Being a student is often the best times of our lives; a couple of lectures and exams sandwiched between weeks of partying, socialising, drinking a little too much and making the friends that will stay with us for a lifetime. In fact, most people’s memories of being a student are the easiest times of our lives – fewer responsibilities, loans and grants every few months without the need for more than a part time job. But not everyone’s experience of University is the same. In fact, for many people, it can be the hardest time of their lives. Being away from home for the first time, not having your friends and family close, being under pressure to beat deadlines and sticking to a strict student budget due to having no financial assistance. This is when back to school blues can really kick in.
For a number of university students – whether it be freshers or people well into their PHD – the pressures of university can be all too much, especially for first year students and those attempting their dissertation or studying for their final exams. But if you do find yourself developing the symptoms of depression there are a number of things you could do to help you on your way to a better university experience.
Join clubs and societies:
All universities in the UK offer a number of clubs and societies to join – and you don’t have to be a fresher to go to your local freshers fair and sign up to the things that interest you. Clubs and societies offer you a great way to meet like-minded people and people who enjoy the same things as you, creating opportunities to grow your social life as well as providing a distraction from your everyday pressures such as exams or financial stress.
Get a part time job:
Sometimes at University we can feel like we don’t fit in, in large lectures of 200 plus people it can feel impossible to approach the crowd, whilst smaller classes can create clicks’ that can feel difficult to join. Having a part time job gives you no choice but to interact with the people around you and offers a second network to make friends and grow your social life, outside of your lectures and halls of residence.
Jobs in hospitality can help you to become more confident with people, large groups and most importantly will help you interact with strangers. The skills learned, even if just customer service, can help you with your future career – whilst future employers will be impressed you managed to maintain your studies alongside keeping a part time job, showing you’re dedicated and with good time management skills.
Keep a diary:
Diaries are a great way to keep track of your feelings, realise your triggers and help to empty your mind before you try to sleep at night. Rather than spending your last 30 minutes in bed before nodding off watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through your favourite social media feed, try to spend half an hour making notes about your day – what you did, how you felt, what you learned. Not only can it help you clear your head, it’s the perfect way to wind down after a long day.
Drink a little less:
It can be all too easy – especially in your first year – to party a little too much. In fact, for most students it is a rite of passage with local student unions offering different weekly parties, local clubs and bars offering discounts to students – and of course the halls of residence parties with the numerous drinking games and trips to the local 24 hour off license.
However, after Freshers week the effects of partying too much and sleeping too little can have a negative impact on your overall feelings as well as bringing on the symptoms of depression. Alcohol – despite the good nights to be had – when abused, is a depressive and the combination of repeated binge drinking alongside being away from home and the other pressures of university can quickly become all too much.
Check your diet:
Receiving your first student loan, completing your first weekly food shop and a lack of culinary experience can be a disaster for most student’s eating habits – with fast food, instant noodles and microwave meals being the staple of many diets. High processed and sugary foods can cause huge mood swings and bring on the symptoms of depression – sticking to a healthier diet and trying to reach your five a day can be hugely beneficial. Meal planning and pre-preparing your meals can be a great way to improve your diet – without being expensive – check out Pinterest for some inspiration on meal planning on a budget.
Manage your sleep:
Sleep is one of the most important things for all of us to be in our best mental and physical health. Those of us who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience depression and other mental health issues. University – with lunch time lectures and weekly all-night parties can make it impossible to settle into a good routine, however going to sleep at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning is known to encourage healthy sleeping patterns and prevent insomnia. – As a student you’re entitled to one night a week with a late night and a lie in, but try and keep up a routine on weekdays to get your eight hours a night.
No students are expected to sign up to an expensive inner-city gym membership whilst trying to stretch their student loan out over four months, however keeping active is not only beneficial to your physical health. Most universities offer a student gym – with highly discounted memberships – and there are a number of sports teams free to join at most UK Universities. The gym and joining a team are not the only way to stay active at University; when you can (and when it’s not raining!) walk or cycle to your lectures, avoiding the cost of public transport or parking at the same time as keeping you active.
Yoga is another great way to keep in shape whilst you’re continuing your studies – without the need to spend a penny – YouTube offers a number of different free yoga classes for a range of different abilities, and you don’t need to leave your bedroom to fit in a 30-minute workout. Research suggests just 30 minutes of exercise four times a week can decrease the symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
Depression can affect anyone at any time, no matter your age, gender, race or sexual preference and everyone’s battle with depression is different – if you would like to speak to a professional about how to best handle your depression, contact us. For students, online therapy can be a great way to maintain sessions throughout the year, without having to change therapists or miss sessions when you go home for the holidays, and equally is easy to fit around lectures and exams – without you having leave the comfort of halls between studying.