Hannah Lewis’s Guide to caring for your mental health during Freshers
Your first year of university is one of the most exciting times of your life. However, it is also a time of great change and new experiences, where there is a risk of exacerbating pre-existing mental health conditions, as well as exposing new ones which you may not have experienced before. Below are a handful of tips and tricks to keep your mental health in the best condition that is possible during this year…
Firstly, keep an eye on your alcohol consumption! There is a large possibility that during Freshers Week you will continue to get blind drunk for a number of consecutive nights and that’s fine, just as long as you’re prepared to deal with the consequences. As alcohol is a natural depressant, there is a risk that hangovers may exacerbate the feelings of loneliness and homesickness that one may feel shortly after they leave home. Of course for your own health and safety, do try to avoid becoming paralytic when you are out in a new city, but if you do please ensure that you have the necessary means to get through hangovers, whether that be a favourite film, a cosy blanket and some ice-cream in the freezer. Sorry for being a party pooper, but speaking from experience I can tell you that alcohol will become your frenemy.
Drinking sensibly will also make it easier for you to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Now, I’m not suggesting you run a marathon every morning and eat nothing but vegetables, but do try to keep moving both to reduce stress and avoid showing how many packets of instant noodles you’ve actually been eating. That’s another thing – be conscious that 95% of your serotonin is generated in your gut, so you actually are what you eat. If you’re constantly eating for convenience, you will start to feel like a stodgy E number. Try to keep it balanced with a bit of fruit and some veggies thrown in to the mix.
However, do be aware that things cost money, and you probably won’t have a lot. Learning to budget your finances is essential to being able to function like a real human being. Although being accustomed to living in relative poverty is almost like a rite of passage for a student, having no money can actually be extremely distressing. Try to avoid this like the plague, and plan how much money you will have to spend each week after your monthly outgoings have been considered.
Not being able to access your home comforts means you probably will get homesick – that’s just a fact and is natural. If you know that you’re the sort of person to miss home, try to arrange a visit home before you come to Leeds. There’s no shame in ringing home once in a while too, you’ll most likely find that most of your new friends will be doing the same.
Speaking of which, the expectation of meeting a plethora of new, life-long friends at university can be somewhat daunting for the naturally anxious and introverted individual. There’s a lot of pressure on yourself here, and a risk that your self-esteem may be damaged if you don’t meet your BFF in the first instant that you walk into your flat in halls. Regardless of what you may think of yourself, university is full to the brim of young people with varying interests and personalities so you’re bound to find people you’re going to get along with. If you don’t manage to find the ying to your yang on your course or in your halls, try getting involved with some societies where you’re guaranteed to encounter an abundance of like-minded people.
Finally, make sure you’re aware of the help and support available – and make use of it!
- Make registering at the Leeds Student Medical Practice one of your first errands that you complete when you arrive in Leeds. This way you can keep on top of your medication and prescriptions once you’ve moved away from your regular GP and you can familiarise your new doctor with your situation. The practice is conveniently placed just next to the university.
- The Student Counselling Service on campus is brilliant when you need to talk through your issues.
- LUU Mind Matters Society promotes mental well-being on campus and challenges the way in which society thinks about mental illness.
- The Mental Health Team at university are available to provide information and support concerning your mental health difficulties, and can help you in making adjustments in order for you to fulfill your academic potential.
- Nightline is a helpline available if you need someone to listen to you whilst you talk through your problems.
As I leave you Freshers to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, I would like to wish you the best of good luck for the next few years. You may encounter some of the best times as your life, but you may also encounter some more difficult. Just bear in mind that everyone’s experience is different, and you may learn more about yourself than anything else in the coming years.
Take care of yourselves,