How to take care of your mental health at RHUL
Tips for looking after your mental health as you start university
Starting university involves a lot of big changes, and it can take a huge toll on your mental health. Here are my self care tips, based off my own experiences, on how to look after yourself whilst you go through this transitional period.
Don’t spend all your time hiding in your room
It’s easily done. Especially in accommodation like Founders where you don’t have a communal kitchen, and the only time you see anyone else is when you’re scuttling to the pantry to get another cup of tea, giving them a brief nod as you go by. Take this time to explore the campus. If you’re particularly introverted, make a point of starting off small and working up to bigger things. Start by asking your neighbours to join you for dinner or help you cook, offer to pick up things when you go to the shop and get into the habit of living with new people.
If drinking and going out makes you feel bad, or unsafe, then you don’t have to do it. Especially with people that you don’t know that well, it can take a while to work up to it. It took me a few weeks to work up to going out because I didn’t feel comfortable with it, but now that I've made close friends at university, I feel much more relaxed about going out.
Inevitably, many of us fall prey to homesickness. Personally, I wanted to keep myself busy enough that I wouldn’t be able to think about it, but it turned out the other way around and I ended up being too homesick to do anything. This may work for you, but it’s best to be prepared. Plan some phone and video calls with your family and friends at home (and your pets) and keep these in mind to look forward to. Take some home-made meals and keep them in your freezer for when you particularly want to feel close to home. Ultimately, remember that for most of you, this is a fleeting feeling, and within a few weeks you will have properly settled in, and the homesickness will subside.
Counselling and GP service
Find out where your counselling and GP service is during your first week. You may not need them, but it’s good to know where they are. Both get filled up with appointments quickly during the start of term, so if you think you need them, book an appointment soon after arriving. You may have not liked the counsellors that you have previously encountered at school or college, but the service is much larger at university, so you are much more likely to find someone you get along with, and who can give you the support you need.
You can find Royal Holloway's student wellbeing page here.
Additionally, your personal tutors are there to help you beyond your classes, and if you have any concerns regarding your mental health, they’re a good person to turn to if you feel comfortable talking to them. They can refer you to the services you need, and make your other teachers aware of your situation if need be.
You’ve probably heard this hundreds of times already, but join societies. Societies can provide you with the opportunity to join in something you never would have had the opportunity to before, and they’re all cheap to join. Sign up for as many as you can, turn up for the taster sessions, and then decide if it’s something you want to continue with. Societies in which you have to be active such as Dance society, are particularly good for your mental health and provide a great community where you get to mix with all sorts of people from different courses. I love RHUL Dance Soc as I had never done dance before, and they accommodate for beginners really well. I still dance like a dad at a wedding but I have fun doing it, and I’ve made a lot of friends through the society and shows.
Lastly, remember to be proud of yourself. Going to university and living somewhere different is a difficult experience, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get comfortable; you’ve done something remarkable and you should be proud of yourself and your achievements.