Moving away from loved ones and your home to a new place for university can be an exciting but challenging time for students. There is a striking correlation between university students and poor mental health, which has been studied and documented, academically, and is also an increasingly popular topic of discussion on social media.
Having been a university student myself, it is important to consider that many other students are experiencing the same feelings, or as many say, “are in the same boat.” Therefore, it is important to practice empathy and consideration for others, whether they are your course mates or flatmates. Creating a safe and healthy community is a crucial element of a happy social life and overall mental wellbeing.
Following the research that I have done into mental health among university students, prominent factors that contribute to mental health include physical activity, nutrition, and body image (Gorczynski et al, 2017; Jacka, Mykletun, 2012).
In this article, I’ll provide tips and information about how you can improve your mental health throughout your studies.
Why is mental health important at university?
Our mental state is powerful, and dictates the way we react to, and engage with, the world around us. It impacts not only the way we think and feel, but the way we behave, too.
Higher education environments are full of challenges that shape their students careers and the trajectory of the rest of their lives – in other words, it’s high-pressure. Ensuring the mental wellbeing of university students is healthy throughout this period of self development can increase learning, creativity, productivity, and social performance – all the elements you need to sustain a positive student experience.
Advice for university students
Although university life can become very busy and overwhelming, it is important to always try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. Whether this is walking to the shops, to lectures, or a workout in your room/university gym, even an intense dance routine in the club will get the job done.
Also, eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential to improve energy levels. Enjoy the foods that you love for a positive relationship with food, which can also lend a hand in improving your mental health.
Keep in mind that drinking culture at university has a significant impact on your mood and health; the overconsumption of alcohol can be detrimental, not only to your mental health, but also your body. Always drink responsibly!
Body image and social media
Body image is a significant, and complex, factor that flies under the radar of how much of an impact it has on mental health conditions. It is essential to never compare yourself to others, as you are unique and perfect the way that you are.
With the popular use of social media, it may be quite difficult to not compare yourself to others, with beauty standards constantly advertised on Instagram and the “perfect” body trends on TikTok. These trends can be particularly harmful when you are from a community which is not represented enough in the Western media, including ethnic minorities, disabled individuals, and the LGBTQ+ community.
A social media detox can be beneficial to take a break from curated posts and harmful depictions of beauty.
Changing your mentality on how you perceive your body can have great benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem, which is indispensable for figuring out who you are during your time at university.
It is important to note that the habits you form at university become integral to your postgraduate and working life – these habits can help to build systems to support your mental health. It may seem too early to think about this (depending on your current stage at university), but great habits take time to form!
Take the time out every day to de-stress and practice self-care. My favourite books for advice on this are ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’ by Vex King and ‘My Body, My Home – A Radical Guide to Resilience and Self-Love’ by Victoria Emanuela and Caitlin Metz. These books highlight different ways of maintaining self-care to take care of your daily wellbeing.
You are not alone
If you ever find yourself experiencing mental health difficulties, you’re never alone; it may be difficult but reaching out to friends and family is a good way of communicating. If this is not comfortable for you, there are many services available; your university may have a confidential counselling service and there is always the opportunity to talk to your local GP.
Take care of yourself and others, and good luck with your university adventures!
Mental health services available:
If you are a teacher, school staff, college or university, we offer a range of courses covering mental health, neurodevelopmental disorders, substance misuse and more. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Gorczynski, P., Sims-Schouten, W., Hill, D., & Wilson, J. C. (2017). Examining mental health literacy, help seeking behaviours, and mental health outcomes in UK university students. The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice.
Jacka, F.N., Mykletun, A. & Berk, M. (2012). Moving towards a population health approach to the primary prevention of common mental disorders. BMC Med 10, 149