Post Freshers Survival Guide: Mental health and self care

Looking after yourself in your new home


Welcome to Durham! You've made it through A-Levels, Freshers' Week and a pool of sharks. Now you're, well, just you.

Whilst university is an incredible place, it's often overlooked that it involves traveling far from home, away from your family and friends into an entirely new, high-pressure environment.

Personally, I struggled with my first few weeks at university as many others do. In honour of World Mental Health day, I hope this can help you find your feet!

Call your Family, but not too much!

Image may contain: Person, People, Human

Love you, Mum!

Everyone has a different relationship to their families, but most of us would agree that we love our Mum. You've just moved away from the people who you've spent most of the first 18 years of your life with, and whilst that freedom is often a breath of fresh air, it's important to stay in touch.

Be it a "I love you" text, or a scheduled weekly call, this can help you feel like you're still connected to those who love you, not to mention your family will certainly appreciate the attention.

However, important it is to talk with your family, don't hang onto them. University is about stretching your wings and finding out who you really are, so love your family, but at a distance.

Fixing freshers' flu

Even the hardiest among us are not above the occasional sniffle, but why do so many of us seem to get ill upon coming (or coming back) to university?

If you think about it, thousands of students coming together from all over the world and U.K. bringing with them their own local strains of flu seems pretty self explanatory. Plus, very few of us are getting enough sleep or nutrition. This is only compounded by seasonal flu flaring up in October, so what can we do about it?

Everything from not drinking too much (see below), staying hydrated, trying to get an adequate amount of sleep, and making sure you wash your hands to stay clean can help reduce your odds of getting sick. If you do fall ill and paracetamol isn't helping, a trip to the GP wouldn't go amiss.

Societies and socialising

Image may contain: Tuxedo, Suit, Overcoat, Coat, Clothing, Person, People, Human

Some of the best friends I've made so far, I made at my favourite societies

By now you know some college mates, some of those who do your subject and a handful of others, but that's it. There's a fairly high chance that even now you may not have met anyone you click with.

Durham has a huge array of different societies for you to join all based around their own small aspects of life. From those of nationality, religion, subjects, sports, hobbies and more, there's something for everyone.

Try to attend a few meetings of different societies that interest you and you're bound to run into people you click with. Don't feel obligated to attend every event of every society that interests you, but make sure you get involved in uni life. You never know who you'll meet or what opportunities could arise.

Attend your lectures!

Who knew that being an adult carried responsibility? Ultimately, uni is a huge amount of fun – but we are here (and paying) to learn. First year doesn't count for most of us, but by laying down a good foundational knowledge now, it'll be easier on you later in both end of year exams and as you progress through your university career. Not to mention it'll be good practise for when work actually kicks off in second year.

Everyone is guilty from skipping a 9am every now and then, but staying at your studies will pay off in time. Plus, knowing what you're doing will help you help your friends later on.

Go easy on the drinking

Image may contain: Tuxedo, Suit, Overcoat, Coat, Clothing, Tango, Leisure Activities, Dance Pose, Dance, Person, People, Human

Keep it classy!

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I love a good drink, very many of them, and very often. Whilst this was very fun, it's not the healthiest habit to hold.

Alcohol is bad for your liver and brain (which you'll need), not to mention it's incredibly calorific. We don't always make our best romantic decisions after a few drinks, even if we find those decisions easier to make.

Having a drink or two is a wonderful way to wind down at the end of a stressful day, or to wind up to a fantastic night, but keep your drinking in check. Your wallet, liver, and morning self will thank you for it. Always drink responsibly.

It's ok to struggle

We are often told that university will be the best time you'll ever have, but for many of us it isn't. If it's a night of homesickness or persistent sadness, you're not alone in your struggle and you're not unusual.

Durham University offers a wide range of student support, and your college certainly will as well. Don't be afraid to reach out to a friend or more professional help. You are valued, and whilst university may not get easier, you can get better.

Look forward to my intermittent agony uncle articles for a chance to have your anonymous question and its answer published.