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Top tips for mental health from Loughborough students and staff

27 February 2018

7 mins

With 75% of all mental health difficulties developing by the mid-20s and 19% of 16–24 year olds in England experiencing mental health conditions, it’s important to create a healthy community so our students can thrive during their time at Loughborough.

We’ve asked current student Hannah, Communications Officer for HeadsUp!, and Charlotte, a Mental Health Adviser for the University’s Counselling and Disability Service, to provide their top tips for looking after your mental health at University.

Mental health at University at a glance

What Hannah says: University can be a stressful time for everyone (being honest, that’s an understatement). However, when you’re living with a mental health condition, some days the uphill struggle can seem like a never-ending mountain to climb. Stress can impact your mental health more than anything else, and if not managed correctly, can lead to serious burnout and sickness.

Working for HeadsUp! this year, I’ve learned the best way to manage stress is to tackle situations head-on. I set goals immediately and then begin to slowly work toward completing them, one bit at a time.

What Charlotte says: Mental wellbeing means feeling good – about ourselves and the world around us – and functioning well. This does not mean that we will never face difficult situations or feelings, but means that we have the tools to cope when things are more difficult. Mental wellbeing requires some attention, just like our physical wellbeing.

When feeling low in mood or anxious it can be easy to stop doing things we would normally do. It is important however at these times to try to keep doing the things which are necessary to maintain a daily balance. This includes keeping a routine for sleeping, eating, exercising and socialising.

Top tips for tip-top mental health

1. Invest time in yourself

What Hannah says: My first tip would be to have some sort of balance in your life. This can be between work, socialising, friends and family from home, and going out or staying in for some time alone. Basically, do whatever makes you happy. You don’t have to conform to any sort of social pressure or what you think you should be like at university. Have a night out and then balance it with a sober film and pizza night.

2. Be active

What Charlotte says: Exercise has been proven to help improve mood and brain function. You don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life.

3. Don’t neglect your social life

What Hannah says: As well as your physical and mental wellbeing, social wellbeing is important too. Joining a society for one of your interests is a place where you will immediately have something in common with others. This will help you settle in with ease. A society can also give you the feeling of family within university that can help you if you experience loneliness.

What Charlotte says: Connecting with the people around you – your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours – has been shown to really help maintain your mental wellbeing. Spend time developing these relationships!

4. Sleep

What Hannah says: You can find yourself getting into quite an irregular sleeping pattern at university. From all-nighters in the library, rolling into bed at 3 a.m. only to drag yourself back out for a 9 a.m., or staying up for “just one more episode,” you can start to deteriorate into a zombie after a while. You’ll find that you’re unable to be your most productive self, and things you enjoy doing will suffer.

Aim for at least eight hours a night so you feel mentally refreshed, healthier and happier.

5. Mindfulness

What Charlotte says: Be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

What Hannah says: The main mistake I made in my first year was that I came to university with unrealistic expectations. It’s easy when you look at pictures on social media and listen to other people’s stories, especially when people tell you that these will be the best few years of your life. They may be and probably will be.

Just don’t have idealised views as you’ll spoil the experience for yourself. Start with no expectations, that way everything is a positive! So next time you’re Instagram stalking your friends from home who look like they’re out every evening with a bigger social circle than you, just remember that all may not be as it seems.

6. Give something back

What Charlotte says: Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.

7. Don’t pile on the pressure

What Hannah says: Finally, here is one that I really need to adhere to. We can all stress ourselves out sometimes, especially during exam and assessment periods. Late night cramming sessions and countless energy drinks are not the way to go. Be organised, set a schedule, and don’t put more pressure on yourself than you need to.

We all want to succeed and achieve the best possible grades and experience from our time at Loughborough; that drive is what makes the Loughborough Family so incredible. But please don’t risk your mental health in exchange for what you believe is the only way to success.

Should I ask for help?

What Charlotte says: Everyone will come across difficult situations at some point in their lives, or sometimes we just don’t feel good for no obvious reason which can be really frustrating. Whatever the cause, there is help available.

Seeking help is often the first step towards getting and staying well. It’s common to feel unsure, and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. But it’s always ok to ask for help – even if you’re not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.

You might want to seek help if you’re:

  • worrying more than usual
  • finding it hard to enjoy your life or do things you would normally do.
  • having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, and which have an impact on your day-to-day life
  • interested in finding more support or treatment.

The most important thing is to talk to someone as soon as you can about the problems you are experiencing. Try not to avoid things, the sooner you tell someone, the sooner you can get the help and support you need.

What support is available?

Have a coffee with HeadsUp!

From time to time, we all feel that university can get a bit much. HeadsUp! are developing a campaign called Coffee Buddies where you can arrange a time to meet a member of the committee and sit down for a coffee to offload. Without using too many cheesy clichés, a problem shared can become a problem halved. We are all volunteers who are dedicated to raising awareness and breaking the stigma which surrounds mental health and anything you wish to divulge will remain confidential. Look out for more information in the next few months.

Talk to your doctor

Your doctor can talk to you about what is wrong and suggest different therapies that may be helpful. Make a list of things you want to talk about before seeing your doctor so you can make sure you cover everything you want to in the appointment.

Contact the Counselling and Disability Service

The University has a Mental Health Support Team who can help students experiencing mental health difficulties to develop practical support and strategies to enable them to deal with the obstacles encountered in their academic progression.

The University also offers students a free Counselling service.

Consider applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowance

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a targeted grant that can pay for study-related costs which may be incurred at university as a result of a disability, long-term medical condition, specific learning difference, mental health issue or autistic spectrum condition.

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