This is how I’ve coped with my mental health while at uni
It’s OK not to be OK
Mental health is not an unfamiliar term to any of us. We have either experienced it ourselves or know someone who has suffered with it. The news and media love informing us that mental health in teenagers has reached record highs – thanks for that – but what do we do about it?
As it is such a widespread issue, there should be more information available and more advice! So here are some of my pearls of wisdom, which I hope you might find helpful.
As someone who personally suffers from the toils of anxiety, I am no stranger to what it is like to experience times where your mental health controls you, instead of the other way round. When this happens to me, sometimes I tell myself YOU’VE GOT THIS, take a deep breath, lace up my trainers and head to the place where slobs like me don’t belong – the gym.
Other times when it happens, I just cry, and I eat chocolate and cookies and then cry some more. The first step is accepting that this is OK. Give yourself a break, it is OK to feel sad, it is OK to cry and it is OK to have bad days.
One of the things that gives me the most peace of mind is remembering that nothing in this world is permanent. Bad times come, but they always go away eventually. However, there are some things that I find specifically help make these bad times a little bit better.
When your mental health feels overbearing, one of the last things you want to do is to force yourself to do some exercise. However it is that exact thing that can be so transformative for your mental attitude. The chemicals released by exercise are proven to help alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression almost immediately after the workout.
In addition, in the long term, exercise has been shown to be equally as effective as some anti-depressant medications out there.
For me, running has been something I’ve always hated with a deep passion and I would never run unless necessary, like to catch the last bus leaving from the top of Endcliffe Hill before a night out. However, running has now been one of the main things that has helped me manage my anxiety and keep a positive mental attitude.
But if running isn’t for you there’s multiple alternatives, exploring classes and different types of activities could be fun. Alternatives that I also enjoy are yoga, pilates, Boxercise, swimming, and Zumba. There’s so much out there, and you can find something you love.
When times get tough you need to always remember to talk. Family, friends, or even strangers. There is always someone to listen! Even if you are feeling completely alone you can pick up the phone and ring a local mental health charity, such as Mind Sheffield at my uni. They have lovely workers on the phones 24/7 just to listen to your feelings if that’s what you need.
Talking helps, as it enables you to vocalise your thoughts and feelings which helps you understand and accept them a bit more and start to think about the next steps to feeling more positive.
If you are a girl who suffers from depression or anxiety and you are on the contraceptive pill (especially the progesterone only one) then it might be worth popping to your GP and having a chat. Progesterone is the hormone that is known to cause anxiety/depression or can make symptoms considerably worse.
I changed my pill to a low progesterone dose and my symptoms considerably improved. When I was on the pill I was in a constant state of ‘brain fog’ my anxiety was the worst it’s ever been. I would cry for six hours a day every day, without stopping.
I had no reason to be sad or to be anxious, but the feelings were so overpowering. Within a week of coming off the pill, I was back to myself and felt much more in control of my body, so it is definitely worth considering if you think it could be a factor.
Being a student, it is incredibly hard to maintain a balanced diet, I mean sorry to break it to you but a Tiger Works five pound round isn’t exactly the equivalent of your five a day. Binge drinking, no matter how enjoyable and natural it is to us students, can be a massive underlying factor for us feeling blue or worried.
I am by no means telling a bunch of students at university to trade in the beers for a camomile tea, but I am saying be aware that this could be a contributing factor to mood changes. So maybe try to get out into the Peak District for a hike when you are hungover, instead of remaining glued to your dark bedroom for the entire day.
It is our generation that are the unlucky ones. Social media portrays an unrealistic image of what real life is. People don’t post a picture of themselves when they’re crying in bed and feeling low, and even if they did, they would probably be victims of abuse along the lines of ‘attention seeker’ and so on. The constant pressure that social media places on young people leads to us asking ourselves why we don’t all have six packs or flawless faces.
When the line between reality and social media begins to blur, this can be an extremely self-damaging thing. At times when we feel overwhelmed with how ‘nothing goes right’ for us in our lives it is important to remember that everyone feels like this at some point in their journey, and that it won't last forever.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, you can get access to immediate support by calling Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visiting www.studentminds.org.uk.