University is a very important time for those who put themselves through the experience. It is probably the only time in your education where you as an individual can truly be independent in the choices you make towards your education. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people that could potentially become lifelong friends as well as allows you to experience different cultures and flow with different opinions.
However, it is hard to seize the opportunity when you find it hard to care for yourself. From personal experience, I can assure you that I haven’t had the experience of university that I always thought I would have. I spent most of my first year hiding from people and hardly attending classes; I couldn’t bring myself to go into a room full of people I hardly knew. As my third year is coming to a slow but steady end, I have come to realise the importance of self-care at university.
There are many reasons to want to take care of yourself despite the stress at university. You deserve it. It keeps you motivated and well immersed in your education which you pay a hefty fee for. Who are you going to care for if not yourself? These are just some of the small things you can do that may make it a little easier for you.
1. Talk to someone. Anyone.
Depression and anxiety alongside any other forms of mental health are hard topics to open up about especially if you don’t like talking much about yourself in general. They make doing daily chores seem next to impossible and as university gives you the taste of independence, you may find yourself making the independent decision to skip classes. My advice? Don’t. As hard as it may be, go to your classes – you obviously didn’t pick them because you were told to. You most likely read the syllabus and thought to yourself that you would like to study the subject, right? And believe it or not, the lecturers at university seem to understand when you miss class because of a reason such as “life is getting to me”. Dropping them a simple email lets them know that you’re going through a bit of a rough patch.
If you’re finding it difficult to communicate with people, keeping a journal is another very effective method of relieving stress. The journal is yours and you are free to write as much as you want and whatever you want.
2. Try and stick to a routine
So, this one sounds a little out of place but trust me, it works well. When feeling stressed, you tend to find that everything is out of place. You don’t have time to eat, to sleep and sometimes to even shower. Everything feels claustrophobic, yet there is nothing for you to hold onto; time quite literally slips through your hands. Keeping a routine is important in this instance. Having a set time to go to bed, to wake up, to eat, study and all the other things in between proves immensely useful when you feel like there is too much on your plate and can vastly impact the time that you put into your studies. When you have some form of a structure to your day, balancing tasks becomes easier as having a routine ensures that your physical being remains well and also means that mentally, you have one less thing to worry about giving you the opportunity to channel more of your energy into your education
This is not limited to the gym. University can be expensive and I’m sure most of us have others things we could purchase with our monthly gym memberships. Exercise has been proven to decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods. And lucky for us, exercise can quite literally be any form of movement. Get moving is the bottom line; take your dog out for a walk or take a walk in the early morning when there’s no one to bump into or play a game of Just Dance. Any form of movement counts.
But I get it, moving around can be hard sometimes. In that case allow yourself some fresh air whether that’s opening up a window or literally standing outside your house. Breathe.
4. Be kind to yourself.
Nothing is quite as important as this one. We’re only human. Surround yourself with good company, do all the things that used to make you happy whether it’s dancing or painting, give a little to others and get a little for yourself – you’re allowed to love yourself. Set realistic goals for yourself; I know we all wish we had the brains of Einstein but just remember that Einstein cannot be you. And I’m sure Einstein had moments where he wished he could be someone else.
Most importantly, seek help if you feel as though you cannot cope. Don’t let the stereotype of mental health stop you from doing so. Mental health does not pick people according to gender or ethnicity; it discriminates against no one. I know that in some cultures, mental health is not widely spoken about and so many people choose to suppress it. Don’t. When you suppress emotions, they nearly always come back with a vengeance so do not let factors such as gender and ethnicity stand in the way of you enjoying what life has to offer you to the best of your ability. When you need help, it’s okay to admit that you need it. You deserve to be happy and healthy as much as the next person.
Written By Yasmin Islam