Five ways students in Sheffield can look after their mental health

Prioritising mental health has never been more important


As the days become shorter and the nights colder, the Northern chill is slowly blanketing the Steel City.

With the increase in miserable weather, a drop in mood and motivation is deemed normal.

But, this year, the winter blues seem to be hitting the students of Sheffield more dramatically.

As coronavirus cases in the city surge, many are being forced to isolate in student accommodation for up to a fortnight.

The looming fear of a localised lockdown, which has been labelled as “inevitable”, is not helping either.

Saturday 10 October 2020 marks World Mental Health Day.

For this year’s commemorations, The Sheffield Tab wanted to look at how students can use the city around them to aid their mindfulness and help reduce the stress that comes with being a student in the current climate.

Tip number one: Make the most of the sunlight and fresh air

Getting yourself out of the house and into the fresh air is an easy way to clear your head.

The mental benefits of being outside have been proven effective in reducing anxiety and depression. It also helps to regulate the levels of serotonin in your body and stimulates the release of ‘happy’ hormones; a notion that can dramatically dip as winter approaches.

Sheffield is home to over two million trees. In fact, it has more trees per person than any city in Europe. And, with over 170 woodland areas and 78 public parks, there is more than enough outdoor space to enjoy.

Find time between online teaching to take a walk in The Botanical Gardens or catch up with a friend at Endcliffe Park. Putting aside just an hour a day to leave the house and enjoy Sheffield’s green spaces is an instant way to release stress and should be something you incorporate into your daily routine.

Having the Peaks on your doorstep is also another effective way to escape the urban demand of Sheffield and student life.

For students in isolation, getting out of the house is obviously not an option. To make the most of the sunlight in these circumstances, natural light is your best friend. Make opening the curtains and windows in your bedroom part of your morning routine. Even exposure to natural light and fresh air will help increase serotonin levels and boost your overall mood.

Tip number two: Find a new ‘safe’ study spot.

Coronavirus anxiety can make it a struggle to even leave the house but, if you are able to, finding a new ‘safe’ study place is another effective way of keeping your mental health in check.

Due to almost all teaching at both Sheffield Universities being online, it is very easy to stay cooped up in your bedroom all day with minimal social interaction.

Finding a new study place is a great way to tackle this. Sheffield is not in short supply of independent cafés and coffee shops.

Choose a space where you feel safe to work, order your favourite autumnal drink, and enjoy doing university work without being confined to the walls of your bedroom.

Tip number three: Connection and communication are key

Social interaction is the cornerstone of university life. In a pre-corona world, this was something students in Sheffield could do effortlessly. But now, when partying on West Street seems a distant memory, socialising feels like it’ll never be the same again.

As a species, we need social contact. Coronavirus is not making this easy. This is why maintaining connections with university friends at the moment is even more vital than ever before.

Check up on your friends, help out neighbours who are isolating, and reach out to someone if you are struggling. Whether this has to be done virtually or over a socially distanced coffee, DO NOT suffer in silence.

University is always labelled as “the best years of your life”. What people don’t talk it about is how it can also be some of the loneliest.

Sharing your worries with just one other person instantly makes the situation a little easier.

Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Tip number four: Reach out for professional and university help

Reaching out and checking up on friends is a good first step to opening up about your mental health struggles. But, if you feel you need further assistance, help through university and professional websites is available 24/7.

Both The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam have many facilities on their Student’s Union pages to help with mental wellbeing whilst studying in Sheffield.

The University of Sheffield Health and Wellbeing support.

Sheffield Hallam University Mental Health and Wellbeing support.

Other websites such as MindBig White Wall and Sheffield NHS page offer further professional support to all Sheffield students.

Tip number five: Take five – Reduce your social media and news exposure

Whilst keeping up to date with Sheffield’s latest COVID restrictions and news is important, it can get overwhelming.

Take time to detox from news apps, put time limits on your social media, and find activities that help you relax when everything gets too much.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• The new normal: How is the 10 pm curfew affecting Sheffield’s nightlife?

• ‘It’s been a shambles from start to finish’: Meet the self-isolating Sheffield students

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