Mental Health Awareness Week: Why looking after your mind is important at uni

Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health

Right off the bat, I am going to promise you that I am not going to preach to you in this article. There are posts all over Instagram from a myriad of sources telling you all of the different ways that you can look after your mental health, a million self care tips. If I wanted to preach ideas to you, I could direct you to one of those.

Everyone has mental health

The truth is, everyone has mental health, be it good or bad, just as everyone has physical health. It’s a fact that is often ignored, especially in materials aimed at students: mental health is always this terrifying, scary, dark thing that becomes oppressive and negative. Yes, it can be this sometimes, but more often than not, it’s a niggly little thing that comes and goes.

As I’m typing this, I have a calendar sitting on my desk that I pull a page off each day. It has a little doodle and a motivational quote of it for every day of the year. It may seem cheesy, but oddly, it’s one of the things that I really look forward to doing every day. I also have a bunch of flowers that I picked from the hedgerow on Hazelrigg Lane and put in a vase in my room.

For me, it’s the little things that help me look after my mental health. I have to focus on these things sometimes because if I fixate on the big things, I get swallowed up in my anxiety about how massive they are and the fact that I can’t control them.

How I look after my mental health

There is no right way to look after your mental health. You’ve got to do what works for you. For me, if I am having a bad day, I stick my headphones in and go for a walk whilst blasting some music. Even if it doesn’t make me feel any better, it usually makes me feel marginally less cooped up.

I also tend to use photography as a coping mechanism: a lot of people say that taking too many photos stops you from being in the moment, but for me, it helps me to BE in the moment more. I take a photo of the day, using a specific filter that puts the date over the top, and I’ve noticed that I start to plan in advance what my photo of the day is going to be. These are tiny little things that can me keep on top of my mental health, but they all work.

Of course, like everyone, they aren’t fail-safe. I have bad days, days where my mind plays tricks on me. On those days, talking is the best thing for me, and for anyone. To have someone that you can talk to, who understands you and your head, is something incredibly valuable.

Look after yourself

There is no right way to look after your mental health. You’ve got to figure out what works for you, and what is the best way to help yourself if you’re having a bad day. I can’t type out a list of ideas or suggestions because that just won’t work for everyone.

Uni is stressful. You’ve got deadlines coming out of your ears, keeping friendships alive, cooking and shopping for yourself, and this is on top of attending lectures and going to societies. It’s easy to become overwhelmed without even noticing this is what is happening, which is why it’s important to work out how you can look after yourself.

I cannot stress enough the importance of talking to someone if you’re struggling because bottling it up won’t work. A friend, a parental figure, it can be anyone you trust. Reach out to someone, and don’t be afraid to talk.

If you’re under 25, The Mix is open from 4pm to 11pm on 0808 808 4994

Samaritans are always open, and can be reached on 116 123

Mind is open from 9am to 6pm weekdays on 0300 123 3393

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