Jason Parker is a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner with the Leicestershire and Rutland part of our Let’s Talk Wellbeing service. Here are his tips on looking after your wellbeing as you enter the world of never ending assignments, loans and independent living.
University life is a strange mix of ingredients. We start with a dash of hope and excitement blended with a healthy dollop of freedom. Add to that your first pinch of responsibility, a couple of spoons of independence. Once the mix is starting to come together gradually pour in the challenge and then stir in some anxiety. Then we’re ready to cook for three to four years in a pressure cooker of strangers, limited funds, time demands and ever-shifting accommodation. While we’re waiting on the main course we can prepare the side dish of wild parties and excessive alcohol mixed with some extra-thick text books and seasoned with deadlines.
The result is a bittersweet meal that nothing really prepares you for. I don’t mean to be pessimistic about university life. There’s a lot to be excited about: the friends you’ll meet, the opportunities you’ll have, the things you’ll learn and the experiences you’ll treasure (some of my pranks as a student still remain a career highlight). But there’s also this side that doesn’t get talked about as much that exists beyond the expected academic pressures.
No one warns you how hard it is to live in a cold house with little money for heating (worst winter of my life!). They don’t tell you how isolating it can be away from family and established friends. Nor are you informed of the stresses that come with never living in one place for more than a few months. You’ll hear all sorts about balancing study time with play time, but it’s unlikely you’ll be told you’ll also need to include time for cooking, cleaning, shopping and generally running a household as well.
Amidst all the excitement and glamour of university is a plethora of stresses and pitfalls that can take their toll. Somewhere between the books and booze it’s easy to lose sight of your wellbeing.
So it’s important to put aside some time to reflect on your wellbeing. Remember, to experience some low mood, anxiety and stress is a normal part of life. The challenges you face as a student will certainly heighten the chances of this. But when they don’t let up and start to take over your life don’t ignore these signs, start talking. Talk to you friends, family and your tutors; let them know what’s going on.
If you find that you start to struggle settling in to university life, or at any point during your studies, know that you are not alone. Stress, depression and anxiety can affect us all and the difficulties and hardships of student life can increase that risk.
There are services and organisations out there that can support you in overcoming these difficulties. If you ever need to talk you can contact Nightline, student welfare services, university counselling or get in touch with Let’s Talk Wellbeing.