Coping with Starting University

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Another from our level 4 assignment posts

How to cope with big changes when starting university

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Starting university is a big change; moving away from your home, family, friends and pretty much everything you know – so starting a new stage in life, in a new place, can feel quite daunting. If that wasn’t enough to worry about… the idea of moving into halls with random people may just do that. Will you like them? Will they like you? Will you get on? Will they be the messiest people known to man? Probably. To add to all this, you have no idea what to expect from your course and find yourself wondering around campus feeling like a year 7 all over again. What more could you want from a university experience right?
Yes, it can be scary, overwhelming and most certainly awkward at the beginning but REMEMBER everyone is in the same situation as you – just some know how to deal with it better. This blog will help you learn to generally cope with university but also can be applied to other aspects of life such as work but most importantly, your mental health.

It starts with you

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With many changes happening in your life it’s important to take a step back and have a little time just for you. Neglecting your wellbeing could make you feel worse, making you feel lonely, isolated, anxious and depressed.

Click here to self-assess your psychological wellbeing.

Factors influencing your wellbeing

Sleep

 

zTX4XqpTB (1).pngWe all love to sleep, especially students, but with fresher’s week and late night assignment writing it can be a struggle to find a balance. Most people would think that lack of sleep has no effect other than being tired however, it actually effects both the mind and body. Research suggests it can negatively impact emotional
processing and mood for the following day leaving you feeling down. If uni has already made you slightly nocturnal and you have trouble getting the recommended 8 hours here are some tipsand a video that could help you.

Socialising

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Not only are you in a weird new place you are also surrounded by weird new people. This can be very overwhelming and its easy to just shy away and not branch out to anyone, but remember everyone is in the same situation and are probably as scared as you are. Even though we tend to hide away in our rooms glued to our phones believe it or not humans are actually social creatures and we get many benefits from interacting with others. Having a healthy and balanced social life will prevent you from feeling lonely and isolated – once you are feeling low, it is easy to neglect social contact therefore influences your psychological wellbeing.

calling.jpgIts useful to not isolate yourself from people and try to get involved in as much as you can. You meet so many people during freshers week, most of whom you’ll not speak to again only, bumping into them occasionally and having awkward eye contact. Student reps will be going on and on and on at you to join their societies and won’t
stop hassling you until you sign away your soul and join them. Even though it is borderline harassment it is one of the best ways to meet new people from all over the place and not just people from your campus.

So don’t panic if you don’t make friends straight away, no doubt your lecturers will force you to work in groups.

Aside from uni, don’t forget about your friends and family back home (they haven’t forgot about you) sometimes all you need is a home comfort.

Eating

cartoon-bad-mannered-boy-eating-a-sloppy-sandwich-by-ron-leishman-6176.jpgThe glorious moment when your student loan finally comes in and you can eat like a king for a week but then back to student basics. Pot noodles, baked beans, enough pasta to feed 500, vodka and the last slice of mouldy bread. In all seriousness, although you’d probably want to save money for jager bombs than spend it on veg, its important to try and maintain a balanced diet. A healthy and varied diet will result in feeling positive, calm, energised and thinking clearly.

When you’re running late to your 9am lecture its easy to skip a decent breakfast, this should be avoided as its seen as the most important meal of the day. Try to eat a variety of fruits and veg as they contain many minerals, vitamins and fibre needed to keep us physically and mentally healthy. As well as eating correctly, you should try to drink 2 pints of fluid a day (preferably water not caffeinated drinks) as it helps you concentrate and stay focused. If you feel like you don’t eat well click here for some more information.

Exercise

If you’re not part of some society, its likely that the only exercise you get is running for the bus. Scientifically it is shown that exercise is very beneficial not only to your physical health but your mental wellbeing too. This can help in a number of ways; protecting against anxiety, positively change our mood through chemical changes in the brain and brings a higher sense of self-esteem.9155015-Cartoon-teen-relaxing-on-the-sofa-He-is-eating-a-snack-and-has-a-soft-drink-handy-Stock-Vector.jpg

Easy exercises that can fit into your everyday student life could be walking, Pilates, swimming, cycling and even dancing. It is recommended to aim for 150 minutes of exercise weekly but even a little bit here and there will have a positive effect. This is also a good opportunity to increase social aspects too as you could organise or take part in group activities such as football, rounder’s, cheerleading and paint balling.

Substance abuse

stock-vector-sad-man-drinking-at-a-bar-isolated-on-white-cartoon-illustration-214483042.jpgWhen you’re feeling down its tempting to find some easy escape and to forget about everything, getting drunk and doing drugs is a quick getaway but you aren’t actually dealing with your problems you’re just burying them. Substance abuse negatively impacts emotional wellbeing. Some major neurological and emotional effects of substance abuse include; depression,anxiety, memory loss, aggression, mood swings and paranoia.

This can be a serious problem and if you or anyone else feels as though they are heading this way, it is important to seek help. Ideally contact your GP but telling anyone will help. You can find out more information here.

Relaxation

cartoon-image-woman-med-w-computer.jpgWhilst avoiding your responsibilities and pretending that you have no work to do, its valuable to take some actual time out and relax. relaxation can be used to prevent high levels of stress. There are many things you can do to help you relax and the more you practise the easier it will be such as colouring, going for a walk, breathing techniques,meditation and having a massage.

Activities

Here are some simple yet effective activities that practise mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially experiential, there’s formal practice such as meditation and informal practicewhich is being aware of bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions during daily life.

These are general activities which are designed for everyone however, these exercises are more effective if you do ones that you enjoy.

1) Here is a short meditation video to start you out and test to practice positive energy towards yourself and others. If you found this useful or want to know more there are more in depth guides on youtube.

2) Try to write 10 things that you are grateful for in your life – this puts into focus the positives rather than only looking at what is wrong.

3) Keeping a dairy, writing down about your day and how you feel can be a good sense of relief rather than keeping it al inside. In this you can write down your most important values in life without feeling pressured to talk to someone about it.

4) Think about who you are grateful for in your life and try expressing why you are grateful for them in a letter. Don’t worry you don’t actually have to give them the letter but again can be eye opening  to the positives in your life.

5) Simply helping someone can make you feel better about yourself.

6) Here is aonline activity which will try and help you overcome any unwanted thoughts and feelings. This 5 step process will allow to identify your current emotions and how to look at the bigger picture.

How psychology explains it

475672376.jpgThese and other mindfulness exercises directly target the risk factors that are associated with mental disorders as mentioned previously. The British Psychological Societyhas demonstrated that mindfulness exercises protects against depression as it creates a different more positive outlook.  Psychological therapies such as MBCT and MBSR are based from mindfulness techniques and are used to treat a wide range of illnesses from cancer to anxiety.

Writing diaries and about your feelings, goals and achievements help by interrupting rumination. By writing things down could allow you to make links between your feelings and the context you were in so you could identify possible triggers which made you feel like that. Meditation also interrupts rumination through disengagement.

Mindfulness increases cognitive flexibility by making you more aware of yourself and your surroundings for example, meditation promotes general metacognitive awareness. From this being more cognitively aware will aid your coping processes and so being able to deal with similar emotions throughout your life.

Key points to remember

– Starting uni might seem overwhelming but remember that everyone feels the same and see it as a fresh start to meet new people rather than a negative

– Detox from the shots and forget about the free dominos vouchers from the fresher’s fair and look after yourself by eating and sleeping properly

– Mindfulness activities help to improve your psychological wellbeing, the more you practice mindfulness the easier it gets

– Remember looking after your mind is as important as looking after your body

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Further sources

Mind

NHS

liveinthemoment

BPS

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