, at uni there will always be support available for you. The first, and most important, step you’ll need to take is to speak to someone. Friends, family, personal tutors, doctors and university support staff are all there to help and make sure you’re not suffering alone.
Depending on what is causing you the most stress, from student accommodation to finances, to exams, your student union and support staff will find a solution. For example, if you’re overwhelmed by your workload, staff can sort out deadline extensions or mitigating circumstances to take the weight off your shoulders.
Your university should have a mental health and counselling service or a student advice centre which you can visit to talk freely and confidentially about what’s going on. It’s also a good idea to make an appointment with your GP, who may prescribe you medication or refer you to a trained counsellor. If you’d like to speak to someone anonymous, there are plenty of helplines and online support networks for students, no matter what time of day or night it is.
Some other ways to help take care of your mental health include getting plenty of sleep, eating healthily, doing regular exercise, downloading a mindfulness or meditation app, walking in the fresh air, relaxing and listening to music.
How to help others
If you’re worried a friend or peer may be struggling, reach out to them. Often the hardest thing is admitting there’s something wrong – and a few kind words may be the step they need to take to start getting some help. Look out for the symptoms mentioned above and if you suspect one of your friends might be down or depressed, offer to take them for a coffee somewhere quiet so you can ask what’s on their mind. If you’re ever concerned about the safety of a friend or peer, tell a member of university staff or a personal tutor.
So, if you’ve experienced mental health issues at uni, the main thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Lots of students go through the same thing, which is why student support networks exist. Tell someone what’s going on, accept help from friends, family and staff and by taking baby steps, you will get through this.