By Pelumi Agboola
It’s about three weeks in and Freshers has passed, lectures have kicked off, assignments and reading are flying your way, you’ve only just recovered from the dreaded fresher’s flu, and you’re feeling very overwhelmed.
Well, if you’re like me and many others, the thought of lectures make you feel anxious, and deadlines just seem too close, which gives you a lot of stress. Whether you’re a first year, a second year, or even a Master’s or international student, we all get that sudden feeling of anxiety, stress, dread, and depression when you’re far from home, or you’re just kinda down in the dumps.
Because of this, I have five tops-tips that have helped me through my first year to help yourself and others.
1. First things first – GET ORGANISED.
I can’t stress this one enough, as it’s almost key to keeping a sound mind. When university starts, your room can either look like a library explosion of books and notes everywhere or be a few pieces of paper on the side from the lectures you dragged yourself out of bed to go to.
Find yourself the nearest Wilko or WHSmith, and get folders, notebooks, sticky pads, highlighters, whites boards, timetable planners – you name it.
Figure out your timetable, when your free times are, upcoming assignment dates, core reading books, and find out your lecturers’ names, emails and drop-in hours; and get them organised in a way that is appealing to you (as we’re all different). Keep your study area clean and tidy (… for the most part).
Just think: a clear space is a clear mind. Once you know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and when, thing start piecing itself together.
2. Stay fit and healthy (well, at least give it your best shot).
Even though mental health is by far the most important part of your life, especially as a student and nothing else should come first, but coming a close second is your physical health. In my first year, I wanted to be so book-strong I forgot all about my physical health: it’s easy to get sucked into the snacking and binge-drinking habits when you’re away from home, having to make your own meals and doing your own shopping.
However, watching your physical health can be as simple as trying to do your 10,000 steps a day, walking instead of taking the bus or a cab, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or even getting yourself a gym membership. If not, then join a sports society and get active and make friends at the same time.
Diet is another thing. After finishing the bulk-buy of noodles you thought was “going to last ages”, drinking every week and exhausting the use of Hatfield’s 24hr McDonalds it’s time to brush up on a better diet.
Things like sugar, excessive drinking, canned and fast food can be linked to making anxiety and depression symptoms worse. Making sure you’re getting proper breakfast, lunch, and dinner with fruit and vegetable is essential to feeling healthy inside and out.
P.s – Drink water, and try to get a full night sleep.
3. Keep in touch.
You may be a plane journey away, or even a 10-minute drive away, but not being at home can really make you feel lonely, and it’s important to keep in touch with loved ones whether it’s family or friends.
Making weekly calls and texts to people that make you feel at ease and relaxed is an important practice when you first start at university and don’t forget that they won’t stop caring.
Hang up pictures on the walls and all around your room of friends and family of fond memories to keep you upbeat when you’re feeling down, which is exactly what I did as soon as I moved to my room in my first year. Every time I felt I couldn’t do this, they were a constant reminder that I could.
4. Make friends and memories.
Nothing’s better at making you feel good than a laugh with good company. Making new friends can be scary, and even with your anxiety sky-rocketing at the thought of saying “hi” it’s important to know that people are really nice, and people will help and will listen.
Essentially, everyone at university is trying to make friends, so just give it your best shot. It’s so easy to lock yourself away in your room (like I did) and think you’re safe from all the strangers, but people do want to be your friend and have a good time with you. Go out and make friends; it’s probably the best thing you’ll get out of attending university (other than the degree, of course).
5. Last, but absolutely not least: don’t suffer in silence.
PEOPLE ARE NICE, PEOPLE WILL LISTEN!
It’s tough to get your head around, especially when you feel anxious about letting people into your personal life, but honestly, the best thing you can do is open up. If not to a new friend, seek professional support from the university. If you can’t go to lectures or can’t make the due dates because your mental health is playing up, let someone you trust, no about it. Who can get you the right
If you can’t go to lectures, or can’t make the due dates because your mental health is playing up, let someone you trust know about it who can get you the right help. There is so much help and advice the University of Hertfordshire can give to you, and you should use it to your advantage. Just no you’re not alone in this, we all go through it whether mild or severe but it’s getting through it which is the most important part.
University should be a fun, exciting and an uplifting experience. Don’t just listen to all the horror stories of the awful times students have: make it what you want it to be, which is the best.